'When They See Us' Is A Must-See Miniseries For Every American

'When They See Us' Is A Heart-Wrenching Must-See Miniseries For Every American

I was horrified and hopeful until the end.

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There has been quite a bit of talk about the newest miniseries that has hit Netflix, "When They See Us".

This miniseries has created an uproar in many activists, Netflix bingers, people of color and more. Some people don't really know why.

After watching the four-episode miniseries I can tell you it is because it is the most honest, raw and powerful miniseries I have seen to date on the streaming service. "When They See Us" is a dramatized account of how five young men came to be arrested, convicted, sentenced and then exonerated for the rape and abuse of Trisha Meili, also known as "the Central Park jogger." They were called "the Central Park Five," and the trial became one of the most popular trials of the late '80s.

The miniseries begins chronicling the lives of the Central Park Five in the first episode by showing what it was like growing up as each young man. It was clear that the film's intention was to make these boys appear just as what they were at the time — boys.

Then came that fateful night in Central Park. Each boy followed groups of young men to Central Park where riots began. They had no idea what was going to be happening in the park that evening and they especially never harmed anybody. As police came to disperse the crowd, countless juveniles were taken to the police station. When this scene began I felt a bit anxious, but my anxiety turned into anger as a police officer punched Kevin Richardson out cold.

A quick cut to the police station occurs and once we are here, audiences see youth was interrupted for the five boys, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, and Korey Wise. Linda Fairstein, head of the sex crimes unit, was desperate for a logical narrative to make a name for herself. She began to encourage the police force and herself that these particular boys were the suspects to blame for Meili's attack. She claims in the series that it only makes sense that these riots, these boys and Meili are somehow linked.

To this, I screamed internally, "Bullshit!"

Fairstein began doing anything in her power to make these young boys perfect suspects for the crime they did not commit. After countless hours of brutal and illegal interrogation of five young men, coerced confessions, failed DNA evidence and a jury trial, all the boys received prison sentences spanning between 6-14 years.

The scene that most notably broke my heart is when all the young boys are held overnight in a cell and Kevin begins by saying, "I lied on you man," and the other boys following suit and confessing to each other that they lied to try to save themselves.

"Why are they doing us like this?" asked Kevin with Raymond responding, "What other way do they ever do us?"

The rest of the series concentrates on the five men as they overcome the obstacles of being a juvenile inmate and restarting life as convicted felons and sex offenders. These obstacles include being unable to have successful romantic relationships, desired careers and torn familial dynamics. The series ends with a confession from the real rapist and a tearful exoneration and celebration of the men in 2002.

It was hard to watch the ending without still feeling resentment. Yes, we should all be thankful these men made it out alive and now have a large settlement thanks to the state of New York, but at what cost?

The reason I write about this fast-paced and gut-wrenching series is that it made me feel something. It made me want to take action. It made me think.

I for one believe there needs to be some sort of social justice in America, especially for people of color. I am a white woman, with white privilege and I know that something like this would have never happened to me or a group of white boys from my city.

This series examines the systematic racism in the justice system and in society. White people throughout space and time are consistently mistreating people of color and setting them up for failure in order to retain control. White America is constantly oppressing people of color socially and economically and this statement is implied explicitly and implicitly throughout the series.

These boys were initially judged by the color of their skin. They looked like the perfect suspects, the perfect "criminals." Onwards, they were continuously put at a disadvantage by the white justice system they were prosecuted by, thanks to the lack of money and resources in their underrepresented communities.

Not only that, but they grew up knowing that something like this could happen to them by nothing more than the pigment for their skin. They were put against each other during interrogations because the authority knew they would be vulnerable and try to fend for themselves.

The plot line, the themes and most importantly the performances from all the actors are incredible. The attention to detail, the impeccable empathy and the narrative Ava DuVernay and the rest of her team created deserves recognition. This real-life story captures so many emotions and feelings, starting from innocence, to loss, to anger and vulnerability.

I was horrified and hopeful until the end of this miniseries.

Horrified at the mistreatment of people of color that continues to this day and hopeful that this is a call to action at it's finest. DuVernay is not starting a conversation, she is a catalyst for action. I hope after watching her miniseries, you start stepping up and taking action too.

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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'Grey's Anatomy' Taught Me Just How Important Gay Rights Are

This episode opened my eyes and heart.

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Attending a Catholic high school made it very clear in my mind that LGBTQ individuals did not fit in with society. I watched as our principle refused to allow students to invite their same-sex partners to dances. I remember our administration fighting against letting a boy on our dance team because they thought it would ruin the reputation of being a Catholic school. The way they were treated in front of me every day became the way I thought the world should treat them too. But I couldn't have been more wrong.

In season seven, episode 12 of "Grey's Anatomy," Meredith Grey encounters a patient who was trampled by horses after his partner set up a carriage ride to take them to sign their domestic partnership papers. His partner explains to Meredith that he had just wanted the day to be special because straight people get to have the most special day of their lives on their wedding day. They get the flowers, the ceremony, the reception, the gifts. At this point in time, all members of the LGBTQ got was their signature on a piece of paper.

I remember something inside of me being moved at the thought of someone simply being in love and not being able to celebrate it because people thought it was "weird" or "unnatural." I put myself in the reverse situation and thought about how much it would break my heart if society did not accept the fact that I want to marry my wonderful boyfriend some day. I cried during the scene in the show because even though it was acting, I could see just how important these two people were to each other and all of the unnecessary barriers they had to cross just to prove that their love was the same as anyone else's.

Maybe this moment was extremely late in my life to have the realization of how hard it must be for LGBTQ people to find happiness in our society, but I am glad I had that realization at all.

Certain religions crucify the LGBTQ community, saying they will go to hell for sexuality because it is a sin. Personally, I have a hard time believing that God could condemn anyone for showing another human being unconditional love.

It scares me how poisonous our society can be at times. 10 years ago, if you asked me how I felt about people in the LGBTQ community, I would probably (wrongfully) say that they freaked me out. These days, while you won't necessarily see me at a Pride parade, you will see me hyping up and supporting my awesome gay best friend to go after his crush. You will see me taking girls hitting on me as a compliment rather than something weird. You will see me openly supporting gay rights because it is the right things to do, human to human.

The saying "love is love" is so simple, yet so incredibly true.

I can't help how much I love my boyfriend and I would never in a million years expect someone to tell me to stop. Who are we to tell members of the LGBTQ community to stay in some box society and religion have built? We aren't. Love is love and you can never and will never be able to put rules and restrictions on a feeling.

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