Ava DuVernay has revealed why she avoided naming her new Netflix series after the Central Park Five.
The Oscar-nominee sat down for an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt who asked her to explain the title of her new series, When They See Us.
‘I really became allergic to the idea of calling it Central Park Five because I feel like that’s a political moniker. It was a moniker that they were given. It’s not something that they made, themselves,’ DuVernay explained.
She said Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise, were all ‘given this name by the press, by political forces, and it really takes away their personal power’.
DuVernay said her series takes a different look at the five men who recently spoke out about their wrongful convictions.
The Oscar-nominee sat down for an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt who asked her to explain the title of her new series, When They See Us
‘I really became allergic to the idea… because I feel like that’s a political moniker,’ she told Holt
DuVernay said her series takes a different look at the five men (all pictured, with DuVernay and Holt) who recently spoke out about their wrongful convictions. ‘When They See Us humanizes them. It asks who’s the they and who’s the us,’ she said
‘When They See Us humanizes them. It asks who’s the they and who’s the us. It also asks the question, how does a black mother see her son and how does a police officer see her son– how did New York City see these boys at the time,’ she said.
DuVernay said her goal is to ‘use this case to illuminate larger truths about the criminal justice system’.
‘And so, Central Park Five narrows the project. And the goal of the project is to really expand our ideas, our notions, our beliefs of a criminal justice system as a whole.’
McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise were all teenagers when they falsely confessed to the brutal attack on 28-year-old investment banker, Trisha Meili, who was out jogging through the park.
Meili was bound, gagged, raped and almost beaten to death. She was found with her skull smashed in and more than 75 per cent of her blood drained from her body.
The five youngsters – four black and one Hispanic – were promptly arrested and jailed for the crime, which exacerbated already explosive levels of racial tensions in New York City.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise, were all falsely jailed over the 1989 rape of a white female jogger in Central Park
However, in 2002, DNA evidence exonerated the group before they subsequently sued the city and reached a $41million settlement.
In a new interview with CBS, the men revealed how they have used that sum of money to rebuild their lives.
‘We were able to relocate, [and] put our children in better situations,’ Santana, now 44, stated.
However, he and the others added that the money had not lessened the lasting pain of their false imprisonment.
‘No amount of money could have given us our time back,’ Salaam, also 44, declared.
In the intimate interview, the group revealed they still think about their wrongful convictions constantly
The men (all pictured) received a $41million settlement from New York City in 2014
The group’s imprisonment came after they confessed to the chilling crime following hours of police interrogations. Salaam (left) and Santana (right) are pictured after their arrest
From left to right: Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise confessed to the chilling crime after hours of police interrogations. They later recanted but their original statements were admitted at trial
‘Every day it’s probably my second or third thought,’ Salaam revealed.
‘Even our conversations is different. It’s not normal. Our conversations would be about prison, how we had to survive in prison,’ McCray, 44, added.
The group’s imprisonment came after they confessed to the chilling crime following hours of police interrogations.
They later recanted their confessions, which they said were forced by police but their original statements were admitted at trial.
Media demonized the black and Hispanic youths, describing them as a ‘Wolf Pack’.
Although he didn’t directly accuse the five boys of committing the crime, Donald Trump spent $85,000 placing full-page ads in newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty shortly after they were arrested.
Trisha Meili was 28 years old when she was brutally beaten and raped while jogging in Central Park. She managed to survive the attack and is pictured in 2003
Media demonized the black and Hispanic youths, describing them as a ‘wolf pack’
The brutal attack and the subsequent arrest of the five colored youths exacerbated explosive racial tensions in New York City
Donald Trump spent $85,000 placing full-page ads in newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty shortly after the boys were arrested
They were convicted in 1990 and spent between seven to 13 years in prison, before serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime.
In an interview with CBS, DuVernay said her goal is to ‘invite the audience to re-interrogate everyone that they define as a criminal’.
She continued: ‘I’m asking the question to everyone, ‘What do you see when you see black boys?’ And that’s a painful answer, because I know what the answer is for many people.
‘It’s exactly what these boys were called: wolf pack, animals, criminals, so much so that they could be tossed aside on a case that was made from a complete lie.’
The series premieres on Netflix on May 31.