As a little girl, I remember my mom telling me about the Central Park 5 and explaining to me that Kevin Richardson was our cousin. I was only 7-years-old at the time, but I was well aware of what being a black man in America was dangerous. I was growing up in the 80s in the original, non-gentrified, Brooklyn. I remember ear hustling phone conversations my mom would have with one of Kevin’s sisters. I recall hearing “but he’s a baby” - “he didn’t do it” - “is he really going to jail” - “how?” I didn’t understand what it all meant.
In elementary school during an African American History class, I remember the teacher had us watch a documentary on the “Central Park 5”. I didn’t want to watch or be a part of the conversation; it was such an emotional topic for me and my family. It brought up feelings of pain and hurt and other emotions I didn’t know existed. I vividly remember the newspapers mentioning the death penalty for these boys with the ring leaders of those calls coming from Donald Trump – I had no idea who he was back then – and I couldn’t digest why? I was so confused but didn’t know what questions to ask, so I didn’t ask any; I held it in.
Years went by and I didn’t hear any more conversations around Kevin from my mom. I am sure they occurred but I wasn’t privy to them. Fast forward to 2019 when Ms. Ava Duvernay, who is my God Mother in my mind, created her powerful series about the Central Park 5, When They See Us. When I heard she was doing a Netflix special surrounding these 5 strong and beautiful black men, I knew those feelings I suppressed all those years ago would resurface. To no surprise, I cried, got on my knees and prayed to God, asking why was there so much evil in this world? I saw my son, nephews, cousins, brothers, and friends in the faces of those little boys who became men.
Sadly their story is a regular occurrence for Black and Brown people in this country. I will not be scared to raise my son in this world. I will prepare, educate, sage, and pray over him. I will continue to fight and be strong.