The red carpet U.S. premiere of “When They See Us” was held at the world-famous Apollo Theater located in the heart of Harlem, in New York City.
The line snaked around the block with a waiting list that continued to grow even after several burly security guards made it clear the facility was at full capacity.
“Them boys got no justice, I remember that, ‘yall remember that?” asked a silver-haired woman resting on her walker. “It was everywhere and that Trump devil took out a full-page ad saying those kids were guilty. They ain’t guilty. Not then. Not now,” she added. Those in earshot nodded in agreement.
“It could happen again,” offered a tall brother selling bottled water from a bucket filled with ice. “Could happen, you mean is happening,” offered a woman wearing a bright summer dress standing barefoot giving her feet a rest from her dangerously high heels.
That’s one of the jewels that can be found on the streets of Harlem, hones-ty and when paired with lively commentary from insiders, the result usual-ly produces a heaping of wisdom.
“When They See Us” guests included Reverend Al Sharpton, Tarana Burke, Nina Shaw, Gayle King, and Oprah Winfrey (Executive Producer, Harpo), Blair Underwood (Lawyer, Bobby Burns), Christopher Jackson (Lawyer, Peter Rivera), Storm Reid, Dascha Polanco, John Leguizamo (Raymond Santana, Sr.), Niecy Nash (Delores Wise), Kllie Burnbury (Angie Richard-son), Michael K. Williams (Bobby McCray), Marsha S. Blake (Linda McCray), Caleel Harris (Antron McCray, young), Asante Blackk (Kevin Richardson, young), Marquis Rodriguez (Raymond Santanna, Jr., young), Jharrel Jerome (Korey Wise), Ethan Herisse (Yusef Salaam, young), Chris Chalk (Yuself Salaam, adult), Justin Cummingham (Kevin Richardson, adult), Freddy Miyares (Raymond Santana Jr, adult).
Also in attendance the “Central Park Five”: Antron McCray, Kevin Rich-ardson, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Jr. and Yusef Salaam.
Here’s what happened on the red carpet for Academy Award-nominee Ava DuVernay’s new four-part series, “When They See Us” — which premieres Friday, May 31 on Netflix.
Niecy Nash (Delores Wise): It’s important today to get this story told. The film is very timely. Black and Brown children are being vilified in the media every day hence the title “When They See Us” what do they see when they see us? You know what I mean? As a community and a society, we should bear one another burdens. And these children [Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Jr., and Yusef Salaam] got their lives turned upside down over a lie. I availed myself to the Inno-cence Project (https://www.innocenceproject.org) as my platform and [I] advocate for those that have been wrongfully convicted.
Blair Underwood (Lawyer, Bobby Burns): I felt many emotions watching “When They See Us” but what resonated the most was as a father. I’m the father of two, young African American men, and a daughter. It’s im-portant and timely to me. [The Police] when they see us too often we are feared. When they see us we are often treated as criminals. It’s not conjec-ture. It’s not being negative, it’s a fact. The double entendre is when they see us in films, such as this, will they see us for who we are?
Marsha S. Blake (Linda McCray): These kids were traumatized by grownups and that’s not an easy thing to forget. I spoke with Ms. Linda. She doesn’t’ like having her photograph taken. She attributes this feeling [it was the] to [the] photographers, throwing their cameras in her face and people yelling at her and spitting on her. To this day she doesn’t permit people to take pictures of her.
Christopher Jackson (Lawyer, Peter Rivera): One of the things that I took away from watching this is that I love my children and that I don’t know how to love every child that I come in contact with but that should be my goal, our goal. What happened to these kids is a travesty It’s not just about loving my kids. It’s not just about loving your kids it’s about loving each child and protecting each child. All children deserve a safe place where they are free to grow up without the fear of being coerced and dis-carded, and that’s what this story talks about.
Kylie Burnbury (Angie Richardson): I was very lucky to have played Angie, Kevin’s big sister. You will see that in this series that it’s the women that are the backbone for the boys and the men. It’s hard to really talk about this without being emotional. I just feel very privileged to be a part of this series.
Before the screening began, DuVernay took the stage to a round of thun-derous applause. Always gracious to those around her, she invited all of the crew members that might be sitting in the audience to stand up telling the assembled how much she valued their “craftsmanship” and “passion.”
“I’m so excited to be on the Apollo stage,” joked DuVernay. “I have no tal-ent in singing or dancing to save my life, but I want to thank the Apollo and Harlem for having us here.” In closing, she urged the audience to watch the four-part series “When They See Us” and she thanked Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Jr. and Yusef Salaam for allowing her to share their remarkable story.
“When They See Us” premieres Friday, May 31 on Netflix.