It’s very rare to have a movie stay with you–have its images, dialogue and message tattooed on your brain. For me it’s happened only a few times (and I’m a huuggeee movie fan-action, suspense, horror, romance, independent, etc. you name the genre, I’ll watch it.) the most recent was when I saw “The Central Park Five.” A Ken Burns documentary about five black and latino teenage boys falsely convicted of raping and torturing a white woman in Central Park in the late ’80s. No movie has stirred me like this one, not even Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” and I’m always so livid when Radio Raheem gets murdered at the end.
Despite the similar vein of injustice both films travel down, the big difference is one is scripted and fictional and the other an actual event that my mother remembers reading about in the newspaper as a seven-year-old version of myself was propped on her lap. The Central Park Five is real. It’s documented, not just in news stories but on the faces of these four boys (The fifth boy didn’t want to be filmed in the doc, viewers only heard audio) that rapidly transformed into men while incarcerated, but the anguish of time lost, a childhood not fully realized and abuse by authority, that pain is still visible in their eyes. And justified considering their wrongful conviction lawsuit against New York City remains unsettled.
But what I’m most impressed about was their will to be better. They managed to push past what reporters, cops, lawyers and native New Yorkers’ labeled them as: psychopaths, thugs and a ‘wolf pack’ and plan for an uncertain future. They each completed GED programs that were offered in the prisons. Received high school diplomas. Fast forward Six to 13 years later they are free. Their convictions were vacated in 2003, due to DNA evidence that linked someone else to the crime.
When labeled an undesirable it’s never easy to find a new path or someone or something that is willing to pave one. Shawn (Jay Z) Carter wanted to create one. The Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation was conceived in 2002 and its mission is to offer college scholarships to students who have been previously incarcerated but want to rise higher in their educational pursuits. Along with single mothers, students that attend alternative schools, those who earned a GED and have a grade point average of 2.0.
The foundation’s organizers–made up of Jay Z’s mother Gloria Carter, educational workers and community activists, say they highlighted this group of students because they are usually ignored by the Board of Education.
Interested applicants must complete the online application by May 31st 2013. Click here to apply.