Spike Lee Shows Eric Garner Murder is Similar to Radio Raheem’s

Image Courtesy: Spike Lee Instagram

Image Courtesy: Spike Lee Instagram

I always say real life is stranger than fiction, but when certain scenarios are replicated it’s eerily emblematic of our society. And we’ve seen the police brutality theme–shoot, punch, strangle first and ask questions later–play out more through the smartphone lens than a movie camera.

This time Spike Lee captured how the two worlds collided. The famed filmmaker compared Radio Raheem, a gentle giant character murdered by police in his critically acclaimed “Do the Right Thing” film, to Eric Garner.

Eric Garner is on the minds and lips of many New Yorkers as the latest victim of police brutality. Not only for the cops overly excessive kneejerk reaction to selling loosies (illegal cigs) but their inability to get the asthmatic father and grandfather help when he needed it most.

This is where it gets fuzzy for me. Now that they got this man on the ground, now that he’s silent and stiff, wouldn’t you check his pulse? Not pick his pockets. If you’re wearing a badge that reads “protect and serve,” wouldn’t you utilize that training and perform CPR? Instead of slapping his non-responsive shoulder you CAN wave over the paramedics to revive him.

Or better yet listen when he says he can’t breathe.

I was hesitant to watch the disturbing video for obvious reasons, but when I finally got up the courage to view it. I instantly thought of my father. How he would break up fights between kids (something Eric was reportedly doing before the police approached him) from me and my sister’s school and talk some sense into them. How he’s a staple to the neighborhood like Eric was to his. And despite that he was still murdered right in front of the community’s eyes. No one helped.

Everyone watched him go silent. Now we have to be his voice.

 

Central Park Five & Shawn Carter College Scholarship Foundation

central-park-5

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.

jay-z-carnival-3

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.

Sources:

Bed-Stuy Patch

PBS