Powerful discussion of ‘Central Park Five’ film at Hampton U.

By Dedrain Davis

Nineteen eighty nine: New York City, America’s biggest city was facing issues of the decade. Social and racial tensions ran high.

Released at the end of 2012, “The Central Park Five” a documentary film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, examined the Central Park Jogger case of 1989. The film includes inside commentary of major social and political players in New York at the time.

“In 1984, the crack epidemic increased crime” says Ed Koch, mayor at the time. The Rev. Al Sharpton said “New York is now the capital of racial violence.” There was the Howard Beach case (1986), Tawana Brawley case (1987) and now the riveting story of the Central Park Five.

On Thursday April 11, Hampton University’s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications hosted a screening and panel discussion about the “Central Park Five” film. The event began with a welcome by Drew Berry, a visiting professor at Scripps Howard School. Barbara Lee Hamm, host and executive producer with WHRO-TV 15, then introduced the film and acted as the evenings’ moderator for the panel discussion. The 20-minute preview of “The Central Park Five” was just enough to leave students on the edge of their seats and spark a valuable panel discussion.

On the panel was Earl Caldwell, writer-in-residence at Scripps Howard, Eric Claville, assistant professor of political science and history and Wayne Dawkins, assistant professor and author at Scripps Howard.

Claville, also a lawyer, was able to offer informative material discussing the interrogation tactics of the police involved in the Central Park Five case, specifically the history of “custodial interrogation.”

In response to a question from the audience, Dawkins, a New York native, added “Blacks were collateral damage.” He went on to emphasize the pressures of society and the media for the police to find suspects. Audience members offered commentary and asked questions that made for a passionate and informative discussion.

Hamm ended the night by asking the panel “Can the Central Park Five” happen in 2013?”
In response, Caldwell referred to New York’s’ “Stop and Frisk Law” that allows police to question and search and person suspected of committing a crime. “Stop and frisk is a proxy for black and brown kids ages 13 to 22,” said Caldwell. “If this isn’t racial profiling I don’t know what is. Some black people supported it.”

Claville ended the discussion saying that education and entertainment plays a major role in our communities. “It takes more than a village,” said Claville. “It takes a community to have a better society.”
Ciera Edwards, a sophomore business student from Minnesota said “This was a thought- provoking case, especially for the students my age.”

The documentary in its entirety will be aired 9 p.m. April 16 on WHRO TV15.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications

Custodial interrogation: http://www.mirandarights.org/custodialinterrogation.html

Stop and frisk data: http://www.nyclu.org/content/stop-and-frisk-data

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