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"When They See Us" World Premiere

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The Central Park Five Receive The Roger Baldwin Courage Award

Michael B. Jordan praised The Central Park Five — Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise — for their perseverance and courage during a luncheon in which the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California honored Netflix’s series about their case.

The actor told the men on Friday that he cannot watch footage of the new series When They See Us without getting emotional and feeling like as a young black man he too could have faced a similar ordeal. “It’s dangerous in America when you’re living in a black body,” Jordan said. “The whole time that these men were incarcerated, they never changed their story. They insisted of their innocence even as they did their time.”

Yusef Salaam shed a couple tears as he accepted an award on behalf of the series creator, Ava DuVernay.

“I’m not ashamed to cry in front of you,” Salaam said after a moment of silence as he reflected on the fact that he and the other men were “just boys” when they were wrongfully convicted. “Our story is a story of an egregious miscarriage of justice.”

Salaam and the rest of the Central Park Five were exonerated back in 2002 after being charged with the 1989 rape of a woman in New York’s Central Park. They received a standing ovation as they accepted the ACLU chapter’s inaugural Roger Baldwin Courage Award; Baldwin was one of the ACLU’s founders and its first executive director.

Though this story and the outrage surrounding it is anything but new, DuVernay’s series has re-ignited a public outcry over how the case was handled. Shortly before the men accepted their award, Linda Fairstein–the Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor who observed the teenagers’ interrogation–was dropped by her book publisher in the face of the increasing criticism.

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