11 important exhibits and documentaries on racial justice and police brutality
2020 has greatly eased America’s long-smoldering racial wounds. In March, EMT Breonna Taylor was killed when police entered her home with a search warrant. In May, two men were arrested for killing runner Ahmaud Arbery, whose death had not been prosecuted since February. Later that month, a videotaped encounter between a black man and a white woman in Central Park went viral, and that same week, the murder of George Floyd by an officer in Minneapolis sparked weeks of protests in America and around the world. In the fall, shock and anger at the refusal of a grand jury to hold officers accountable for Taylor’s death poured salt on the wounds and sparked renewed protests. One thing is certain: institutional, systemic racism is and will remain a major problem until citizens work to fix it.
Racism, police brutality, and racial violence can be complicated and potentially overwhelming issues that require a thorough understanding of segregation, income inequality, criminal justice and much more. It can be a lot, especially if you are new to these topics. Many Americans turn to streaming platforms to learn more about these topics. This shows The Help, which rose to be the most watched movie on Netflix earlier this summer. However, films like The Help, Crash, Green Book, and others have been criticized by many (including Viola Davis, who regrets taking on her role in The Help) as narratives that center the white protagonists’ views, emotions, and character arcs while they use black trauma and pain to do so. To help you learn more and overcome white noise, here is a list of great series and documentaries that put black perspective first and are a great starting point for understanding these pressing social issues – and, like all Americans, do with them are affected. This is just a very short list; For more information, check out the large PBS library of shows and documentaries, as well as a wealth of BET and BET + content.
1. When they see us (Netflix, 2019)
Ava DuVernay’s gripping miniseries dramatized the case of the Exonerated Five (formerly called “Central Park Five”) – a group of black and Latin American teenagers wrongly convicted of rape and assaulting a woman in Central Park in 1989. That conviction was only overturned in 2002 after the real assailant came forward. However, the case became a real-time study of how the police, the criminal justice system, and the news media tried and sentenced black boys despite an apparent lack of evidence. It’s a sobering, disturbing, and phenomenal piece of television and Jharrel Jerome’s Emmy-winning performance will haunt you.
2. 13 .. (Netflix, 2016)
Years before she recorded a specific case of injustice in When They See Us, Ava DuVernay delved into a larger story with the phenomenal documentary 13. DuVernay explains using simple, easy-to-understand language, logic, and facts how the Thirteenth Amendment resulted in mass incarceration in the United States. Breaking down the racist origins of the “war on drugs” and the coded language such as “tough on crime” and “law and order”, this violent documentary is an illuminating and disturbing investigation into how the amendment created a pipeline to black to put boys and men in for-profit prisons. It is a must have for every American and will challenge the beliefs of people who have never questioned the concept of freedom and justice for all. It has been nominated for many prestigious awards including an Oscar for best documentary and won a BAFTA for best documentary, three Critics Choice awards including best documentary, a NAACP Image Award and a Peabody.
3. The Central Park Five (PBS, 2012)
The work of acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns on the aforementioned New York City case includes tons of archival material and testimony from reporters, people involved in the case, and a first-person historical context that explains how bias towards colored people drove the posting Admitted to jail for a crime they did not commit of five teenage boys. It originally aired on PBS but is now available on Amazon and iTunes.
4th. Time: The Kalief Browder Story (Netflix, 2017)
This six-part series, of which Jay-Z is an executive producer, investigates the case of Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old Bronx kid who was accused of stealing a backpack in 2009 from infamous Rikers Island without a trial and as she could not afford bail, held in solitary confinement for two years of a three-year stay. On his release at the age of 22, he died by suicide – an advocate of death was due to the mental, physical and sexual abuse he suffered in prison. His family settled a lawsuit with New York City for $ 3.3 million in 2019, but as this series explains, his incarceration has highlighted the troubling way blacks and Latinos are severely punished in the judicial and correctional systems.
5. 16 shots (Showtime, 2018)
This documentary focuses on the death of Laquan McDonald by the Chicago police in 2014 and the cover-up that followed. As the film shows, police initially said the shooting was justified, but pressure from activists and journalists forced police to post footage that upset the Chicago Police Department and local Chicago government officials as the community called for justice .
6th. Rest in Power: The Story of Trayvon Martin (Paramount, 2018)
The case that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement – the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black boy killed by George Zimmerman in so-called self-defense – is exposed in this series. His parents, activists, and others central to the case describe how Zimmerman, who charged Martin with a crime that never occurred, persecuted him and eventually ended his life, but due to Florida’s “Stand your Ground” – Laws have not been charged with criminal offenses.
7th Stay Awake: The Black Lives Matter Movement (BET, 2016)
Black Lives Matter was called the new civil rights movement. It was called a terrorist organization. Originally published on BET but now available on Amazon, this series explains the origins of the movement and what it’s really about.
8th. Drop It: Los Angeles 1982-1992 (Netflix, 2017)
John Ridley, the masterful producer and director of 12 Years a Slave and ABC’s incredible American Crime series, investigates the tumultuous Los Angeles decade after four cops who taped Rodney King were acquitted. The film takes up the 1992 riots that killed more than 60 people and reported $ 1 billion in damage. These events, however, occurred immediately afterwards, but put that devastation into a wider context, including longstanding police tensions that followed the verdict.
9. Baltimore rises (HBO, 2017)
This documentary follows the protests in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody in 2015 from injuries to his neck and spine. He shows what happened after the unsuccessful persecution of officials involved in his death.
10. Say her name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland (HBO, 2018)
What happened to Sandra Bland? That terrifying story, which begins with the young black woman stopped for a simple lane change and ends with her mysterious death in a Texas prison, is being investigated in this HBO series. Bland – a politically active woman who recorded her own frightening interaction with an officer – was somehow hanging in a cell, allegedly for suicide. But as this document shows, the circumstances and evidence are more than suspicious, raising worrying questions about what we do not know.
11. America for me (Starz, 2018)
Called the “Crash Course on Race” by Sesali Bowen of Refinery 29, this 10-part series addresses racial, economic, and class problems in contemporary American education by spending a year in a wealthy Chicago high school to find out why white students Grades improved while black student grades stagnated.
Black lives count. Send an INQUIRY on 55156 to sign Color of Change’s Petition on Policing Reform, and visit blacklivesmatter.carrd.co for more ways to safely donate, sign petitions, and protest.