Town & Country Philanthropic Summit

I attended the Town & Country Philanthropic Summit this past week. My friend has been the forefront of this event for the past few years. There are a morning of panels around people who have rolled up their sleeves and got involved in making a difference. The panels were The Parent’s Crusade, Climate Control, Mentorship, Obligations of Wealthy and Corporate Responsibility, The Opioid Crisis, Ending Childhood Hunger in America and Philanthropy as a Family Value.

The first panel made the biggest impact on me. Ava DuVernay (just love her and what she is doing) wrote, produced and directed a movie called When They See Us that Netflix will release on May 31st. It is a movie about the Central Park 5 who were exonerated of a brutal crime that they did not commit. Bill Keller, the Founding Editor in Chief of the Marshall Project moderated a panel that Ava sat on with the Central Park 5.

Each of these men were either 14 or 15 when they were arrested. The majority of them did not even know each other. These men lost their innocence and they were innocent. They were convicted in the public eye before they even went to court. 30 years later, the discovery of withholding evidence and forced confessions is still happening in our country. The entire system needs a complete overhaul. There are men, mostly black men, sitting in our prisons for decades, for crimes that if they were committed by a white man with money, they would not be in prison.

These men served anywhere from 7-14 years. The mark it made is evident on all of them. Raymond Santana loved fashion at 14, he now lives in Atlanta with a teenage daughter, and said he is still trying to find his way at 44. Anton McCray is married with 6 children. He said he is still struggling. Yusef Salaam has committed his life to advocating for people that are pushed to false confessions. He sits on the board of the Innocence Project. He is married with ten children. Korey Wise went to the prison voluntarily to support his friend Yusef and 42 hours later he was coerced into a false statement and spend 14 years in Rikers. A chance encounter with Matias Reyes, at the Auburn Correctional Facility, the convicted murdered confessed to the Central Park crime. DNA evidence proved that Reyes was the single rapist. Kevin Richardson played trumpet and bball before going to prison. He is now married with two children.

Anton spoke up about the hatred he has against those people who took a part of his life. They were depicted as animals, a wolf pack, in over 400 articles in the first two weeks after the rape. His anger was on display where as Korey barely spoke. The impact it has made on all of them is evident in the short panel. They are all damaged. It is injustice and unfortunately it happens every day to mostly African American men in our country.

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