Raymond Santa Revision
On November 14th, I attended the Raymond Santa talk. Raymond Santa was a member of the Exonerated Five, who was jailed, at the age of 14, for 6 years. This false imprisonment was after the Central Park Jogger Case. It was an overwhelming experience to hear Santa’s personal experience through the interrogation, trial, imprisonment, and eventual exoneration. I had also watched Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, which allowed me to fully comprehend the horrors that the falsely accused boys endured. When I had first watched this show, I was horrified at the lack of humanity America had for these young boys, simply because of their ethnicity an upbringing. Eventually though, the boys were freed from jail thanks to a confession from the criminal and DNA testing. Santana described the impacts of the 11-year civil suit that finally gave the men compensation for their wrongful imprisonment as “Even though we have won, we still lose because at the end of the day that gap is gone. How do we keep moving, keep living? They controlled the narrative of our story.” What surprised me the most was the light and hopefulness brought to us despite everything that he had endured. He was nothing but positive and supportive of our role as the next generation of voters, activists, and leaders. His words were incredibly inspirational and moved me to feel as if I could truly help to create change. “We found out we had a voice. We gotta use this platform to save our children. All of ’em…You have ideas. Use them. Live life to the fullest and go to the grave empty…March the truth. Don’t cut the corners. Occupy those spaces. Shoot for the top.” He ended his speech with the powerful phrase of “I’ll see you on the battlefield.”
However, I was left after the talk wondering how after years of injustice and then to finally be exonerated, how did the exonerated five reclaim their lives? Also, in general, after something so draining and difficult, how do you reclaim your life? Then I thought back to what Santa discussed; he believes that you need to not only tell your story but to dig for the truth and meaning from the experience. Putting times and love into the next generation of leaders and makers of change was how Santa coped. Santa wanted to put all of his energy into changing the system, that forever impacted his life, from within. Therefore, I also took away a more meaningful message from Santa’s speech; that you need to fight back and do all in your power so that a similar situation does not occur to you or to anyone else again.