Oprah Winfrey shared the stage with the 11 actors and three producers from Ava DuVernay’s ‘When They See Us’ as well as the men, now known collectively as the Exonerated Five: Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise. The discussion took place during Netflix’s final ‘For Your Consideration’ Emmy event in Los Angeles, following a screening of the first episode of the limited series.
In the days following the series debut on May 31 via Netflix, #LindaFairstein, the Former lead prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office who is responsible for the wrongful imprisonment of the five men, has been the subject of severe backlash in real life and on social media. Since then, she has resigned from the boards of Vassar College and God’s Love We Deliver and the Joyful Heart Foundation. Fairstein’s publisher also dropped her amid the backlash.
During the panel discussion, Oprah asked DuVernay for her thoughts on the backlash Fairstein has received. Mentioning Fairstein’s remarks from a recent interview with ‘The Daily Beast’ in which she called ‘When They See Us’ “a basket of lies,” posed the question: “What do you have to say?”
Ava replied, “I think that it’s important that people be held accountable. And that accountability is happening in a way today that it did not happen for the real men 30 years ago. But I think that it would be a tragedy if this story and the telling of it came down to one woman being punished for what she did because it’s not about her. It’s not all about her.”
Ava continued, “She is part of a system that’s not broken, it was built to be this way. It was built to oppress; it was built to control, it was built to shape our culture in a specific way that kept some people here and some people here. It was built for profit. It was built for political gain and power. And it is incumbent on us; it lives off us, our taxpayer dollars, our votes, the goods that we buy that are made inside of prisons. It lives off of our ignorance, and we can no longer be ignorant.”
“OK, Linda Fairstein. OK, Elizabeth Lederer. OK, all of these people on this particular case who need to be held accountable. But the real thing that we are all trying to do, all the artists who collaborate with me…our real goal is to be able to say, ‘Go America. Let’s do this. Let’s change this.’ You can’t change what you don’t know, so we came together to show you what you may not know. Now that you know, what will you do? How will you change this? That’s our goal,” Ava concluded.
The ‘For Your Consideration’ special will air Wednesday night on both Winfrey’s OWN and Netflix.
Will you be watching?