During her Oscar acceptance speech, Viola Davis said there’s one place where “all people with the greatest potential are gathered; and that’s the graveyard.”
“Exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition,” she continued.
That’s exactly what executive producers Jay Z and Harvey Weinstein intend to do in “Time: The Kalief Browder Story.” The six-part docuseries covers the life of Kaleif Browder, a 22-year-old New York man who took his life after a years-long sting in Rikers left him depleted and emotionally broken. The series premiered on March 1 at 10 p.m. ET on Spike TV.
In one scene he says he intended on becoming a successful businessman and imagined walking to work with coffee in his hand. Like most teenagers, he enjoyed socializing with friends and playing video games.
“Before,” Browder said, “I fit in.”
“Time,” dives into the fundamentally broken parts of the criminal justice system and personifies it with Browder’s story.
On May 15, 2010, police plucked Browder from Arthur Avenue near his home in the Bronx, accusing him of stealing a book bag. Browder, maintained his innocence and refused to take a guilty plea. He nor his family were unable to post bail, which was set at $3,000.
What transpired was a soul-snatching, three-year ordeal that included solitary confinement, abuse and the emotional wrecking of a young life.
“When they sent me to Rikers Island I was 16. It was like hell on earth,” Browder says in the film. “Sometimes I feel like I’m never going to be the same. I smile and I joke a lot but deep down I’m a mess. I’m 21 and on the inside I feel like I’m 40.”
Browder’s sobering experience did not begin and end in Rikers. In 2013, after repeated court delays, prosecutors dropped the charges against Browder and released him.
Browder sought to maintain the appearance of normalcy–he became a shining light of criminal justice reform and tried to further his education by enrolling in Bronx Community College, The Guardian reports.
But the aftershock of his experience brimmed to the surface; he regularly suffered from depression and paranoia, family members recall.
In June 2015, he committed suicide using an air conditioner cord to hang himself. After his sudden death, President Obama called for an end to solitary confinement for minors along with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.
Though Browder’s plight was widely reported, “Time,” ties together the intricate layers which led to Browder’s detainment–the controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy, the economic realities of bail reform, and the criminalization of Black people in America. As CNN commentator Van Jones points out in the doc, Browder adopted out of foster care, lived under state surveillance for the majority of his life.
“We say that the system is broken. I think that I’ve come to the realization that it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do and that is to take poor people and people of color and put them out of sight,” series co-producder Nate Sandow said in an interview with The Guardian.
Filmmakers also secured important interviews with numerous power players in New York’s judicial system, including the former New York attorney general, former Rikers Island prison staff, law-enforcment officials, politicians and activists.
Tragically, just two weeks after the series was announced in September, Browder’s 63-year-old mother, Venida died from heart complications.
Browder’s siblings believe the documentary will be an instrument of enlightenment.
“I’m glad that Kalief is this voice of reform and change,” Kalief’s brother Deion said in an interview with The Guardian. “I hope it can be that beacon of hope for people who feel like they have no way out. I just wish he were here to see it.”
SOURCE: The Guardian