Saturday, May 30, 2009

Photograph: Ronald Thomas 1989

Fearless but not without some native sense of preservation, I was a painter then and carted my French easel into the park at 2 A.M. with whomever I could persuade to accompany me. My roommate at the time was easily bought off with a promise of a good home cooked meal. Another male friend, a photographer and a Viet Nam vet, came along with his camera on other nightly expeditions. In exchange he got my Italian racing bicycle. I would work at smaller studies until the sun began to rise, later developing the oil sketches in full-blown canvases.

I did this fairly regularly until April of 1989 when a young woman, forever known as The Central Park Jogger, was violently attacked and left for dead. By 1990, five young men were convicted, all of them African American. Phrases like “Wilding” were freely bandied about in the press and the public outrage against these young men—boys really—was explosive. Charges detonated on both sides. There was police coercion to get confessions. A 1965 hit song by the Troggs—Wild Thing—was briefly resurrected. It wasn’t until 2002 that an incarcerated lifer’s confession to the crime, bolstered by DNA evidence, allowed the convictions of the accused to be vacated.

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