On 5/19/2019 I had the fortunate experience of attending a Q & A following a screening at the SVA Theatre of Ava Duvernay’s “When They See Us”. This 4 part mini series is a dramatic depiction of Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, and Raymond Santana’s youth being stolen from them as they were wrongfully convicted of a crime (brutal rape of a white woman) they didn’t commit in 1989. Our son Asante Ma’at (Asante Blackk) has the fortunate experience of playing Kevin Richardson in the mini-series. During the screening i was captivated by the insight and eloquence of the youth and adult cast. I was particularly intrigued and impressed by a comment MIchael K Williams made regarding the character he played, Bobby McCray (Antron McCrays father). During the mini-series Mr. McCray is portrayed as being emotionally torn and conflicted about how to adequately provide and protect his family during this period of crisis. The film depicts Bobby McCray angrily urging his son (Antron McCray) during the process of coerced interrogation to “give them what they want” (a confession to raping a woman in Central Park).
What stood out to me about Michael’s comments was how he as an actor was willing to enter into a space of vulnerability and explore/expose the complexity of fatherhood and shed light on the pain, fear, disappointment, love, and purpose that exist in the realm of being an imperfect parent. Michael K Williams asked the question….what made Antron’s father do what he did? It’s one thing and it may even be easy to blame him and judge him for the decision he made to intensely implore his son to cooperate and to not attend the initial stages of his son’s trial. It’s another thing to honor the fullness of his experience and recognize that even in his absence….he loved his son….he loved his wife…and he was doing the best he knew how to do in that moment. Michael K Williams spoke to Bobby McCray’s dilemma free of judgement. Michael K. Williams in his portrayal of Mr. McCray showed that there was awareness that he could have done more for his son and family. There was also a shedding of additional light on the complexity and nuance of fatherhood…especially when one feels shackled by the past particularly when it involves being a part of criminal justice system.