Impactful Kalief Browder Story Wins Peabody Award for Best Documentary

Time: The Kalief Browder Story has won a coveted Peabody Award, along with eight other works that will be honored in the documentary category at the 77th annual Peabody Awards ceremony later this month.

Peabody Awards highlight ways that media can expand public knowledge, encourage empathy and support those in dire need of help, which Time: The Kalief Browder Story has certainly done.

The docuseries, which premiered last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), helped mobilize support from the community, launching a conversation about prisoners’ rights and the American judicial system, specifically that of New York City.

And this conversation is already inspiring action—such as “Raise the Age,” a bill signed into law by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April 2017. The legislation will take steps to prohibit the state from charging as adults and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-olds, barring extenuating circumstances.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

Jay Z, executive producer, Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Such a law could have affected the trajectory of Kalief Browder’s life—at least, the last few years of it. Browder was arrested at 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent over three years incarcerated at New York City’s Rikers Island prison, where he was regularly beaten and taunted by fellow inmates and prison guards. Ultimately, Browder’s case was dropped due to lack of evidence and witnesses. But he hardly left prison a free man.

Stricken with PTSD from the physical and psychological torture he experienced at Rikers, Browder hanged himself on June 6, 2015.

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Kalief Browder as a child. Courtesy of Spike / The Browder family.

Jay Z, who served as the documentary’s executive producer, spoke about its powerful message last year at an event in Times Square.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids,” he said. “I say this about the movie. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

The documentary may have served as a catalyst for actual change—like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close the notoriously violent prison where Browder spent the last years of his life, and laws such as “Raise the Age.”

Courtesy of Peabody Awards.

The Peabody Awards will be held on May 19 in New York, hosted by Hasan Minhaj, writer and senior correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Powerful Kalief Browder Documentary Earns Peabody Nomination for Sparking Conversation and Social Change

When Time: The Kalief Browder Story debuted last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), it recounted the youth’s tragic incarceration and helped mobilize the movement to shut down New York City’s notorious Rikers Island prison. Now, the Peabody Awards, which salute compelling and crucial forms of digital storytelling, have nominated the six-part miniseries in its Documentary category.

Browder was 22 when he committed suicide after spending over three torturous years incarcerated on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16. His trial was repeatedly delayed until charges were dropped. He left prison with crippling PTSD—which ultimately led to his death by suicide.

His story, chronicled in the documentary, led to the formation of the Kalief Browder Foundation, which is determined to “dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline prevalent in disenfranchised communities.

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Time for Change: Spike’s Docu-Series Endures Kalief Browder’s Fight for Justice In a Broken System

“When they sent me to Rikers Island, I was 16. I would say it was like hell on Earth. Sometimes, you know, I feel like I’m never going to be the same. You know, I smile, and I joke a lot. But, you know, deep down, I’m a mess because like I’m 21, and on the inside I feel like I’m 40.” – The late Kalief Browder – Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Spike’s documentary series Time: The Kalief Browder Story  exposes our broken U.S. justice system through the tragic story of Kalief Browder—a  young black man who committed suicide in 2015 after spending three years on New York City’s Riker’s Island prison for allegedly stealing a backpack.

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Image courtesy of Spike.

Browder fought to clear his name until he could not fight any longer. With help from public officials and other media outlets, Spike is picking up where he left off.

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Over Three Years In Rikers for Allegedly Stealing a Backpack – Spike Tells the Tragic Story of Kalief Browder

Spike‘s newest documentary series, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, is going to make you uncomfortable.

And that’s exactly why you need to watch it.

In 2010, Kalief Browder was stopped in the Bronx on his way home from a party. Police told the 16-year-old and his friend that they were suspects in a robbery. A man claimed they had stolen his backpack. Browder pleaded his innocence, and asked officers to search him. They found nothing.

The boys were cuffed and brought to the precinct, where they were fingerprinted and locked in a holding cell. According to Jennifer Gonnerman’s 2014 exposé for the New Yorker, Browder expected to be released shortly.

Instead, he spent the next three and a half years incarcerated on Rikers Island.

In this time, Browder experienced such gruesome conditions he attempted to take his own life, twice. He was attacked by guards and fellow inmates, robbed, and thrown in solitary confinement. When offered a plea bargain that would let him leave Rikers if he admitted guilt, the teen maintained his innocence and waited for his day in trial.

That day never came. Instead, the case fizzled out. The man accusing Browder of stealing his backpack—a backpack which never turned up as evidence—returned to his home country.

Without evidence or a witness to testify against Browder, the prosecutors gave up. There was no trial. There was no verdict. Browder was summarily released. After three and a half years, Browder finally returned to his Bronx neighborhood. It didn’t feel like home anymore.

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