Get Out Was Scary but TIME: The Kalief Browder Story Is The Real Horror Story You Should Be Watching » VSB

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Get Out Was Scary but TIME: The Kalief Browder Story Is The Real Horror Story You Should Be Watching

Nightline co-anchor Juju Chang, Venida Browder and Paul V. Prestia attend the 2016 “Tina Brown Live Media’s American Justice Summit” on Jan. 29, 2016, in New York City. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)


I need a late pass; I only recently saw Get Out. Like last night. Almost a month after its release I finally managed to make it to see the movie that everybody is talking about. The hype is justified and any Black males dating white women will probably be donning  a perennial side-eye whether they like it or not. And also, I’m guessing that there will be a whole lot more questions asked of our fairer complexioned mates anytime the subject of going out of town for the first time together comes up on some “sorry, not sorry, trying not to die in the woods because white people want Black bodies” shit.

Get Out was wildly entertaining and not nearly as scary as I expected it to be. I’m not a horror movie person at all. In fact, I ONLY went to see it because literally everybody’s been talking about it and everybody I know who has seen it has explicitly told me that I need to do the same. Otherwise, I’d have passed because I don’t like sleeping with my nightlight on. Not that I have one. It’s my son’s really. With his scary self. Kids, man. Kids.


But while it took me a long time to see Get Out, what I have been watching is TIME: The Kalief Browder Story airing Wednesdays on SpikeTV (and BET). That, my friends, is a real horror story. Because it’s real. Because it’s scary. Because we already know how this story ends. We’re watching footage of and listening to the words and what amounts to the descent of this man’s life into suicide. Kalief Browder is a victim of the intersection of everything that is wrong with the juvenile justice system, not only in New York City, but in America.

TIME is the horror story you should be watching.

For those who don’t know, TIME is a six-part documentary executive produced in party by Jay-Z about the story of Kalief Browder, a young man who spent three years on Riker’s Island (New York City’s jail) awaiting a hearing and trial largely because his family couldn’t come up with the bond in time to spring him, and the horrors he faced inside at the hands of prison guards, fellow inmates, and the psychological effects it had on him. Unfortunately, but not at all unpredictably, it resulted in him taking his own life at age 22. If you’re unaware of his story, you really should read up on it. Or better yet, watch this documentary.

I hate to say that watching the story of a dead man is compelling, but the truth is, it is. Listening to him talk, and to his friends and family talk, and seeing footage of the brutal attacks, it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a child. He was 16 when he was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. Sixteen. All of the footage is of a juvenile. Yet here we are, watching the waning years of his life as he explains why he came out a different person than he went in.

You get to hear from prison guards who TELL you of the corruption and what they did to bring in contraband and how they let shit slide or used other inmates as enforcers. It’s three episodes in (plus a town hall) but you get to see an indepth analysis of what social scientists and justice reformers have been screaming: you watch every way that the system breaks you down and ruins you for life. You’re watching unchecked devastation and destruction exacted largely on people who look like many of our family members.

Why do I need to watch it? I already know the story. I don’t want to see how America killed Kalief. I like my horror stories to be fake, not real. I don’t want to see that shit.

I’ve seen many versions of that statement on social media. And I get it. If you’re aware of the story, it probably infuriated you and possibly still does. I remember when the story about Kalief first broke and the way so many of us couldn’t believe that this young man spent almost 14 months in solitary confinement. That’s ungodly. That’s unreasonable. It’s inhumane. He was a child. We were all pissed.

I remember reading that he died and I can honestly say that I wasn’t surprised. I was saddened because I’d watched the interviews with him and prayed that the faint and distant glimmer of hope I thought I saw from his ability to tell his story would lead to, I don’t know, something not death. But alas, it’s hard to escape your mind. Even when I watch him talk, he always seems like he’s watching his back, fighting back tears, pain, sorrow, and despair. He’s literally trying to make it one day at a time.

It’s hard to watch, but it’s important to watch. It’s important to see just how corrupt the system is. Knowing it’s corrupt is one thing, knowing HOW it’s corrupt is a different beast altogether. You don’t even fully understand what there is to fight for if all you’re fighting for is police reform and juvenile justice reform. It’s important to know exactly what is going wrong and why and how and who is ultimately culpable. It’s painful to see it. It’s devastating and it might bring you to tears. Especially watching him speak about the injustices. Not hearing him, but watching him talk about it.

It’s also important to watch because it’s almost impossible to view his story and not want to do…something. You may not know exactly what to do; Lord knows I don’t. But the more I watch and the more incensed I get the more I’m concerned and worried about everybody else who comes face to face with a system that seems intent on destroying our community and those people of color who come into contact with it. Kalief’s story could have been anybody’s story in the same way that Trayvon Martin could have been anybody.

We need to be aware of all of our stories in order to know exactly what it is we’re fighting for. I pray that Kalief is resting peacefully. His story, a true American horror story, should hopefully help those that don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on to people of color realize just how fucked up a system that they rarely have to deal with is.

That is the real audacity of hope.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at

  • Val

    Bail should be done away with. I mean, if the only reason someone is being held is because they can’t afford to make bail then just let them go. If ever there was one thing to show how money gets more justice in this country it’s the whole concept of bail.

    Seems like in practice it might be unconstitutional too.

    • Me

      It’s debtor’s prison, plain and simple. There’s no reason why they can’t invoice you the same way they do for probation payments, or issue you a ticket like a traffic violation, and then have folks file vouchers to have their payments returned after they’ve either beat trial or fulfilled their probation requirements. And they do it for the same reason hospitals leave folks stewing in pain in the ER, which is to charge hoteling for the time you spend on their premises. Public services should never be allowed to operate like private businesses for this very reason. It’s way too easy for government and gov’t-adjacent agencies to become corrupted in the name of a damn budget.



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      • charles

        it is all about greasing the hands of their friends! you folk do not get it, the wealthy hates two parts of the population the most 1st is black folk and second is the poor! who carries amerikkka? the poor!! without the poor amerikkka would be lost!! they eat out often, they have nannies,they have dog walkers and etc who do they to do these things the poor!!

    • CrankUpThe_AC

      Criminalization of poverty smh

    • Epsilonicus

      MD is working on getting rid of cash bail.

    • Annalise Keating

      “Seems like in practice it might be unconstitutional too.”
      Freedom should not be based on your income. But sadly this is the reality of our capitalist society

    • jigg_uppa

      Done away with? Bail is a feature of our criminal justice system, not a bug. Keeping poor people in jail as long as possible and making money off it is the entire point.

    • charles

      prison is big business, bail will never go away who can not afford the bail! the poor!! who are the folk in the prisons? the poor!!

    • Sirius Blackcat

      I don’t think people on parole/probation should get bail. He was out at 2 am, should have been violated just for that. Completed whatever sentence was hanging over his head. Its a better story to ignore those facts, though.

  • Mr. Mooggyy

    While most of us know the story and and know the unfortunate ending, It’s still a lot to digest. I remember seeing an article about Jay-Z producing this documentary (i think i posted it on here as well). I may have to get my mind right before getting into it!

  • Nametaken

    I’ve been watching it every week, and last night’s really got to me. The stress that his mom went through, the fact that before him his brother was railroaded by the system as well, the fact that his mom had been through all of this before WITH his brother…I wonder what became/will become of this family after all of this. How are his other siblings doing? They all probably need therapy after this.

    • PhlyyPhree

      THAT was what affected me the most last night. I didn’t know his family had already endured almost exactly the same thing wtih his brother and all I could think of was “how could they do this AGAIN to that family?”

      • catgee12

        I think that is part of the reason Kalief did not want to take a plea deal. He knew what it did to his brother and family already. He kept saying it was personal, he wouldn’t admit to something he didn’t do … #RIPKalief

  • PriceIsRightHorns

    I’ve been watching the series and the measures to which the system failed this young man is horrific and heartbreaking. I hope that awareness about his story will enact changes to help prevent tragedies like these.

    • TheCollinB

      It fails kids nationally everyday

      • PriceIsRightHorns

        Yup. There’s no way kids should be in solitary confinement.

        • Val

          Hasn’t that been outlawed now?

          • PriceIsRightHorns

            Yes, last year I believe.

          • TheCollinB

            Barry was putting in work to outlaw it. I believe he was successful regarding juveniles but I don’t know about adults.

          • Freebird

            Obama did. But how safe is anything he pushed forward?

          • Brooklyn_Bruin

            How are you going to outlaw the law?

          • Epsilonicus

            It was all executive orders I think

        • Shay

          Yea Obama banned it but it only applies to juveniles and only applies to federal prisons NOT state prisons where the vast majority reside. Same with what he tried to do with privatized prisons, that was gonna be federal only and now Sessions is walking all that back.

      • Brooklyn_Bruin


        Works as intended is more like it.

        These boys riding round in armored vehicles LOOKING for action. Paid well to do it. And there is not only a multibillion dollar industry behind them, they have the force of law.

        I’m not even trying to be hyperbolic. They spent a lot of time to set up this system. Symposiums, conferences, learned people debating..

        • TheCollinB

          I can’t argue with that. It runs like a well oiled machine in that regard. If your with the shyts as far as oppression there’s no better job.

        • BrothasKeeper

          Part of why there’s a bull market right now.

        • Shay

          Now they have a president that is very vocal in his support for this.

  • Jennifer

    “TIME is the horror story you should be watching.”

    *sigh* Honestly, I just can’t do it. Watching “3 1/2 minutes, Ten Bullets” shook me in a way I can’t describe. I can’t continue to literally watch our young people dying like this. I’ll fight and donate, but I can’t watch this.

    It was awful enough reading the NYT (or New Yorker?) feature about his story that came out when he was released…and then his obituary…and then his mother’s obituary.

    • SoonToBeMrs

      Dear God. His mom passed on too? She definitely died of a broken PAINED heart. Don’t even know the details, that’s my assumption.

  • BatmansExWife

    I have yet to watch last night’s episode. Last week’s episode broke me because you can see how he changed into survival mode. It’s like he had no hope from the beginning. Like there was a target on his back since birth. Even if you know the story, it’s a hard story to digest. Once it’s done, I probably won’t watch it again. I put it in a vault of too scary to watch again (Which includes “Dear Zachary” and “Who killed Adam Mann”)

    • TheCollinB

      The parts where his brothers talked about Khalief being confused as to why the guards weren’t helping was tough. He was looking for some type of balance and fairness and the system proved they didn’t give a fuck about any type of fairness. Just have that money right when they smuggle in contraband is all they were concerned about.

      • BatmansExWife

        the guards didn’t care at all. When he was jumped in that room, it was like the guards did not protect him.

        • PriceIsRightHorns

          That was painful to watch.

  • BrothasKeeper

    I first saw this story on 60 Minutes, but the report focused chiefly on the widespread corruption of the NY State prison system and Kalief Browder’s incarceration and subsequent suicide being one of the numerous residual outcomes. Even the blurb disturbed me. I didn’t hear of it again until I saw 13th, and it was sickening and scary. We just gotta keep fighting for change, y’all. Keep bringing these circumstances to light, and take every action you can within your power to affect that change, because the opposition is tireless.

    • Brown Rose

      His story is so sad. He was such an innocent. They literally destroyed him and snuffed out his life. They made him crazy. We have to fight–I just don’t know if anything can be accomplished with all those evil people in the white house and in state and local legislature.

      • BrothasKeeper

        David had five stones, but he only needed one.

        (Sorry, T-lee. I know you’re not that kind of Christian, but I had to get biblical real quick.)

        • miss t-lee

          It’s all good hon. :)

  • I have the episodes sitting on my DVR but I haven’t watched. It touches on a real fear of mine-getting arrested and thrown away. I’m not from NY but the fear is similar. The plot of my movie starts in a small southern town with me getting cuffed and railroaded.

    A few years ago I was talking with one of the paralegals about “To Kill a Mockingbird” and what we learned from the book. She gave some white liberal generality but I said “I learned to never get arrested in a small town.”

    A combo or racism, racial ambivalence, over-eager solicitors, and good ole boyism would drive a horror plot that would keep any black man awake.

    It’s not all that far-fetched after Browder’s ordeal.

  • cyanic

    I became aware of his story through Ava’s documentary 13th. And it was so upsetting in the context of everything else surrounding it. When his mother died it was immediately clear it was from a broken heart. Not sure I’ll ever be ready to watch an extensive examination of his story. The continuing history of black terror in this country is tearing through me. What solution is there that does not require the participation of others?

  • Michelle

    This story is seriously one of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve ever in my life heard about. I’ve been watching the documentary and I try not to cry every time. Just watching the footage of him talking about his days in Rikers is just…idk man. It’s sickening. The pain in his eyes and voice was too much. The system failed that young man. I’ve been looking forward to my other shows like “Underground” and “Greenleaf” but I’m so emotionally invested in Kalief’s story. I feel like I have to keep watching it. It’s so sad.

    • SoonToBeMrs

      The system did NOT fail him. The system WAS designed to fail him.
      Unfortunately. Selah.

      • BatmansExWife

        Like I mentioned below, it was like he had a target on his back since birth. And that’s what we’re watching.

      • Michelle

        You know what? You’re absolutely right about that. Smh

    • BatmansExWife

      Wednesdays are tough now. Greenleaf, Underground, Quad, and this documentary.

      • Val

        Greenleaf was just added to Netflix. Is it worth watching?

        • BrothasKeeper

          It’s good. It’s kind of salaciious as far as church dramas go, but not over-the-top.

          • Lex

            first lady and her daddy sent me to my grave last night. #thatsall

            • BrothasKeeper

              A whole lotta ick!

        • BatmansExWife

          I made it through half of the first season, before I stopped. It was just too much last year for me to keep up, and American Crime used to come on Wednesdays, along with Queen Sugar, so Greenleaf had to go. It’s an okay show, for what I watched.

          Netflix just sent me another email asking me to come back for another free trial.

        • PriceIsRightHorns

          It’s decent. My cousin is a part of the cast so I keep up with it.

          • Lex

            whatttttt? who? #nosy

            • PriceIsRightHorns

              Lol. He’s the creepy brother of the First Lady.

              • Lex

                Uncle Mac?? Get outta here!!! he’s a good actor though

                • PriceIsRightHorns

                  Yup, Uncle Mac. He also had a bit part in “Hidden Figures.”

              • BrothasKeeper

                Wow! Don’t take this the wrong way, but I love hating him!

                • PriceIsRightHorns

                  LMAO. I totally get it. I didn’t watch the first season until a few months after it was over. I was discussing it with a friend who was watching it in real time and she asked me which character he played. I told her it was probably some jackleg preacher and showed her his picture. She hollered “What a creep! I can’t stand him!”

                  • BrothasKeeper

                    That just means he’s doing his job well!

      • Michelle

        Right! I haven’t watched The Quad yet. I hate that they put all the good shows on at the same time. Lol

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