As concerned citizens continue to speculate about the events that led to the death of 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins, a new documentary on Netflix gives some insight into what it’s like to be an African American family that suffers the tragedy of loss but doesn’t receive the benefit of being treated like victims by police, the criminal justice system, or anyone in their own community.
Strong Island is a documentary made by Yance Ford that explores the life and death of her brother William Ford and her family’s quest for justice. William was murdered in Long Island in 1992 by Mark Reilly when he was just 24 year’s old. Ford, who’s Black was a teacher; Reilly was a 19-year-old white mechanic.
As a press release points out, “Strong Island asks what one can do when the grief of loss is entwined with historical injustice” and it does so via narratives from Yance, her younger sister, friends of the family and William, and her mother, Barbara Dunmorem who, through tears in her eyes, explains why no one was held accountable for her son’s murder. “They weren’t wealthy,” she stated. “Their wealth was that they were white.”
Despite William’s cause of death being a gunshot wound to the chest and the manner of death being labeled a homicide, Reilly wasn’t indicted for the murder.
Relaying her experience with the police department upon being notified of William’s death, his mother noted, “No officer spoke to me. No officer would look at me. We weren’t received as parents of a victim; we were received as people being informed that an investigation would be conducted. I was foolish enough to think it’s going to be okay.”
Sadly, Dunmore was wrong and William’s father, who shares his namesake, was right when he told his wife: “Don’t expect anything because it ain’t gonna happen.”
Check out the trailer for Strong Island below and watch the full documentary which is available on Netflix now.