Today Jay Z and The Weinstein Company (TWC) held a press conference in New York City to announce their upcoming television docu-series about Kalief Browder, a Bronx high school student who killed himself in 2015 after spending three years on Rikers Island, 1000 of those days in solitary confinement with no set date for a trial, for allegedly stealing a backpack at 16-years-old and a film biopic on the late Richard Pryor.
Jay Z spoke to the press on wanting to produce the Kalief Browder series after meeting the teen prior to his death and after learning of his early demise.
I look at Kalief Browder as a modern day prophet. Our prophets come in many different shapes, forms, or mediums. This young man just by the fact that he brought all of us here today lets you know how powerful of a soul he was. I came across his story in The New Yorker and I called Chaka Pilgrim, who has worked with me forever. She’s sitting here today. I said, “I need to meet this young man, can you find him?” I was thinking that it would take a while and my phone kept ringing. I didn’t answer because sometimes I don’t answer her call [laughs]. She kept calling so I knew it was important.
I was like okay, you’re not going to believe this. She was at another event and she ran across his lawyer who was helping him out, he’s a brilliant young man who was helping Kalief seek justice. It was meant to happen. Kalief came to the office and we met and I wanted to give him words of encouragement, that I saw his story, and that I’m proud of him for making it through, and to keep pushing. He told me that he was going to college. This story, in the movies it would’ve ended differently.
I got a call from Chaka and she told me that he had taken his own life. I was thrown of course. I was asking myself, this story doesn’t end like this, it’s not supposed to end this way. That’s not how the story goes. Not in the movies, not in real life. Shortly after things start happening, Obama starts talking about a crime bill and eliminating solitary confinement for minors. I know that was Kalief. All of these things start happening and we came across these fabulous filmmakers and everything started happening the way it should have been. I knew right there that he was a prophet. Some of my prophets go in tragedy, Martin Luther King ends tragically but what comes from it, the life and the next iteration and the lives saved and how this man has moved culture forward is incredible.
And I think you [to Venida Browder, mother of Kalief] should be and you are incredibly proud of your son and what he has accomplished, I know it’s difficult to you and your family to not have him and not be able to speak to him but he’s here. He’s here today and he’s done more in 19 years than what a lot of us will do in a lifetime, so on that note, I would like to thank you for bringing us Kalief’s energy in this world.
The six part dock-series called TIME: The Kalief Browder Story is being directed by Jenner Furst and is scheduled to air in January on Spike TV.
Harvey Weinstein of TWC also announced that Lee Daniels’ Richard Pryor biopic, Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said, produced by Jay Z is back on track. TWC had postponed the film back in May after Daniels, because of Empire‘s demands, was unable to fit the movie shoot into his schedule.
The movie, with a script script written by Bill Condon, had previously been casted: Mike Epps as Pryor, Oprah Winfrey as his grandmother, and Kate Hudson as Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee Pryor.
Jay Z is definitely making sure all of our stories are being told and we’re all the way with it.