Less than two weeks after the long-awaited premiere of Orange is the New Black’s third season, PBS’s documentary series, POV, offers a sobering look at female incarceration. In the first episode of its 28th season, POV follows the story of four Black lesbian women who were accused of gang assault in 2006.
The short version of the story is this: on August 18, 2006, the seven Newark, NJ natives were walking around New York City’s West Village, a gay-friendly neighborhood. Dwayne Buckle, 28, shouted sexually suggestive comments from his seat on the sidewalk, attempting to get 19-year-old Patreece Johnson to talk to him. When she told him she was gay, Buckle started threatening to turn her and her friends “straight.” What happened next would lead the women to question where they would ever be safe if something like that could happen in Greenwich Village.
For national media, this all began in August, 2006. But previous events in the lives of Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge and their three friends were just as important as the catcalling that led to the fight and stabbing that night.
When Buckle threatened to force the women into sex with him to turn them “straight,” it triggered deep emotions for Renata, whose mother’s boyfriend raped her repeatedly when she was a child.
When Buckle swung on her friends, Patreese reached for the knife she always carried. It was there because after her brother was shot and killed in front of their house at age 17, her remaining brothers told her she would need a way to protect herself in their absence.
In the end, Buckle was sent to the hospital with a knife wound and a story he would go on to tell in court. The women lost their sense of safety – and, eventually, their freedom.
Out in the Night, directed by blair dorosh-walther, gives us a total view of the incarceration process: from the backstory to the arrest to the trial and the prison experience. Though the events and evidence are presented in a way that creates suspense and mystery, this POV season opener is anything but fiction. It tells a story of catcalling that turned from dangerous to life-changing – and the prison system that claimed years of the women’s lives.
Out in the Night premieres tonight at 10pm EST on both Logo TV and your local PBS station.