On the heels of information being released about the death of the woman who accused Nate Parker and his college friend, now writing partner, Jean Celestin, of rape, the actor released a statement on Facebook.
Parker and Celestin were charged with raping the woman in 1999 while at Penn State. Parker was acquitted, and while Celestin was initially convicted and did serve six months in jail, his conviction was ultimately overturned. Records of court testimony indicate that after the accuser came forward, she was repeatedly harassed on campus by Celestin and Parker. Another acquaintance of Parker and Celestin also testified that he was invited to have sex with the woman but declined because it "didn't look right."
These are my words. Written from my heart and not filtered through a third party gaze. Please read these separate from any platform I may have, but from me as a fellow human being.
I write to you all devastated…
Over the last several days, a part of my past - my arrest, trial and acquittal on charges of sexual assault - has become a focal point for media coverage, social media speculation and industry conversation. I understand why so many are concerned and rightfully have questions. These issues of a women’s right to be safe and of men and women engaging in healthy relationships are extremely important to talk about, however difficult. And more personally, as a father, a husband, a brother and man of deep faith, I understand how much confusion and pain this incident has had on so many, most importantly the young woman who was involved.
I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow…I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this news. I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family.
I cannot- nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial. While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law. There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom.
I look back on that time, my indignant attitude and my heartfelt mission to prove my innocence with eyes that are more wise with time. I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in.
I cannot change what has happened. I cannot bring this young woman who was someone else’s daughter, someone’s sister and someone’s mother back to life…
I have changed so much since nineteen. I’ve grown and matured in so many ways and still have more learning and growth to do. I have tried to conduct myself in a way that honors my entire community – and will continue to do this to the best of my ability.
All of this said, I also know there are wounds that neither time nor words can heal.
I have never run from this period in my life and I never ever will. Please don’t take this as an attempt to solve this with a statement. I urge you only to take accept this letter as my response to the moment.
Many people in the comment section of Facebook questioned the fact that the statement did not include an apology, and, of course, there were those who defended Parker and cited conspiracy theories similar to the ones used for Bill Cosby. You know: "Why is this information coming out now?" But in this case, Parker was not set to buy NBC.
One has to wonder how the studio will now handle the release of Parker's Nat Turner biopic, The Birth of a Nation.