Dr. Yusef Salaam, one member of the Exonerated Five, is planning to run for public office in New York. According to the New York Daily News, Salaam is running to fill the seat being vacated by Harlem state Sen. Brian Benjamin, who was recently nominated to become New York’s next lieutenant governor. The “Punching The Air” author will center his campaign on several issues, including prison reform, police brutality and the abolition of juvenile solitary confinement — issues that he is very familiar with.
Back in 1989, a white woman was violently raped and beaten in Central Park. Dr. Salaam and four others — Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson and Antron McCray — were tried and convicted for the attack; and the accused teens became known as the Central Park Five.
After the young boys spent between six and 13 years of their lives behind bars, their sentences were overturned once a convicted murderer and serial rapist confessed to the Central Park jogger case. A detailed look into their convictions and exonerations was showcased in Netflix’s 2019 docuseries “When They See Us,” which was co-written and directed by Ava Duvernay.
Since his release from prison, Dr. Salaam has traveled across the country working as a motivational speaker, activist and poet. He continues to advocate for prison reform and criminal justice reform. In 2016, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from former President Barack Obama.
Last year, he spoke exclusively to REVOLT during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement about how Black people can survive through two pandemics — racism and COVID-19.
“We have to have the overwhelming faith that we didn’t come this far to have everything swept away from us,” he said. “It’s very important to have that kind of farsightedness because we live right now in a place of tremendous hopelessness. And in that hopelessness, is this wanting to — for lack of a better description — to fall down and stay down.”