A member of the Central Park Five, who spent years in prison as an innocent man presumed guilty, announced that he will be running for a seat on the New York City Council next election season.
Yusef Salam was tried and convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park along with four other teenagers in the 1989 Central Park Five Jogger Case.
Salam and all of the young men involved in the case were questioned by New York Police Department officers for prolonged periods, without parents nor lawyers present. Salam was tried as a juvenile and convicted of rape and assault. He was then sentenced to five to ten years in prison.
Salam spent seven years of his life in prison before being exonerated in 2002 after a man confessed to raping the woman in the jogger case. Each member of the Central Park Five was awarded $41 million in a lawsuit settled in 2014. However, the city of New York and the law enforcement officers and lawyers refused to announce that they did anything wrong at that time.
Now, 20 years after being released from prison, Salam has decided to get involved in New York City politics, and he is doing so by running for city council in the 2023 election cycle.
“Everyone knows my story — from the headlines to the hardcovers to the silver screen, but what far too many of those in power fail to realize is that my story, our story, continues to play out in communities all over this country,” Salam said in a press release.
Salam made his announcement on Thursday, Nov. 17, and he went on to discuss countless people, especially young Black men in his community, Harlem, New York, that face hardships and struggles due to circumstance. Salam continued to discuss how he believes that he is the right leader for the Harlem community.
“I’m really glad that one of the Exonerated Five is running for council. No amount of money, influence or notoriety can make up for what was done to him as a teenager, and he cannot get any of that time back. But I think his position [if elected] can begin to make up for some of it by allowing him the platform to enact positive change for his community,” Mary Betterson, a freshmen sociology and criminology double major, said.
Salam will be running as a member of the Democratic Party for New York City’s ninth district, currently alongside three publicly declared opponents, including incumbent democratic socialist and police abolitionist Kristin Richardson Jordan.
“The New York City justice system is designated to enhance public safety by providing resources and services that inform decision-making and improve the quality of the criminal justice system. However, I believe that our justice system has failed us as Black Americans time and time again. Throughout New York City, Black people have historically and unfairly been the subject of discriminatory criminal justice systems and practices. [Yusef] Salam would be a great addition to the New York City Council,” Monique Layne, a sophomore political science major and legal communications minor from Brooklyn, New York, said.
Earlier this year, Salam published a novel, Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice, which serves as a memoir of his life and his pursuit in aiding the U.S. criminal justice system.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett