Yusef Salaam of ‘Exonerated Five’ Plans to Run for New York Senate Seat

In Summary

Sources close to his campaign say Yusef Salaam, one of five teens whose true life story was the focus of Ava Duvernay’s limited Netflix series ‘When They See Us’, plans to run for public office in New York.

Trigger Warning: This story contains content about rape and sexual assault.  

Yusef Salaam of the ‘Exonerated Five’ is likely to be making headlines again soon as he plans to run for public office in New York. 

The prison reform activist, author, motivational speaker and “justice seeker” intends to run for the seat vacated by Harlem State Senator Brian Benjamin (D), who was recently nominated as New York’s next lieutenant governor, per NY Daily News’ Leonard Greene

RELATED: Judge: Exonerated Five Prosecutor Can Sue Netflix for ‘When They See Us’ 

His campaign is expected to focus on subjects that have made his name synonymous with wrongful convictions including criminal justice and prison reform, police brutality and the abolition of youth solitary confinement. 

Salaam was one of five teenagers who confessed to being involved in the brutal attack and rape of a white jogger in New York’s Central Park on April 19, 1989. In videotaped confessions, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise also confessed. 

The victim had no recollection of the assault, but initial police investigations centered on a group of African American and Latino teens who had been arrested for a series of other attacks that night in the park, per the Innocence Project

Salaam was sentenced to five to ten years in prison for rape and assault. He served nearly seven years before the teens were exonerated on December 19, 2002 at the suggestion of the Manhattan District Attorney. 

In an interview on “Higher Learning with Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay,” Salaam says a lot of what’s come of his life is a result of living through that experience, which taught him of his own resilience firsthand. 

RELATED: Black man awarded $750K for 44 years of wrongful imprisonment 

“The society that we know of, or that we imagine America to be, is really for, a lot of people who look like me, the American nightmare,” he said. “But in this nightmare that we find ourselves in, we also can find life. We also can find ways to move forward and also to push the culture forward, push the community forward. Most importantly, to push yourself forward.” 

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here. 

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