One of the men from the Central Park Five has his eyes set on public office. A source close to Yusef Salaam shared that the New York native plans to run for state senate.
According to the New York Daily News, Salaam plans to fill the role vacated by Harlem state Senator Brian Benjamin (D). Benjamin was recently nominated to be New York’s lieutenant governor after current Governor Kathy C. Hochul replaced Andrew Cuomo who resigned from his post amid sexual harrassment allegations, the East New York reported.
The 47-year-old will focus his attention on social and criminal justice, with emphasis on police brutality, prison reform and the abolition of juvenile solitary confinement.
Salaam, along with Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana, were each wrongly convicted for the rape of a white woman who was jogging in Central Park in 1989. They were each exonerated in 2002 after another person confessed to the crime.
Salaam served nearly seven years behind bars after being charged for first-degree rape and robbery. He recalled at the time of his trial in 1990 telling a friend after the verdict came back that he would “be right back. I’ll be home.” He added that “I didn’t come back until seven years later.”
“The overwhelming feeling that I have towards the police and prosecutors is that they knew that we had not done this crime,” Salaam told NPR earlier this year. “They knew it, but yet they chose to move forward. They built their careers off of our backs. And the law of karma caught up to them.”
Salaam went on to become a motivational speaker, acitivist and recently an author with his memoir, Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice.
The book dives into the case and his determination to “survive this awful injustice,” NPR reported.
“When the truth came out, that’s when we got our lives back,” Salaam said. “But for those of us who had five to 10 years prison sentences, we had done all of someone else’s time. … We will never know what our life would have been like had we not gone through this horrible experience.”
Salaam earned his GED while incarcerated and he also has an associate’s degree. He later received a lifetime achievement award from former President Barack Obama in 2016.
A special election for the Harlem Senate seat will likely take place in November.