A member of the “Central Park Five,” a group of five Black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted of assaulting and raping a white woman in New York’s Central Park in 1989, runs for the New York City Council.
Yusef Salaam, who spent nearly seven years in prison for a wrongful conviction, is running to represent a Harlem district in the June 27 Democratic primary.
“I always say that those who are close to pain should have a seat at the table,” Salaam said in an interview.
The New York City native was 15 when he was incarcerated with four other teenagers before leaving prison in 1997. In 2002, the discovery of DNA evidence and the confession of the real culprit led to the overturning of the sentences for the so-called “Fima released.”
Salaam is a longtime activist on the issues of prison abolition, police brutality and diversity within the criminal justice system. In 2019, along with two other members of the group, Salaam lobbied for a state measure that would ban certain police tactics that led to their wrongful convictions.
The vocal advocate based his platform on tackling issues in Harlem such as poverty, child homelessness and rent issues.
“I have been fighting for justice for 34 years since I was 15 years old. And more importantly, the next person to sit in the Central Harlem city council seat is the person who will determine what the future of Harlem looks like,” the candidate said.
Salaam joins two other political candidates – New York Assembly members Al Taylor and Inez Dickens in the June 27 Democratic primary, which has already begun early voting.
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