Dr. Yusef Salaam, one-fifth of the Exonerated Five, continues to show us that he is indeed not bitter, but better. The activist and author of Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice is reportedly running for New York public office.
According to the New York Daily News, Salaam has his eyes set on the seat being vacated by Harlem State Senator Brian Benjamin, a Democrat who was nominated to be New York’s next lieutenant governor last month.
Salaam was thrust back into the public eye in 2019 when Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us revisited one of the biggest criminal cases and media storms in New York’s history: The Central Park Five.
Salaam, along with Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray and Kevin Richardson, was wrongfully convicted in 1990 for the rape and assault of a white woman in Central Park. The series followed the five innocent teenagers as they fell victim to racial bias, coercion and mistreatment from police before making false confessions to a crime they did not commit.
All five young men had their convictions overturned after Matias Reyes, who matched the victim’s description and DNA evidence, confessed to the crime. Salaam had served nearly seven years before being exonerated in 2002.
Since being exonerated, according to his site, he became a motivational speaker and was a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama in 2016.
Earlier this year, in an exclusive interview with The Root, Salaam said of the justice system, “Not only did they try to bury me, but I was a seed and that seed is now blossoming and blooming.” Little did we all know Salaam’s blossoming would include running to represent the district covering Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side.
New York Daily News reports that Salaam’s campaign platform will include criminal justice and prison reform, attention to police brutality and the abolition of juvenile solitary confinement.
The Root has reached out for comment and will update this story with a statement.