Yusef Salaam Delivers Message To Donald Trump After Winning Democratic Primary For NYC Council Seat
Yusef Salaam, an exonerated member of the Central Park Five, has officially won the Democratic primary for the New York City council seat. Now, he has delivered a message to Donald Trump.
The Central Park Five was a 1989 case involving five black and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully accused of raping a woman who was jogging in Central Park. The men were sentenced to six to 13 years in prison and served their terms until 2002, when serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime.
When the men were exonerated, Trump took out a full-page newspaper advertisement that read, “Bring back the death penalty. Bring back out police!” Trump has been a vocal adversary of the wrongfully convicted men since the case was first brought to national attention in 1989.
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Salaam spent almost seven years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. Now, he is preparing to help lead New York City in the midst of an indictment that was brought against Trump in Manhattan for hush money payments.
During a recent CNN This Morning interview, Salaam discussed his aspirations of holding public office.
“I was 16 at the time, and I kind of buried [thoughts of running for office] and tried to make sure that I didn’t succumb to the pressure of what prison was trying to turn me into, which was a monster,” Salaam said. “Years later, I’m looking back on the journey that I have come through and saying to myself ‘Wow, all of the things that happened… have prepared me for this moment right now.”
Salaam explained that his experiences have only made him stronger in his faith,
“My life that was altered, that was interrupted… I wasn’t supposed to be able to come out unscathed. We still have indelible scars, of course, but at the same time, those scars allow me to peer into the darkness, to understand where those pain points are for our people.”
Salaam was asked about the similarities between Trump’s advertisement and one that Salaam took out that bears a striking resemblance, saying “Bring back justice and fairness. Build a brighter future for Harlem!”
“It’s the juxtaposition of knowing that we are in a divided states of America… The type of energy black people have always had has been one of love, of acceptance, of equality,” said Salaam. “A former president has received what I call karma… It’s us being able to put the mirror up to all of us, as Americans, to say ‘If the exonerated five did not get justice 34 years ago… is [Trump’s indictment] going to be a moment where we finally see justice?”
Finally, Salaam voiced his goal of reforming the justice system and reflected on his own journey to self-acceptance.
“I was plunged into darkness… we have to lift as we climb, it’s about moving mounts and removing the barriers that are disallowing us to see clearly… When they told me what they told me about myself, the hope was that I would accept it… I had to remind myself that I was born on purpose.”
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