Dr. Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated “Central Park Five” members, has announced his candidacy for New York City Council seat, CBS News reported. Now known as the “Exonerated Five”, Salaam, together with Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise, served between seven and 13 years in prison after they were convicted of brutally assaulting and raping a white female jogger in Central Park in 1989.
The five men were later exonerated in 2002 when rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the attack, with DNA evidence supporting his claim. Salaam, who is now an author, criminal justice advocate, activist, and motivational speaker, served almost seven years in prison.
Salaam is vying for the Council District 9 seat. The area encompasses parts of Harlem, Morningside Heights, and the Upper West Side, ABC7 New York reported. The other candidates running for the district include incumbent Kristin Richardson Jordan and Assembly members Inez Dickens and Al Taylor.
During an interview with CBS News, Salaam touched on the policies he’s going to champion or support if he wins the seat. “We’re definitely looking at housing, and affordable housing, at that,” he said. “We’re looking at safety. We’re looking at mental health. We’re looking at education.”
Salaam also touched on Tyre Nichols’ killing. When he was asked about his reaction to the fatal encounter, Salaam said, “Here, yet again, is a young man crying out for his mother, crying out for help.”
“I am Tyre Nichols,” he said when he was asked if he relates to the answer he gave. “Now he’s yet another example of why we need to look at policing and say, how do we fix this system?”
Salaam then went ahead to share some ideas on what can be done with regard to police reform. “You have to have components of training,” he said when he was asked what can be done. “I think part of the challenge is if police officers are protecting the communities that they live in, that’s a whole different spectrum.”
The interviewer then asked Salaam if he was going to propose that kind of reform. “You’ve got to live, say in Harlem, if you’re a Harlem cop?” the interviewer asked.
Salaam replied: “You have to live in Harlem if you’re a Harlem cop. Why? Because you offer a certain level of protection, and because you are also one of the members of our community, you also expect a certain level of protection.”
Asked about the lesson of his life story, Salaam said “you have to hold on, that every single one of us were born on purpose, and born with a purpose.”
He added: “And the beauty of that is that we know this because we made it. And we were chosen, we survived. And here we are. And in Harlem, I see people surviving. I want us to thrive.”