By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
One of five youths falsely accused of raping a woman in Central Park in the late 1980s will be the keynote speaker for the University of Wyoming’s Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue event.
Yusef Salaam, a member of the group dubbed the “Central Park Five,” will discuss the case and his work at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 through a virtual presentation for the university.
The Martin Luther King Jr. “Days of Dialogue,” which begins Feb. 8, is in its 17th year at the university. The event is designed to celebrate the continuing impact of King’s life, according to event co-directors Erin Olsen Pueblitz and Melanie Vigil.
“The MLK DOD tradition is intended to expand institutional and community awareness about issues of diversity and social justice, to foster an inclusive community, and to empower individuals to act in solidarity with Black lives and marginalized communities,” they said in a statement.
Salaam was 15 at the time he and four other Black and Latino teenage boys were wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman jogging in Central Park in New York City in 1989.
He served six years and eight months in a juvenile facility before the five men’s cases were overturned in 2002.
After members of the group spent up to 13 years of their lives behind bars, unidentified DNA from the Central Park jogger case, unlinked to any of the five, was finally matched to a convicted murderer and serial rapist who confessed to the crime.
The convictions of the boys, now men, were overturned.
In 2014, the five received a multimillion-dollar settlement from New York City for the injustice.
Since his release, Salaam, now 47, has committed himself to advocating and educating people on the issues of false confession, police brutality and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law and the disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system.
Salaam received a President’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 from then-President Barack Obama and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities from Anointed by God Ministries Alliance and Seminary in 2014.
Salaam was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization that is committed to exonerating individuals who it claims have been wrongly convicted, in 2018.
He currently resides in Atlanta and is a motivational speaker.