From Central Park Five to city council nominee

Jul 7, 2023, 12:00 PM

FILE-New York City Council candidate Yusef Salaam speaks during an interview with The Associated Pr...

FILE-New York City Council candidate Yusef Salaam speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, Wednesday, May 24, 2023, in New York. Salaam, one of the exonerated “Central Park Five,” has won the Democratic primary, Wednesday, July 7, all but assuring him a seat on the New York City Council. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

(Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

NEW YORK CITY — His name is Yusef Salaam. He was one of the Central Park Five, now known as the Exonerated Five. Today, he is the winner of the Democratic primary for a New York City Council seat.

In 1989, Salaam was arrested along with four other boys of color, for the rape and assault of a jogger in Central Park. He served nearly seven years for a crime he did not commit. He was only exonerated after a serial murderer and rapist confessed.

Salaam spoke this morning to CNN.

“I’m looking back at the journey that I’ve come through, and I’m saying to myself, ‘Wow. All the things that have happened, every single piece, the good, the bad, the ugly, have prepared me for this moment’,” said Salaam. 

Guided by faith

Salaam’s faith guided him through the dark years of his youth.

“All throughout the journey, I knew that my faith was guiding me,” he said. “I was hanging on to the rope that God extends to all of us. That’s what allowed me to jump over barriers, figure out ways forward.”

Salaam talked today about how we all must know that we were born on purpose, and therefore we have a purpose.

He talked about the days after he was arrested.

“When they told me what they told me about myself, the hope was that I would accept it,” Salaam explained. “The hope is that I would say, ‘I was born a mistake. So, therefore, I’m going to live my life as if I were a mistake’.”

Salaam had to remind me, with the love and support of his family, that he was born on purpose.

“I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams, not their nightmares.”

What Yusef Salaam brings to politics

Salaam looks at the injustice of his young life as something that has prepared him for leadership.

“I wasn’t supposed to be able to come out unscathed,” he said. “We still have indelible scars, of course, but those scars allow me to peer into the darkness, to understand where those pain points are for our people.”

“We have to have a seat at the table,” Salaam said. “If we’re not at the table, our lives are being decided for us. Therefore, we’re on the menu.”

He quickly admits that if he and his friends had been guilty of attacking that woman in Central Park, they should all have gone to prison.

“But we weren’t guilty,” he emphasized.

“Our job now is to reflect the light. I was plunged into darkness, and I had to find tools to build light in that dark space,” he continued. “That is the challenge — we have to lift as we climb. It’s about moving mountains.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Crime, Police + Courts

A solar panel at the entrance to the Shepherd Union Building at Weber State University is pictured....

Simone Seikaly

Swastika scratched into table at Weber State, found on Yom Kippur

A student reported seeing the swastika at the Shepherd Union on the Weber State campus.

28 minutes ago

Image of the Davis County Jail communication area. Officials have an inmate back in custody at the ...

Adam Small

Inmate inadvertently released from Davis County jail

An inmate was inadvertently released from the Davis County Jail on Tuesday, but he is now back in custody.

2 hours ago

Lights of police car in night time. Night patrolling the city, lights flashing. Abstract blurry ima...

Allessandra Harris

SLC crime rates drop as theft increases nationwide

Stores in certain areas of the country are closing their doors due to a jump in organized crime and theft. In Salt Lake City, however, robbery and theft rates are decreasing.

4 hours ago


Kara Scannell and Lauren del Valle

New York judge finds Donald Trump liable for fraud

A New York judge has found Donald Trump and his adult sons liable for fraud and canceled the Trump Organization’s business certification.

9 hours ago

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Follow @amandadickson...

Amanda Dickson

How parents in prison keep parenting, and how Utah helps

Nearly three-quarters of the women in Utah's prisons are parents to children under the age of 18. The number is smaller for fathers in prison, the number of parents in prison still affects one out of every 14 children.

10 hours ago

A man is being held without bail after police say he forcibly kissed a Brigham Young University stu...

Mark Jones

Wasatch County authorities bust chop shop operation

The Wasatch County Sheriff's Office says three people were arrested in connection to a chop shop operation near Wallsburg,

20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

From Central Park Five to city council nominee