Central Park Five Member Yusuf Salaam Wins Democratic Primary

The exonerated Harlem activist is poised to land a seat on the New York City Council in the November general election.

Political novice Yusef Salaam, best known as one of the wrongly imprisoned Central Park Five, defeated two New York Assembly members Tuesday (June 27) in a New York City Council primary election, making him one step closer to winning elected office in the November general election.

“This campaign has been about those who were counted out. This campaign has been about those who have been forgotten. This campaign has been about our Harlem community that has been pushed to the margins of life and made to believe that they were supposed to be there,” the 49-year-old Harlem Democrat said in his victory speech.

“What happened in this campaign has restored my faith in knowing I was born for this. Every single thing that happens to you – happens for you.”

Salaam was one of the five Black and Latino teens found guilty at trial, based on coerced police confessions, in the notorious 1989 Central Park rape jogger case and served nearly seven years in prison. But their convictions were thrown out in 2002 after a career criminal confessed to the attack. The motion led to them being popularly called “The Exonerated Five.”

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In his victory speech, Salaam described his incarceration as being “in the belly of the beast,” a criminal justice system that was intent on destroying him.

“I was gifted because I was able to see it for what it really was, a system that was trying to make me believe that I was my ancestors' wildest nightmares. But I am my ancestors' wildest dreams,” Salaam said.

The Central Park Five Say 30 Years Later They Still Think About The Incident 'Everyday, Constantly'

Salaam campaigned as the change candidate who is more progressive than his politically seasoned opponents, City & State New York reports. He ended the night with just over 50 percent of first place votes, with his closest competitor New York Assemblywoman Inez Dickens at 25 percent.

Salaam is a board member of the Innocence Project and founding member of Justice 4 the Wrongfully Incarcerated.

“My experiences in the criminal justice system have taught me the importance of speaking up and advocating for those who are marginalized and forgotten by the powers that be,” Salaam says on his campaign website about his activism. “Over the past two decades, I have dedicated my life to activism and education, using my platform to shed light on the impacts of mass incarceration and police brutality and to inspire change.”

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