Sources close to Yusef Salaam say that the Central Park Five member is gearing up to enter New York’s rough and rugged political scene. Reports claim that he is looking to run for Harlem’s state senate on the Democratic ticket.
According to the Daily News, Salaam is interested in filling the seat left empty by Harlem state Sen. Brian Benjamin. Benjamin seems to be benefitting from former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s demise and current Governor Kathy Hochul’s ascension amidst a sexual harassment scandal that rocked the state. Last week, the New York native has been nominated to be lieutenant governor, taking the seat left open by Hochul.
To no one’s surprise, Salaam’s candidacy will focus on wrongful conviction, criminal justice and prison reform, and police brutality. As a member of the Central Park Five and a victim of the terrible injustice of racialized profiling often applied to Black and brown youth, he also plans to work on the abolition of juvenile solitary confinement.
The Central Park Five, Salaam, Kharey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, and Raymond Santana, were exonerated after being arrested, convicted, and framed in a racially polarizing rape case in the 80s of a white female jogger in the Manhattan park. The exoneration came after another prison inmate, Matias Reyes, confessed to being the individual that actually raped the jogger. DNA evidence supported his claim and was the linchpin to their freedom.
While some of his Central Park Five brothers served up to 13 years, he served seven after being wrongfully convicted on first-degree rape and robbery charges. His conviction was vacated five years after he was released from prison.
He shared with the NPR in 2021, “The overwhelming feeling that I have towards the police and prosecutors is that they knew that we had not done this crime. They knew it, but yet they chose to move forward. They built their careers off of our backs. And the law of karma caught up to them.”
Interestingly enough, Benjamin has not shifted into the new political position and is technically still in the political capacity, the 47-year-old Salaam is eyeing. Others eyeing the same seat are state Assembly members Al Taylor and Inez Dickens.