BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A man at the center of one of the country’s most notorious wrongful convictions visited Birmingham on Tuesday.
Dr. Yusef Salaam spoke to a sold out crowd at UAB about his experience. He says despite - or really in spite of - what he’s experienced, he carries no bitterness. Instead, he carries a message of inner peace and urges people to step into your own power to affect change.
“When life happens - it’s not about what happens to you, it’s about what happens inside you that makes all the difference,” said Dr. Salaam.
He was one of the 5 teenagers from New York convicted and imprisoned for a rape they did not commit. His face was plastered across headlines in 1989 - the group labeled “The Central Park 5.” It wasn’t until 2002 the group was exonerated of the crime. In the years since, he’s carried and shared his story.
“To know we have comeback power, to know that everything happens for a reason,” said Dr. Salaam.
His comeback story is now known globally after the recent Netflix Docu-series “When They See Us."
“To make sure the globe understands what the criminal justice system is like in America and hopefully the outside pressure will cause the inside to do better,” said Dr. Salaam.
Thirty years since his arrest, Dr. Salaam says he feels like the men, now known as “The Exonerated 5,” and the minority community are beginning to be seen.
“A lot of folks think this is brand new. This is stuff that has been going on prior to social media. Prior to camera phones, and so I think that that narrative, this story, and this film is doing a lot to push that forward so that people can have that conversation,” said Dr. Salaam.
Dr. Salaam now works as an advocate against social injustice and prison reform.