Yusef Salaam: This Black History Month, Stand with Me against Racial Bias

By Yusef Salaam

Yusef Salaam wrongly convicted as a teenager in New York City in 1990.

Nearly 30 years ago, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray and I went from being teenagers with big dreams to becoming the Central Park Five overnight. The press, the city and the whole world instantly believed we were guilty of attacking and nearly killing a white female jogger in Central Park. We never had a chance to prove our innocence.

Despite the horror we endured—we were branded as monsters and rapists, while high-profile New Yorkers called for our execution and we lost a combined 33.5 years of our youth in prison—but we still consider ourselves lucky. We lost years of our lives, but thanks to the DNA evidence proving our innocence, we made it to freedom on the other side. I’m afraid to even think of the thousands of men and women who will never live to see this side.

Related: Remembering Kalief Browder a Year After his Suicide

That’s why today—first day of Black History Month—I’m asking you to stand with me in making a commitment to show up for racial justice this year. Will you sign the Innocence Project’s pledge for racial justice?

Troy Davis, who maintained his innocence until the end in the murder of a police officer, was executed in 2011.

Our case has become an important example of the many systemic failures of the criminal justice system. Working with the Innocence Project and other organizations, we’ve become advocates for essential reforms to prevent future injustice. We’re here to tell our story and fight harder than ever to prevent the pervasiveness of racial bias from instantly deeming black and brown people as guilty, without a chance of proving their innocence.

Black History Month is a chance to speak up even louder for our brothers and sisters who are no longer here to share their truth—Kalief Browder, Ledell Lee, Troy Davis and countless others who never had a fair trial, adequate defense or the chance to access DNA testing that could have proven their innocence.

Related: Ledell Lee: ‘My life on death row is like Twilight Zone’

We can’t sit back and allow one more innocent black person to be punished, or worse, executed for the color of their skin. Will you stand with me in fighting against racial bias in our criminal justice system?

Keep up with Yusef on Twitter.

Ledell Lee executed by Arkansas in 2017 without a chance of testing DNA that could have proven his innocence.

Kalief Browder was wrongly accused of stealing a backpack. After refusing to take a plea deal, he spent three years in Riker’s solitary confinement. He hung himself two years after his release.



  1. Apostle Jeffrey Jackson

    I stand with you. Also myself as well as many young Black Men and Women in Macon Georgia are in need of your assistance. Please someone contact me 4784619070

  2. A. H.

    The caption under Kalief Browder’s picture is innacurate. He was never convicted of that crime. He was wrongfully accused but never convicted. In fact, after 3 years of sitting in Rikers waiting for a trial, maintaining his innocence and turning down plea bargins in which he would have had to lie about being guilty when he wasn’t, the prosecutor deopped the charges upon realizing there was not even enough evidence to convict him. In other words, they admitted the charges were false. Please use the terminology accurately. Just because you spend 3 years in jail in America does not mean you were ever convicted of a crime.

  3. Patrice Robinson

    My husband and I are fighting for his justice and freedom after15 yrs in prison. He was racially profiled and sentenced do a very lengthy sentence here in Pennsylvania. I am in desperate need of some help with getting him home. I have organized an awareness meet and greet on February 18, 2018 here in Harrisburg, PA. I can be contacted at 7174210931
    Patrice Robinson (Wife)
    Daliyl Muhammad GB0883
    SCI Coal Township
    I would truly appreciate a response or call back at your convenience. Thank you

  4. Antonella Di Francia

    This is really sad the reality of things which need to be changed. I give my support I give my respect I hope that I can be part of helping someone who has been wrongfully convicted

  5. Uncle-Samir Ismail

    Salaams Bro. Yusuf: I pray this message reaches you, your family & all dealing with the struggle of injustice, in the best of health, spirits & ever increasing success in this life & the next:
    I have some legal connections that very much , may be a great help to your project & many dealing with the injustice of the Legal system in America.
    Please feel free to contact me.

    My heart in the Struggle
    Uncle Samir Always

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