The men known as thereceived roaring applause and a moniker change at the BET Awards in Los Angeles Sunday night. Regina Hall, host of the 19th annual award show, introduced Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr., Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson and Antron McCray as the "Exonerated Five."
Hall welcomed the group onstage at the Microsoft Center, where they were met with a standing ovation. The men were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in New York City's Central Park nearly 30 years ago — and served years in jail until DNA evidence and a serial rapist's confession bailed them out. Taking turns on the mic, all of them shared a powerful message to the audience about the truth.
"We are all on an individual journey in life," Wise said. "We don't know where our journeys will take us or how they will collide with others," McCray added.
"I didn't know that one day would bond me to these men for the rest of our lives," Richardson continued.
"But I know that in telling our truth, our lives have been changed forever," Salaam said.
Santana Jr. concluded things: "Your truth is the foundation your legacy will be built upon. Your truth will be the memories people keep long after you're gone."
Their story is the subject of Academy Award-nominee Ava DuVernay's new four-part series,She spoke to " " about purposely avoiding the phrase Central Park Five in her title.
"For me, I was really interested in getting underneath this moniker given to them by the police, by the prosecutors, by the press — and really to humanize these boys and ask you to see them, not just the label they'd been given," she said.
There has been fallout in the. Linda Fairstein, the woman who oversaw prosecutors interrogations in the case and novelist, was .
The exonerated men had long claimed they were coerced as teenagers to confess, after being denied food and sleep for dozens of hours. Four of the five served about seven-year sentences as juveniles, but the oldest of the group, Wise, served time as an adult. The group recounted their experiences on "CBS Sunday Morning" in May:
"Soon as we get in, they separate us and they start working on us," Salaam said. "And I'm hearing Korey [Wise] being physically beaten in the next room. And I'm immediately beyond afraid."
The case divided the city along racial lines, as many rushed to condemn the five black teenagers accused in the case.in four New York papers calling for a return to the death penalty in the days after the rape.
In 2014, the city settled a lawsuit with the five for $41 million, a decision that Mr. Trump criticized.