"Central Park Five" member Yusef Salaam announces candidacy for City Council District 9 seat
NEW YORK -- It's a New York City comeback story that would have been unimaginable some three decades ago.
One of the "Central Park Five" is running for City Council.
Yusef Salaam is one of the "Exonerated Five," as they are now known, the teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989.
Their convictions were overturned in 2002 and in December saw their name etched in stone on a gate to the park.
Salaam, who spent seven years behind bars, is running in Council District 9, representing the heart of Harlem, where he grew up, and where CBS2's Maurice Dubois met with him to talk about his past and his future.
"At one point, the world thought you and the other four were literally trash," Dubois said.
"Yes," Salaam said. "They wanted to not only put me to death, but there's hate mail that I've received that they wanted to even put my mother to death, as well, for sure and creating, in their words, 'such an animal.'"
"Your names are basically etched in stone here. The Exonerated Five. Central Park. What a journey."
"Oh my goodness, beyond amazing, almost unreal," Salaam said. "We were the pariahs. We were consider the scum of the earth. They wanted to do to us what they had done to Emmett Till because they really judged us by the color of our skin, and not the content of our character."
"I mean, you grew up, right there."
"Yes. 1309 Fifth Ave.," Salaam said.
"Just down the street, 110th Street and Five Avenue. That is a mind-blowing concept. It has to be."
"Oh, my goodness, it is, you know, and not only that, I think to have your name restored, to have your family's name restored," Salaam said.
FLASHBACK: 'You have a hole that can't be filled': Yusef Salaam reveals pain after going from "Central Park Five" to "Exonerated Five"
"So what policies are you going to push or get behind to make happen if you win?"
"We're definitely looking at housing, and affordable housing, at that. We're looking at safety. We're looking at mental health. We're looking at education," Salaam said.
"The Tyre Nichols murder that we all saw on television, what was your reaction to that?"
"Here, yet again, is a young man crying out for his mother, crying out for help," Salaam said.
"You relate to that?"
"I am Tyre Nichols," Salaam said. "Now he's yet another example of why we need to look at policing and say, how do we fix this system?"
"So what do you do?"
"You have to have components of training. I think part of the challenge is if police officers are protecting the communities that they live in, that's a whole different spectrum," Salaam said.
"Are you going to try to propose that, try to make that happen? You've got to live, say in Harlem, if you're a Harlem cop?"
"You have to live in Harlem if you're a Harlem cop. Why? Because you offer a certain level of protection, and because you are also one of the members of our community, you also expect a certain level of protection," Salaam said.
FLASHBACK: The "Central Park Five" speak with Maurice DuBois
"You'll be one, if you win, one of 51 council members, one voice. You can't just pronounce policy and things happen."
"You know, think that the great thing about me is I've been, I've been having to figure out ways to have a coalition and work within the coalition," Salaam said.
"What's the lesson of your life story?"
"You have to hold on, that every single one of us were born on purpose, and born with a purpose. And the beauty of that is that we know this because we made it. And we were chosen, we survived. And here we are. And in Harlem, I see people surviving. I want us to thrive," Salaam said.
Salaam is facing at least five other candidates in the race for Council District 9, including incumbent Kristin Richardson Jordan and Assembly members Inez Dickens and Al Taylor.
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