Yusef Salaam is one of the Central Park Five. He was 15 years old when he was arrested in 1989 in connection to the rape of Trisha Meili, known then as the Central Park jogger. Salam was convicted of the rape of Meili, along with Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson. Salaam was tried as a juvenile and convicted of rape and assault. He was sentenced to five to ten years in prison; he was released from prison after seven years.
In 2002, Matias Reyes, a serial rapist, admitted his guilt and a DNA test exonerated the five men.
Following the exoneration of the five men, the City of New York agreed to pay them a settlement of $41 million, which was approximately one million for each of their years spent in prison. Per the University of Michigan Law School, Salaam was set to receive $7.125 million of that settlement. When They See Us, a four part series on Netflix directed by Ava DuVernay, explores the famous and heartbreaking historical event.
Here’s what you need to know about where Salaam is now:
Yusef Salaam Is Now a Motivational Speaker & a Father of 10
According to his site, Yusef Salaam, 45, is now a motivational speaker with his own company, Yusef Speaks. He’s also a father of ten.
Salaam’s bio for his speaking site reads in part,
Since his release more than 20 years ago, Yusef has become a family man, father, poet, activist, and inspirational speaker. He has committed himself to advocate and educate people on the issues of mass incarceration, police brutality and misconduct, false confessions, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in America’s criminal justice system, especially for young men of color.
The site also notes the number of awards and accolades he’s received, including a lifetime achievement award from President Obama in 2016, and honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Anointed by God Ministries Alliance & Seminary in 2014.
To CBS earlier in May, Salaam said that his experience going through the trial and spending time in prison was something he thinks about daily. He said, “It’s every day. Constantly….probably my second or third thought [every day].”
To The New York Times, Salaam said,
I knew how big [this series would be]. And I knew how small [our story had] become. I say that because when we were found innocent, there was no tsunami of media that followed in the way that tsunami came out within the first few weeks when they thought we were guilty. The criminal justice system says that you’re innocent until proven guilty. But if you’re black or brown, you are guilty and have to prove yourself innocent. And I think that is the difference, that two Americas that is often talked about. There are so many components that let you down.
Salaam has also become an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, whose condemnation of the Central Park Five continued into 2016, during his presidential campaign. In an interview with Jacobin in 2016, Salaam said,
“…the worst part about it is that there’s an infallibility to a person like Donald Trump — you know what I’m saying? He had to apologize about these comments that he made about those young ladies, but he was sixty years old at the time!
It’s not like he was feeling his way through life and trying to understand things. He’s a grown man, and this is the fiber in the fabric of who he is. And then he tries to chalk it up as “just locker-room banter.” But most people who hang out in the locker rooms don’t talk like that. They don’t talk about sexually assaulting women and thinking that it’s okay, you know? That’s a very, very sick way to be.
Salaam also acknowledged the silver lining of his trauma: he now has a platform to speak out against injustice. He said to the magazine, “[That realization] It was tremendous. It still is tremendous. Whenever I look at the injustices going on around the country, I am happy that sometimes people re-tweet what I say — that’s a powerful thing.”