April 11, 2024

District 9 Council Member Yusef Salaam and State Committee Member Londel Davis, Jr. Visit Our Harlem Community Center

On April 1st we had the honor of welcoming NYC District 9 Council Member Yusef Salaam as a guest speaker, along with his Chief of Staff, Jordan Wright, and State Committee Member of Harlem, Londel Davis Jr. to Avenues for Justice’s (AFJ) Harlem community center.

Council Member Salaam spoke to our Participants about his experience being wrongfully convicted as a part of the Exonerated Five and his career as a criminal justice activist and politician.

According to New York City Council, “In 1989, at just fifteen years young, Dr. Yusef Salaam was tried and convicted in the ‘Central Park jogger’ case along with four other Black and Hispanic young men. The Exonerated Five spent between seven to 13 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit, until their sentences were overturned in 2002. They received a multi-million-dollar settlement from the City of New York for its injustice in 2020. They have been profiled in award-winning films, including "The Central Park Five" documentary by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, and most recently the Emmy award-winning Netflix limited series "When They See Us" written and directed by Ava DuVernay.

Over the past two decades, Council Member Salaam has become a father, poet, activist, and inspirational speaker. He continues to utilize his platform to share his story with others and educate the public about the impact of mass incarceration and police brutality rooted in our justice system. He regularly advocates for criminal justice reform, prison reform and the abolition of juvenile solitary confinement and capital punishment.

Council Member Salaam was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (2014) and is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama (2016).”

During the conversation, Council Member Salaam and his team emphasized the importance of civic engagement and explained why Participants should take advantage of second chances while at Avenues for Justice. Council Member Salaam told them that, while he did not commit any crime, he was never offered a second chance. Several of our younger Participants, ages 15 to 18, were not aware of the Council Member's story and the unjust convictions of the Exonerated Five

Council Member Salaam and State Committee Member Davis Jr. also educated our Participants on the roles of local government officials and how to voice their opinions with their city and state representatives. One of our Participants, who typically joins HIRE Up workshops online, reached out to their Court Advocate to let them know that they had learned a lot, including that their vote makes a difference. 

AFJ is very grateful to our Harlem elected officials for their time with our Participants.


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