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One of the Central Park 5 will speak at UNG Gainesville on Feb. 5
Yusef Salaam
Yusef Salaam, one of the “Central Park Five,” will serve as the keynote speaker at noon on Feb. 5, for Black History Month at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.

One wrongful conviction left Yusef Salaam serving nearly seven years in a juvenile detention facility. 

He was one of five teenagers, four black and one Latino, who became known as the Central Park Five.

Salaam will share his story and answer questions as the keynote speaking during Black History Month at the University of North Georgia. He will visit from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5, in the Robinson Ballroom at UNG’s Gainesville campus. The event is open to the public. UNG's Cumming campus will be live-streaming it in Room 208.

Robert Robinson, director of multicultural student affairs at UNG, said he hopes Salaam’s talk will encourage young people to overcome their obstacles, no matter what happens in their lives. 

“There’s no greater story about social injustice and corruption in the system, than the Central Park Five,” Robinson said. 

The five young men, aged between 14-16, were accused and convicted of the brutal beating and rape of a 28-year-old white woman,Trisha Meili, on April 19, 1989, in New York’s Central Park. 

The five were fully exonerated in 2002 after Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and rapist serving a life sentence, confessed to the crime. The man’s DNA also matched the evidence found at the scene.

Now Salaam dedicates his time toward sharing his story and educating people on the issues of mass incarceration, police brutality and misconduct, race and law, and the disparities in America’s criminal justice system.

In 2016, former President Barack Obama presented Salaam with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The story of the five men has been told in the 2019 Netflix miniseries called, “When They See Us,” and in the 2012 documentary, “The Central Park Five.” The documentary will play at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, in the Multicultural Student Affairs suite of UNG’s Dahlonega campus. 

As students and other community members listen to Salaam on Wednesday, Robinson said he wants them to feel empowered and inspired.

“I hope that they’ll know the importance of fighting for social justice, and that all of us have a role to not let this happen again in America,” he said. 

See original story by Gainesville Times staff writer Kesley Podo here.