One of the Central Park 5; Entrepreneur; Speaker; Author; Trainer; Leader
On April 19, 1989, a young woman in the prime of her life was brutally raped and left for dead in one of New York City’s most iconic spaces, Central Park. Five teens from Harlem—four black and one Latino—were tried and convicted of the crime in one of the most frenzied cases in the city’s…
On April 19, 1989, a young woman in the prime of her life was brutally raped and left for dead in one of New York City’s most iconic spaces, Central Park. Five teens from Harlem—four black and one Latino—were tried and convicted of the crime in one of the most frenzied cases in the city’s history. The woman was dubbed the “Central Park jogger” and the accused teens became known collectively as the “Central Park Five.” One of those boys, Yusef Salaam, was just 15-years-old when his life was upended and changed forever.
In 2002, after the Central Park Five spent between seven and 13 years of their lives behind bars, the sentences of the boys—now men—were overturned. A convicted murderer and rapist serving a life sentence confessed. The unidentified DNA in the Central Park Jogger case (unlinked to any of the five) had finally met its owner, and the Central Park Five were fully exonerated.
Ten years later, documentarian Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon released the award-winning film, The Central Park Five, which told of this travesty from the perspective of Yusef and his cohorts. In September 2014, the Central Park Five received a multi-million dollar settlement from the city of New York for its grievous injustice against them.
Determined to educate the public, Yusef eagerly shares his story with others. In speaking out against injustice, he conveys the importance of continuing one’s education—whether formal or otherwise. He also touches on the effects of incarceration and the disenfranchisement of economically disadvantaged people and its overwhelming effects on both their families and the community at large. Yusef also advocates for drastic policy changes relating to the prison industrial complex. He is a firm proponent of video surveillance in all police interactions with so-called suspects, banning solitary confinement for juveniles and staunchly opposes capital punishment.
As an exonerated African-American man and an influential transformational speaker, Yusef has traveled all around the United States and the Caribbean to deliver powerful lectures and facilitate insightful conversations as he continues to touch lives and raise important questions about race and class, the failings of our criminal justice system, legal protections for vulnerable juveniles, and basic human rights.
Of his many notable speaking engagements, Yusef Salaam has been honored or spoken at Amherst College; The Andrew Goodman Foundation; The Black Star Project; Brooklyn Technical High School; Cardozo School of Law; The City College of New York; Columbia Law School; Harvard University; Howard University School of Law; Justice League NYC; Lehman College; Pace University; Pennsylvania State University; NAACP; National Action Network; National Conference for Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education; The New School; New York University; Smith College; TEDxSingSing; United Nations; University of the Virgin Islands; The University of Chicago, and many others.
Since his release more than 14 years ago, Yusef has become a family man, father, poet, activist and inspirational speaker. He has committed himself to advocating for and educating 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.
Ernie was perfect for our Elders Conference at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michigan. We will definitely be using PDA again!
LITTLE RIVER BAND OF OTTAWA INDIANS
Our speaker was great and the crowd enjoyed her! She was very engaging. Thank you again PDA for the great list of suggestions!
Everything went great! and our speaker was wonderful! Thank you so much for all your help PDA! Looking forward to the next one.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – KANSAS CITY
I hope that this message finds you well. We had a phenomenal time with Atsuko this past Thursday. We wanted to just let you know how amazing she was. All those that were in attendance thoroughly enjoyed her and had nothing but amazing things to say about her. Thank you for working with us to make sure this happened!
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
We had a fantastic day with Inge! She was very engaging with all those that attended. Her personal stories about the holocaust were very special and we were moved that she was willing to share them with everyone. Thank you again, PDA for all your hard work and dedication to make this program such a success!
SALT LAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Dear PDA Group, Thank you so much for your hard work in scheduling our speaker! From the moment we reached out to you the first time, you worked with us on all details and logistics and kept us up-to-date on the progress. Thank you for all your hard work on making our event such a success! We couldn't have done it without you and your team!
Thank you again, Dr. Kimbrough, for a great presentation, our attendees are still talking about it!
Dr. Henry Lee's presentation was entertaining, insightful and wise. I, and everyone at Pfizer, especially appreciate the remarks you directed about following your passion and preparing yourself to excel. Thank you, everyone, at PDA for helping to make this happen!
The event was successful! I received many messages expressing how awesome, outstanding and inspiring Ms. Webb-Christburg's speech was."
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL BREAKFAST, BOSTON, MLK SPEAKER
Everything went well. Atsuko was very easy to work with and the students enjoyed her performance! Thank you again for your recommendation and I hope to work with you again in the future!
CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Dr. Novello left this morning after a very successful event on our campus! Thank you PDA Group for your help from the first phone to the last you were with us every step of the way.
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Jordan Carlos was very very entertaining! A majority of students who answered the event survey indicated they really enjoyed Jordan and definitely will bring him back!
WESTERN CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
On behalf of myself and my organization Entertainment Unlimited the Campus Programming Board of Ferris State University, we thank you PDA and Dan for a successful event!! Dan was magnificent! Students really enjoyed the presentation. I know I did. Can't wait to bring in more programs with PDA Group.
FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY
It was a great pleasure to work with PDA Group! The communication was always prompt, friendly and helpful. We loved the speakers and events we booked through Mr. Peter Walker (PDA Group).
WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Thank you, Peter, for all your help, you'll be happy to know that the event went incredibly well! Aneesa Ferreira was by far one of the best speakers we've ever had!
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Yusef Salaam Speaker - PDA Speakers
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