The five men falsely convicted of raping a woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989 — famously known as the “Central Park Five” — received a standing ovation while onstage during Sunday’s 2019 BET Awards.
Regina Hall introduced the five men — Korey Wise, Raymond Santana Jr., Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray and Kevin Richardson — as the “Exonerated Five” before they received a warm applause from the audience, which included Tyler Perry and John Legend.
While introducing them, Hall referenced the recent Netflix scripted series When They See Us, which explores the false convictions of the then-teenagers. In 2002, their convictions were vacated and they have since received a settlement from New York City of more than $40 million.
Wise, addressing the crowd, said, “We are all on our own individual journey in life,” before the other four men each added one remark.
“We don’t know where our journey will take us or if it will collide with others’,” McCray say, followed by Richardson adding, “We didn’t know that one day would bond [us] to these men for the rest of our lives.”
“But I know that in telling our truth, our lives have been changed forever,” said Salaam. “Your truth is the foundation your legacy will be built on,” Santana concluded.
When They See Us, directed by Ana DuVernay, has received critical acclaim and has refocused attention on the case.
Since their exoneration in 2002, the men have spoke out about the ordeal they endured. Salaam received a lifetime achievement award from President Barack Obama in 2016.
Wise still lives in New York City and is often asked to speak about his mistreatment. Through his work with the Innocence Project, Wise also advocates for the rights of the wrongly convicted as well as criminal justice reform.
Richardson also has worked with the Innocence Project. Santana launched a clothing line several years ago called Park Madison NYC, with proceeds going to the Innocence Project.
McCray is raising his children in the southern United States and was working as a forklift operator as of 2012.