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"All things work for the greater good, the bad, the seemingly bad, you know, all of it is shaping and providing opportunities. You know?" Yusef Salaam
When he decided to throw his name in for the New York City Council's Ninth District seat, his "name" was one many New Yorkers knew quite well.
Salaam was one of the "Central Park Five." Five teenagers of color who were wrongly accused, convicted, and imprisoned of rape and other charges in 1990 were then exonerated of those same charges 12 years later.
Salaam was 14 at the time he was arrested. Now at 49, he says he believes the pain he went through helped him connect while campaigning.
"The biggest question has always been, who is going to hear your voice, hear your grievances in the Halls of power? And because we always have been told that no one's coming to save us, we have to save ourselves," Salaam said.
The Central Park Case divided the city.
One of the loudest voices came from then-NYC businessman Donald Trump -- who took out a full-page ad in the New York Times calling on the State to adopt the death penalty in the wake of this case.
Salaam did not mince words when looking back.
"Donald Trump has been and will be always forever the fire starter who ignited the flame of hatred as it relates to the now known Exonerated Five." Yusef Salaam
Trump never apologized after the convictions for the now "Exonerated Five" were vacated.
The irony of Trump now being the one facing serious jail time from multiple criminal cases is not lost on Salaam.
FOX 5 asked if he even wanted an apology, to which he replied:
"What he did to the Central Park Five wasn't just done to five people. It was done to five families. It was done to our community. It was a broad brush stroke that allowed for people to look at us as the poster children for black deviance. Right, and so if we receive an apology now, it will feel like a little bit too late."
But on this day he's looking forward not back. Forward to serving the people of Harlem and, as he's running unopposed, ready to represent.
"I've often said those who have been close to the pain have to have a seat at the table." Yusef Salaam