Member of the exonerated Central Park Five, Yusef Salaam, will be the keynote speaker for a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration event on Monday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. at Fountain Street Church. This event will be presented by Grand Rapids Community College in partnership with Grand Valley State University and Davenport University.
At the age of 15, Salaam, along with four others, was wrongfully convicted of assault and rape. Salaam was imprisoned for 10 years before his conviction was overturned. Since being exonerated in 2002, Salaam has dedicated his time to raising awareness of the criminal justice system and the injustices within.
Former President Barack Obama presented Salaam with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. The hardships faced by the Central Park Five was the subject of an Emmy winning Netflix film titled, “When They See Us.”
GRCC chief equity and inclusion officer, B Afeni McNeely Cobham, described what she hopes attendees will gain from this event.
“Our annual celebration focuses on Dr. King’s expansive writings and evolving ideology about justice,” McNeely Cobham stated in a press release. “Dr. Salaam’s story fits succinctly with Dr. King’s words and the program theme: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ We are proud to bring Yusef to Grand Rapids to share his message with our greater community.”
This event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5 p.m.