Dr. Yusef Salaam — one of the Exonerated Five, formerly known as the Central Park Five — will speak today at 6:30 p.m. in the Student Union's Great Hall. We, the Editorial Board, encourage students and members of the community to attend this event hosted by the UNC Muslim Students Association.
Salaam’s story is one of our nation’s more egregious miscarriages of justice. In 1990, Salaam, along with four other New York City teenagers, was wrongly convicted of rape and assault. He was only 15 years old when police coerced him into giving a false confession. Salaam served nearly seven years for a crime he did not commit.
African Americans are intimately familiar with the gross injustice proffered out by our country on a daily basis. For these citizens, the Founding Fathers’ promise of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is all too frequently denied.
Salaam is so much more than his tale of stolen youth, but his experiences highlight both the overt and subtle forms of criminalization that Black boys and men have no choice but to encounter.
Hopefully, Salaam’s words today will shed light on this phenomenon, which is present even here in Chapel Hill. Three years ago, The Daily Tar Heel reported that more than half of Honor Court academic cases at UNC concern students of color.