BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It is a powerful story of injustice told by a man who lived it.
Five innocent boys of color tried and convicted of the crime they did not commit. Saturday, one of the Central Park 5 shared his story and offered up words of hope at Bloomsburg University.
“It makes me feel like I can’t do anything other than succeed. It makes me feel like it’s my responsibility to succeed and continue succeeding and to be an advocate to be the revolution as he said,” West Chester University student Ananiya Jones said.
Students applauded and were left speechless after hearing the wise words of wisdom that Dr. Yusef Salaam shared at Bloomsburg University.
“Sharing a story of resilience of comeback, of being able to surmount life challenges is always exhilarating because among everybody in the audience this is also a therapy session for me. I get the opportunity to heal again. I get the opportunity to inspire, to educate, to uplift. It’s tremendously powerful,” Salaam said.
Salaam spoke on faith and forgiveness. He and four others, known as the Central Park Five were falsely convicted of the brutal attack and rape of a young woman in 1989 in New York. It was a racially charged case.
In 2002, after years in prison, their convictions were overturned when a convicted murderer and rapist confessed to the crime. Through it all, his faith provided him the strength to endure his time in prison.
“My biggest takeaway would be spiritually in terms of the faith you have to have in the hard times,” Desmond Crosswell of King’s College said.
“Especially as a student myself and of the hardships as I face as a colored woman I know how difficult it can be. I can only imagine his situation but it’s really inspiring to see someone who supposed to just not go anywhere and he is able to do so much more,” Jones said.
“When people tell me they’re inspired by me is that I’m going down the right path, that I can keep on keeping on because of that. That I can keep on inspiring. This is not about being a celebrity. This is God allowing you to affect other peoples’ hearts to bring out their best,” Salaam said.
He says he is determined to educate the public on injustice and keep conversations going so these young people can go and make a difference in the world.
“It was to the point where the students needed to listen to that message,” Madelyn Rodriguez, Director of Multicultural Center at Bloomsburg University, said.
“I’m so happy to have gone and be around so many people of color and to be around so much excellence. I can’t help but to be inspired,” Crosswell said.
Dr. Salaam’s speech was part of Bloomsburg University’s 25th annual Sankofa Conference, a part of the university’s Black History Month lecture series.