Yusef Salaam reflects on his journey: from victim to voice for Harlem

For Yusef Salaam, this Election Day is a long time coming; a very long time.

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.


Yusef Salaam: Once wrongly imprisoned for rape, runs for New York office

Salaam said he's eager to address those crises and more. His opponents say he doesn’t know enough about how local government works to do so.

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.

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.