Event to focus on racial injustice and prison reform on January 27


Courtesy of Iowa State's Lecture Series webpage

Yusef Salaam will be speaking at the next installment of the Iowa State Lecture Series. 

Zane Charter

Yusef Salaam, one of the “Central Park Five,” will be delivering a lecture at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

At age 15, Salaam, along with four other boys from Harlem, were tried and wrongfully convicted for the sexual assault of a woman in Central Park in 1989. The case generated much attention, including an advertisement by Donald Trump demanding to “bring back the death penalty.” The true perpetrator confessed in 2002, leading to the exoneration of the Five, but by then Salaam had spent nearly seven years in prison. The Central Park Five have been the subject of a documentary, an opera and the Netflix miniseries “When They See Us.”

Since being exonerated, Salaam has become a motivational speaker and an activist for prison reform. The name of Thursday’s lecture, “Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice,” comes from the title of Salaam’s recently published book, which was released in 2021. In the book’s introduction, Salaam says, “[My] life did not begin or end that day; my life is more than the sum of the worst things that happened to me.”

Before the event, awards will be presented to individuals or groups “who enhance and cultivate an inclusive university community that embraces justice and equity,“ according to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The lecture is co-sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and the Committee on Lectures and is free and open to the public. It will also be livestreamed.