One of Exonerated Central Park Five to speak at Conference for
Aspiring Minority Youth
Dr. Yusef Salaam,
whose story is documented in the 2019 series “When They See
Us,” will give the keynote address at The University of
Toledo’s 36th annual Conference for Aspiring Minority Youth
Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020.
Sponsored by Toledo Excel and the UToledo Joint
Committee, the conference for seventh- and eighth-graders,
high school students and parents will start at 8:30 a.m. in the
Thompson Student Union Auditorium. “Social Justice: A
Community Enterprise” is the theme of this year’s event.
“Dr. Salaam understands better than most that we have systems in
this country that do not work equally for all of its citizens,”
David Young, director of Toledo Excel and Special
Projects, said. “However, he has dedicated himself to changing
those systems as one of the leading advocates in the nation for
criminal justice reform and change.”
Dr. Salaam was one of five teenagers of color, ages 14 to 16,
wrongfully convicted of the 1989 beating and rape of a female
jogger in Central Park. More than a decade later, a murderer and
rapist serving a life sentence confessed to the brutal crime,
and DNA evidence exonerated the five.
In 2012, filmmaker Ken Burns made a documentary detailing
the travesty; “The Central Park Five” chronicled the case
from the perspective of the teens whose lives were changed by
the miscarriage of justice.
Two years later, the quintet agreed to an approximate $40
million settlement from New York City to resolve the civil
rights lawsuit over their arrests and imprisonment for the
attack that made headlines around the globe.
Their story continues to educate and open eyes. “When They
See Us,” a four-part miniseries was released this year by
Netflix and has received numerous awards.
Since his release more than two decades ago, Dr. Salaam has
become an activist and inspirational speaker who addresses
injustice and the importance of education, and facilitates
discussions on race and class, prison reform, and capital
“This conference will educate students and parents about their
basic rights and also advocate all attendees to be change agents
where needed,” Young said. “We hope this will encourage a
community and collective effort where social justice is needed.”
Following the keynote address, Dr. Salaam will participate in a
panel discussion on social justice and criminal justice reform.
He will be joined by RaShya Ghee, UToledo graduate,
adjunct professor at the UToledo College of Law, and staff
attorney at Advocating for Opportunity; Albert Earl,
cultural educator and prevention education specialist; and
UToledo Police Chief and Director of Public Safety Jeff
Newton. Rhonda Sewell, manager of external and
governmental affairs at Toledo Lucas County Public Library, will
moderate the session.
Toledo Excel was established in 1988 to help
underrepresented students, including African-American, Asian,
Latino, and Native-Americans, for success in college. Through
summer institutes, academic retreat weekends, campus visits and
guidance through the admission process, students increase their
self-esteem, cultural awareness, and civic involvement.
Toledo Excel is part of the Office of Multicultural
Student Success, which is in the Division of Student Affairs.
The UToledo Joint Committee includes representatives from the
University, Toledo Public and Parochial schools, and civic and
community leaders from the city of Toledo. The mission of the
committee is to bring together people in the community
interested in the education of underrepresented youth. The
UToledo Joint Committee also serves as an advisory board and
support system for Toledo Excel.
Advance registration for the free, public conference is
required; go to the
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