Member of “Exonerated Five” Speaks at MLK Breakfast

Yusef Salaam of the "Exonerated Five" (right) speaks with professor Carleen Vincent-Robinson (left) at the 2020 MLK Breakfast at FIU. Joshua Ceballos/PantherNOW

Joshua Ceballos/Investigative Editor


Yusef Salaam, one of five men of color falsely convicted in the Central Park Jogger case in 1989, came to the University this Friday to talk about his experience being incarcerated when he was 15 and how it translated into a mission for change.

“They tried to take away our ability to dream, for us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were born on purpose,” said Salaam. “And if you were born on purpose, then you know you have a purpose.”

Salaam was the keynote speaker at the 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration breakfast on Friday, Jan. 17. The breakfast, held by the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, is a yearly event to honor the memory of Dr. King and recognize people in the FIU community and beyond for acts of service and social justice.

Salaam’s case was recently brought to the forefront of public attention with the popular Netflix limited series When They See Us about the case of the Exonerated Five.

Student actors from the FIU Theatre Department performed songs and a sketch about black history and individuality in the black community. Repeating the mantra “There’s a madness in me that sets me free” until the crowd joined in, undergraduates Cameron Holder and Chiara Jacobus brought energy to an event that was otherwise subdued.

The winners of this year’s MLK essay scholarship awards were recognized during the breakfast for their essays following the topic of “advocating for liberty and justice for all.” Students Joshua Lovo-Morales, Frederic Aurelian and Jason Carranza each won over $1,000 in tuition money as well as meal plan and textbook funds.

Salaam, the final speaker of the event, was the first Dotson Family Keynote speaker after a donation of $100,000 by the family of Al Dotson, trustee emeritus for FIU. The donation is part of a 4-year endowment to bring in more speakers like Salaam at MLK events in the future.

Through a series of questions about his life by criminology professor Carleen Vincent-Robinson, Salaam, who achieved a bachelor’s degree while incarcerated, gave a message to University students and America in general.

“I want to impress upon folk that if I was in prison and I was able to make something of myself, then we can do anything.”

Be the first to comment on "Member of “Exonerated Five” Speaks at MLK Breakfast"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.