Dr. Yusef Salaam is reportedly considering a run for state Senate according to the New York Daily News. Friday, the outlet reported that Salaam, 47, wants to serve Harlem in the New York state legislature.
Salaam hasn’t announced his intent to run, but he tweeted the Daily News article. He is said to have expressed interest in running to replace Sen. Brian Benjamin.
Benjamin represents state Senate District 30, covering parts of the upper west side, Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights, and Hamilton Heights. Gov. Kathy Hochul recently selected him as her lieutenant governor.
Hochul replaced Andrew Cuomo, the disgraced former governor who resigned after a shocking sexual harassment investigation.
While other names are being floated as possible candidates, Salaam’s unique background could set him apart from future opponents. A member of the “Exonerated 5,” previously referred to as the “Central Park 5,” Salaam is a justice seeker, criminal justice advocate, and motivational speaker.
The experience of being railroaded by an overzealous prosecution and wrongfully convicted is not unique to Salaam. But he has spent his years post-incarceration as an advocate for justice.
Forgiveness, redemption, and rebuilding community relationships have long been themes across Salaam’s work. Earlier this year, Salaam released a book “Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice.”
“Better, Not Bitter” is his second book release in the past year with “Punching the Air,” a young adult story building on Salaam’s own experiences as a teenager thrust into the prison system. Salaam co-wrote “Punching the Air” with children’s author Ibi Zoboi.
“When I remember this case, and those boys look like the boys in my classroom, the character had to be inspired by Yusef, and this story had to instill a sense of hope in the reader,” Zoboi told NPR in an interview last summer. “So, we came up with a name, and that name is Amal. And Amal means hope in Arabic.”
He is the first of the five men to release a book about his experience.
“From very early on, I innately knew that I had a destiny that existed beyond the one the criminal justice system attempted to assign to me,” he wrote in the new book. “I just needed to live long enough for that purpose to come to fruition.”