African drums could be heard loudly on Monday to celebrate the dedication of a Central Park gate for the group of men known as The Exonerated Five.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise who make up The Exonerated Five were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman jogger in Central Park over 30 years ago.
The men were praised by New York elected officials, activists, their families, and friends before the unveiling of a gate with their pictures called “Gate of The Exonerated Five.”
Most of the speakers shared a personal testimony of having been a victim of police brutality including New York City Mayor Eric Adams also told his story.
“There was time when Black Men in Law Enforcement stood with The Five.” Their story is our story. When I was a teenager, my Momma went to the precinct to get me out after officers had beaten me up,” Mayor Adams said.
Keith Wright, son of Judge Bruce Wright, reminded the audience of how his father opposed their imprisonment and the long history of false imprisonment and brutality against Black men.
“We had the Scottsboro Boys, Emmett Till, and The Central Park Five,” he said.
“The gate on this side is for freedom fighters! Years ago Donald Trump took out a Times ad calling for the death penalty to kill these teenagers before a trial had been held. Now former President Trump was charged with causing the January 6th insurrection at the same time of this “Gate” dedication” said National Action Network Reverend Al Sharpton.
Ironically, for many years the real rapist of the Central Park Jogger was free due to careless detective work. As a result, this rapist murdered a woman.
The forced confessions from the teenagers came from sleep deprivation, and police coercion. When the true rapist’s confession led to the innocent teenagers being set free, the original prosecutor Linda Fairstein and detectives in the case never lost their positions.
Bill Perkins, former New York State Senator, who was a leader of elected officials, visited churches when the incident first happened to explain the innocence of the Central Park Five.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams described the plight of African- American people living in America.
“Certain white people want us to be slaves. On the other hand, our struggle brought us to a place in history and having a Central Park gate named after them.”
Harlem poet Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets reminded the audience that African Americans once lived in a place called Seneca Village before they were uprooted, and Central Park was built in its place.
In a poem he said, ” If you are innocent but Black, we are born guilty… Allow all of the flowers in the garden to blossom.”
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levin read a proclamation to honor The Exonerated Five. Local Community Board 10 Chair Cicely Harris and community boards from around the city worked along with others to bring the gate into existence.
Ninety-two-year-old Reverend Herbert Daughtry quoted Black Panther Fred Hampton.
“Where there are the people, there is power,” he said.