All Introductions by: Know Your Rights Camp members Miabelle Bocicault, Dr. Ameer Hasan Loggins, Dr. Christopher Petrella
Thirty years ago, when Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam were teenagers, their right to be free was unjustly ripped away from them. Painted as blood-thirsty criminals and sentenced to prison after being coerced by corrupt law enforcement into making false confessions for a rape they did not commit, the five men were ultimately exonerated in 2002. Now, when you see them, you see the faces of free men. No longer are they forced to wear the lies that ruined their lives. No longer should they be known as the Central Park Five — forevermore they are known as the Exonerated Five. The truth has absolved them from the horrors of Central Park and 1989, and new generations are learning their story, thanks to Ava DuVernay's powerful Netflix miniseries, When They See Us. Today, Antron, Kevin, Raymond, Korey and Yusef are five free men committed to fighting against a legal system that robbed them of their right to be free.
What did this experience teach you about the legal system?
Antron McCray: For me, the experience going through the legal system, it failed us tremendously. I'm out here with my brothers trying to spread the word to the youth, adults, boys, girls, men, women. But the legal system, it failed us. And I have no faith in the legal system at all.
Korey Wise: As I'm learning the legal system now, they don't care about Black lives. They don't care. If you don't look like them, they don't care. The system don't want you to be there with them. Now it's time to play chess.
After you were exonerated, did you feel free?
Raymond Santana: I don't feel completely free because... I feel free because of my family, of my children. I feel completed. But there's still a part of me, which is something I can't get back, which is my youth that was taken away. Those years will never come back. But just to be free in this society and being able to spend time with my family, that's free for me.
What does it mean to you to be free?
Yusef Salaam: What it means for me to be free is to be completely free, not tied down by the ideas of a racist system, a system that wants to keep us in a box and that wants to define us, as opposed to allowing ourselves to define ourselves for ourselves. That's what freedom is to me.
What do you hope people take away from knowing your story?
Kevin Richardson: Just for people to hear us and see us now and the way we are and to take from it how we progressed through all these years — 30 years — of being labeled. Now people see us as individuals and also as a brotherhood.
For more resources related to You Have the Right to Be Free, visit: www.innocenceproject.org.