Solingen 93

Domestic Violence and Abuse

Duke Law | When They See Us: A Conversation with Two of the Exonerated Five

KERRY ABRAMS: Welcome, everyone. Welcome, especially
to our students, especially our first
year and LLM students for whom this may be the first
really big law school event you’ve gotten to
go to voluntarily. Welcome as well to
our faculty and staff, to faculty, staff, and
students from around Duke, and to members of the
greater Durham community. We’re delighted to
have you here today. It is my great
pleasure to introduce some remarkable
people to you today. Raymond Santana and Yusef
Salaam have generously agreed to spend some time with
us as part of a two-day event at Duke focusing on
wrongful convictions. Mr. Santana and Mr. Salaam
were convicted and imprisoned in 1989, when they were
only 14 and 15 years old, for a crime they did not
commit in a case known then as the Central Park jogger case. They were exonerated
by DNA testing in 2001 and have since
then become known, along with the three other men
exonerated in the same case, as the exonerated five. Last night, they spoke
at the page auditorium to an audience of primarily
undergraduate students in a conversation
that I understand was very inspiring
and interesting. It was moderated by Professor
Mark Anthony Neal, chair of the Department of African and
African-American studies, who has joined us today. I want to thank
Professor Neal for having the inspiration and the idea
to bring Mr. Salaam and Mr. Santana to Duke and for
coordinating with us at the law school so that we can provide
the opportunity for both law students and undergraduates
to hear their stories. We are tremendously honored to
have both of them here today. Of course, wrongful convictions
are an all too well-known phenomenon, and
Duke Law School has been on the forefront
for years in doing the difficult and
painstaking work it takes to right these wrongs. Our wrongful convictions clinic
dates all the way back to 1991, when Professor Jim Coleman
developed the first law school death penalty clinic in
the nation here at Duke. That clinic was
incredibly successful and inspired other law
schools around the country to launch clinics of their own. In 2006, Professor Coleman
transformed the death penalty clinic at Duke law
to focus instead on investigating
claims of innocence made by incarcerated felons. And I want to take a
moment to recognize the role students played in
the launch of that clinic. Students had started their
own Innocence Project and had been agitating to
do more work in this area. And so it’s really a combination
of Professor Coleman’s vision, of Professor Newman,
who joined him as co-director of the
clinic, and the passion of students that got this
started here at Duke. Professor Coleman
and Professor Newman supervised both the
Innocence Project and taught the Wrongful
Convictions Clinic ever since. And they were more recently
joined by Professor Jamie Lau who joined us from the North
Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. Together, they have guided
generations of law students through investigation and
litigation of exoneration cases, and I hope many of you
will participate in that effort as well, and some of you
probably already are. These cases take years and
years to come to resolution. For example, just
last May, the clinic secured the release
of Ray Finch, who had served 43
years for a murder he did not commit and was 81
years old when he was released. Professor Coleman
had worked personally on that case for 15
years, since even before the clinic
had been established. And for those of you who during
orientation a couple of weeks ago noticed the absence of
professor Theresa Newman during the wrongful
conviction session, you might be interested
to know that she was busy arguing
in court that day for the release of Dante Sharpe,
a clinic client who served 24 years in prison for a murder
he did not commit and has now been released. Professor Newman likes to
say that it takes a village to free an innocent man. And indeed, in both
of these cases, students at Duke Law School had
worked year in and year out. And there is now an
entire group of alumni who can each take partial
credit for these extraordinary outcomes. I hope that many
of you in the room will join that alumni team. In addition to the wrongful
convictions clinic, Duke Law is a
leader, and I don’t think it’s an
exaggeration to say the leader, in criminal
justice research nationwide. This work includes Professor
Sara Sun Beale’s work on prosecutorial discretion,
Professor Lisa Kern Griffin’s on the relationship
between narrative and factual accuracy in the
courtroom, Professor Sam Buell’s work on the conceptual
structure of white collar offenses, Professor
Nita Farahany work on the ethical dimensions
of emerging technologies in criminal law, and Professor
Ben Grunwald’s work on how police who commit misconduct are
often hired by new departments. There couldn’t be a
better place to host a major center for the
study of the role in science in the criminal
justice reform system. And I now am extremely proud to
announce today something that will be extraordinarily
exciting and important for Duke Law and the study and
reform of criminal justice around the world– the launch of the Duke Center
for Science and Justice. The Center will build on
our existing strengths to create new opportunities
for students and faculty across the university
to study and improve accuracy of evidence
in criminal cases, the role of risk in
criminal outcomes, and the treatment needs of
individuals with mental health or substance abuse problems
as an alternative to arrest and incarceration. The Center will extend our
reach beyond the law school to collaborate with
faculty and students in medicine, public
policy, arts, and sciences to pursue research
and take courses. The center’s launch is
supported by a $4.7 million grant from the Charles
Koch foundation, and we very much hope that
additional foundations and individuals will follow
the Koch Foundation’s example and contributing resources to
the center once it begins work. Leading this new center will
be the L. Neil Williams Junior Professor of Law Brandon
Garrett, who will also be our moderator today. As you know Professor
Garrett is a leading scholar of criminal justice
outcomes, evidence, and constitutional rights and
the author of several books, including Convicting
the Innocent– Where Criminal
Prosecutions Go Wrong. And as many of you
know, Professor Garrett is also my husband. So this moment is
especially exciting for me to get to announce as the dean
because I’ve witnessed him for years working tirelessly
on criminal justice reform research. In fact, before we
were married, long ago, when we were living
in what now seems like a very small apartment
in Brooklyn but at the time seemed quite cozy, I
remember Brandon telling me how excited he was because
he got to draft a state court complaint in the case
brought by Yusef Salaam. Thank you to all three of
you for being here today. Professor Garrett, Mr. Salaam,
and Mr. Santana, the floor is yours. BRANDON GARRETT: Yusef,
Raymond, thank you for taking time away from
your families to be here, both yesterday in the
evening and today. And thank you to our
students, and please be thinking of
questions that you want to ask because, you
know, I’ve promised them that we have some of the most
impressive future freedom fighters in the world
here at Duke Law School and that you’re going to be
asking really, really sharp, interesting questions. And you know, our guests
need no introduction. They are great activists
leaders, artists, and voices for social justice. I don’t want to say more
than that before beginning. What I wanted to do
is ask a few questions about where they
are now and things that happened in the case,
focusing a little bit more on law because, after all,
we’re here in the law school. And I’m going to
pause here and there and look out for questions. If you want to follow up
on anything I’ve said, you know, please do. And then we’ll have more time
for questions at the end. So I wanted to start
with both of you, first start here in the
present, and just ask you today, with the new Netflix
series, with the civil case finally at its
end, in some ways, you are freer than you
have been in the past. What are you doing today with
the platform that you have and that you’re using so well to
raise awareness about injustice in the criminal justice system? Just tell us about
what you’re doing. [INAUDIBLE] YUSEF SALAAM: Just quickly,
I’m looking for something to share that’s going to kind
of set the foundation of where I am in my personal journey. In the Quran, I remember I
was asked this question about, you know, what’s next
when we won the lawsuit. Pulled aside and said,
hey, you know, what’s next? What’s going on? You know, you guys
can retire now, right? You know, I kept thinking
about this verse in the Quran that I’ve heard often. And the verse goes like this. [INAUDIBLE] says,
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].. What that means is, after
difficulty, there is ease. Surely, after difficulty,
there is ease. So it’s the notion that
you can kind of just relax. And I think a lot of
people stop there. But the reality is that there’s
another verse after that. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. And what that means
is, so when you are free from your immediate
task, still labor hard. And one of the beautiful
things about where we are now is for all intents and purposes,
we become financially immune. We want a lawsuit. We’re out here on
the speaking circuit. We’re trying to lend our
energies and our times and our expertise to
what we’ve been calling the criminal justice system
or the criminal system of injustice. And it’s a beautiful space to be
in because through your trials and tribulations, you realize
that you’ve been built and born and shaped for this. Now I often describe
being placed in the belly of the beast is a
wakening process for me where I said, wow, if I can
realize and understand being in the belly of
the beast in the same way as being in my mother’s
womb, in my mother’s stomach, I was being shaped and
formed, unbeknownst to me, to provide a service 30 years
from now or 30 years from then. And so in my future self,
I was being made fearless. I was being made courageous. I was being made
to be born brave. You know, as many of us, as
all of us out here– you know, Raymond always says, we
still got the gloves on, man. We don’t know anything about
hanging those gloves up, man. You know, we didn’t
see Muhammad Ali do it, and we trying to mimic his
float like a butterfly, sting like a bee style of
fighting the system, you know, very courageously
and understanding that this is chess
and that we have to become master chess players. We’ve got to make
sure that we plant the seeds in our future
children and their future movers and shakers of tomorrow so that
as we move into the future, if somehow we become Neo in
The Matrix and get taken out, that part is only understood
by part three when he says, you mean there was others of us? I’m not the only one? And so the marathon continues
because we’re making sure that we are trying to break
generational curses by what we’re doing with our lives. RAYMOND SANTANA: I mean,
[INAUDIBLE] off of Yusef. I mean, at the end of the day,
when you grow up in the system, it makes you become a fighter. We had no choice. Uh oh. There’s a scene in
new Dave Chapelle. Did you watch that did
you watch that one yet? We’re not going to do that. I’m sorry. It’s fine. It happens. And so when you are– for us going into the
system at a very young age– 14, 15, and Korey
was 16 years old– like Yusef said, it molded us. It turned us in the fighters. And so we’ve been
fighting for so long. It’s like, when do we figure out
that the fight is over, right? It’s like, as long as that bell
isn’t rung, you keep fighting. And we don’t know–
for us, we don’t know when the gloves– it’s
time to hang up the gloves, especially for me. The benefit is
that because I have four other brothers with me
that I can say, I need a break. And Yusef can say, all
right, I’ll take over and I’ll carry the
load while you rest. And then once you ready,
you can jump back in. But it still becomes
business as usual. It’s hard for us not to fight. It’s hard for us
to just let it go. And then once we
won the civil suit, people think– even
my grandmother, like, before she passed, she
said, well, it’s over now. You won everything. Like, what more is left? Well, we had to say no because
we got our voices back. There’s still a fight
left, and that’s the fight for our future. That’s the fight for you guys. And that’s where it starts
becoming strategic and playing chess and planting them
seeds, like Yusef said, to spark that growth that
somebody 10 years from now is going to be the person
that’s going to come up with that brilliant
idea that’s going to change the whole system
or lead that movement. BRANDON GARRETT:
So Raymond, just to talk about legal
fights, what was– I was looking back at
the day of the complaint, your civil rights suit. It was 2003, right? RAYMOND SANTANA: [INAUDIBLE] BRANDON GARRETT: What was it
like during those years waiting until 2014 for the
case to finally settle? RAYMOND SANTANA: I
mean, very frustrating because we were
ready to go to trial. Like, you know, as soon as
those complaints were heard, we were ready to go to trial. And we were ready to do battle. But we didn’t understand
that the city was going to prolong and drag
out the case for 11 years even though our
attorney said that it was going to be a long battle. [INAUDIBLE] said this was
going to be a long battle, and it’s going to
take a long time. And you just got to hang
in there and keep fighting. And so that meant
that for us, we had to endure not
working or having jobs and still struggling day to day
and still have the microscope on us and still have public
opinion with us, still articles being written saying
that we’re still guilty. So we still had to
walk on eggshells. All the while, we’re
still battling. And so it was very frustrating. And for us, it started
to become strategic once Mayor Bloomberg said
that it was a no-pay case. And then he wound up
getting three terms. And so at that moment, we had
to be strategic, the five of us. And that’s the age
of social media where we were able to utilize
social media to our advantage. And it helped put pressure on
mayoral candidates, you know, to find out if they supported us
and they support a settlement. But it was definitely
frustrating at the beginning. BRANDON GARRETT: Yusef, I
remember when I was working on the [INAUDIBLE] complaint. We were talking about
the legal documents. You were telling
me about how hard it was to get a job– that
he’d have employers get sent clippings about the trial. And that was, you
know, 14 years, 15 years after the trial. YUSEF SALAAM: I
think that that’s the important part, right? You want to– when folks
see me on the circuit or if I’m an elementary school
or high school or college, you know, oftentimes,
people look at me and say, man, this
guy’s been in prison? Because I don’t look
like the typical– as if there’s a
typical look, you know? Or they say, man, this
guy is pretty intelligent for a black guy, you
know what I’m saying, or for a person
who’s been in prison. They don’t kind of understand
that what we’ve been given has been the opportunity
to turn up our lights. The whole society was throwing
dirt on our birth in such a way that they wanted
us to accept it. I’ll never forget. My mother said to me, when
she came to the precinct that night that I was
being interrogated, my mother said when she
got me out of the room and she was in front of–
like I was in front of her, she didn’t say,
is everything OK? Are you OK? You know, she said,
stop talking to them. She said, they need you to
participate in whatever it is that they are planning to do. It was direct
instructions because she had very little time in
order to get me snapped out of this whole thing. You know, and so
as I was beginning to try to put my life together. I was stumbling forward,
falling on my face many times. You know, my friend Les
Brown says all the time, he says, when you fall in
love, try to land on your back because if you can look
up, you can get up. And I had the opportunity– BRANDON GARRETT: Looking back
now, if your mother hadn’t been there– YUSEF SALAAM: Well, that’s
what I was going to say. I had the opportunity
for my mother to have an organization
back then called People United for Children. She found out that there
was also not just a school to prison pipeline, but
there was a foster care to prison pipeline as well. there’s so many pipelines that
are set up for us to fail. You know what I’m saying? On this road of life, it
looks like somebody just scribbled off of this
direct path, this path that just goes from point A to point
B. They scribbled all over it. And we like, man,
which way to go? You know what I’m saying? And I thought about
this the other day. I said, wow, there were times
where I would be so devastated that I would just go
into my mother’s office and go into the back, turn all
the lights off in the back, and lay on the couch. You know what I’m saying? Just like kind of
check out a little bit. And it reminded me of something
that Less Brown told me as well that
sometimes, when we’re having difficulties
in life, we pull over by the side of the road of life. And a lot of times, we
turn our lights off. And we don’t even want to
draw attention to ourselves by putting our hazard lights
on, signaling that we need help. And so we just turn everything
off and kind of sit there in the darkness. But it’s in those dark
times that we find strength. But as we begin to
think about and meditate on what’s going on,
something is sparked in us that we got to keep on moving. We got to keep on fighting. We got to keep on
in spite of this because it’s going
to get better. There’s always light at
the end of the tunnel. BRANDON GARRETT: Can we go
back to a really dark period, to the interrogation room? And you know, I know
many of you may not have taken criminal
investigations or procedure yet. But what do people
not understand about the tactics used
in police interrogations, and what happened when you
were both interrogated? RAYMOND SANTANA:
You know, we used to get that question a lot. How do people confess to
something they didn’t do? And we say, you have to
understand the dynamics first, right? Here we were, 14 and 15
year old kids, never been in trouble with
the law, never had no dealings with the police. This was seasoned veteran
detectives– homicide [INAUDIBLE] detective squad,
the elite of the police force, 20 plus years. That playing field
was unlevel going in. And then the second
dynamic is also pressure. People don’t understand that
when you’re put in situations, the amounts of pressure can
have you lose train of thought, can have you stressed. It can have you– for instance, one good example. Everybody who drives in
here, if you ever get pulled over by the police,
you have two reactions. Either you’re upset
or you’re afraid. It’s due to experience. Lack of experience,
lack of the unknown, not knowing what’s
going to happen once you go into
those rooms, it sets the stage for a false
confession to happen. I mean, you have the
Reid technique, right? The Reid technique, which
is seven steps on how to get someone to confess. So it’s these things
that we didn’t even know about going in as
14 or 15-year-old kids. We didn’t know who
Miranda was, right? YUSEF SALAAM: We need to say
that part again because that– sometimes, it’s– RAYMOND SANTANA: We didn’t
know who Miranda was. YUSEF SALAAM: Especially with– RAYMOND SANTANA: Who Miranda? YUSEF SALAAM: Yeah– RAYMOND SANTANA:
[INAUDIBLE] go to my school. YUSEF SALAAM: That’s
lost on people. Right? RAYMOND SANTANA: So you walk
into this interrogation room, and that scene is set. And for me, you know, what you
see on “Law and Order,” “CSI,” the good cop and
the bad cop is how they got me to lie because
once that pressure becomes so great on a 14-year-old
kid, he’s just trying to get from under it. So he’ll say whatever he can. And he knows he’s lying. They know I’m lying. But it’s not my job
to figure that out. That’s their job to
go back later on. And once those facts come in– I mean, that was
another thing too that kind of helped us
because Linda Fairstein they were out there. Here and [INAUDIBLE] was out
there gathering the facts, and they was giving it to the
police as it was coming in. So they didn’t even have time
to really put it all together first and set up their case. So they was giving
them the facts, and then they were given as
they perceived the facts to be to us, which was all wrong. And so like you see
in my statement, I say Steven Lopez hit
the jogger with a brick. But what you don’t see is how
Detective [? Hartigan, ?] at my lowest point,
he says, Raymond, this woman lost a lot of blood. We don’t know what
she’s going to make it. She had all these
injuries around her head. Something had to be used–
a rock, a brick, a pipe, something. And it’s at that moment
that he gives me options. And I say a brick, which
later on, a brick appears at trial, which is
on the table, which makes the front of
the Newsday, right, which now into the
reinvestigation comes back that brick
has no blood on it. And so it’s easy for somebody
to confess to something he didn’t do when you don’t
know the facts, when you’re under a strenuous
amount of pressure, because you’re just lying. You’re just lying at
the end of the day. If somebody is feeding you what
they perceive to be the facts and you’re just taking it in
and you just giving it back to them– and we didn’t even
write those statements. What 14 year old kid says,
at approximately 1700 hours, me and 39 of my friends traveled
southbound into Central Park? But The injustice here
was that we thought that people would see that. We thought that society as a
whole would say, wait a minute, something’s wrong here. This doesn’t make sense. But they didn’t. And that’s how we wound
up going to prison. YUSEF SALAAM: Yeah. You know, I think I’m
thinking about the effect of false confessions. The effect the false
confessions is what allowed the lynch mob to form. A lynch mob was kicked off. This was the ad. It’s a copy of the ad,
but this was the ad. This ad was in all of New
York City’s major newspapers screaming from a
person who would become the president of
these United States that we should bring back the
death penalty, essentially placing a bounty on our heads. And what’s worse is
that the public was not even given the opportunity
to be told the truth. The lynch mob was
created and formed. And then part two kicked
in almost immediately. They started putting our
phone numbers, our names, and our addresses in New
York City’s newspaper. And what that gave way
to was this whisper being noised about in society. It was a whisper that
was trying to get the people from the
darkest enclaves of society to come into our homes
and to do to us what they had done to Emmett Till. You know, and I think
that is so unfortunate because when we look at the
criminal justice system, we want it to work. We’re fighting for it to work. We’re looking at an
honorable and a noble thing. And here you have these
false confessions come about. And the public eats it up. The public eats it
up as if they don’t understand that Raymond and
Kevin got arrested on April 19, 1989. That night they got arrested. This woman was raped
supposedly by a gang of people, but none of the people
that got picked up has any evidence whatsoever
pointing to the fact that they was even there. She lost 3/4 of her blood– impossible for anybody not
to have any evidence on them. And then we– Raymond, me, and Corey, we got
picked up the next evening. Raymond and Kevin were being
interrogated that whole time. And it always amazes
me because we are– we are part of the
choir in knowing what happened because now when
we look at people who are being paraded in front of the camera–
they doing the perp walk or, you know, you see a
suspect’s face being plastered all over social media
or all over the news. And we know what happened. The fact that they had
us chained to tables, that they were
invading our space, that they were lying to us– you know, remember
they said to me. They said, Yusef, you
know, you don’t even have to tell us because I
wasn’t telling them anything. I kept on telling
them what I knew, which was nothing compared to
what they wanted me to say. BRANDON GARRETT: They told you
that you were fingerprinted or that– YUSEF SALAAM: This
is what they said. They said, Yusef, you don’t
have to tell us anything. Your fingerprints– we
found your fingerprints on the jogger’s outfit. And I mean, I was so
naive at the time. Being, you know, 15 years ago,
I was living in The Matrix. How did they take
my fingerprints? Did I touch something? Like, how did they– you know, was this “Mission
Impossible” kind of thing? They said, oh, we got it. You know, and I’m thinking
about it from that perspective. You know, and I remember
watching this movie. it was called “Safe House.” Denzel Washington, 15
minutes into the film, he gets locked up. They get caught. He gets caught. I’m like, what kind
of film is this? He get caught 15 minutes in? This is Denzel, you know? But the important thing
about it was that he was being asked the question. They wanted him to give
the information to them, and he was refusing. They said, it’s OK, you know? They looked at each other
and gave each other the nod. And he said, that
looks like 1,600 count. You know, You need at least
so-and-so and such and such. I said, 1,600? What the heck is
he talking about? Now I got a little bit of money. I know what threat
count is like. So I understand what
he’s talking about. But essentially,
what he was trying to let them know was that if
the conditions are correct, if the tools that you are
going to use to torture me into confessing are correct,
I am going to break. But if the conditions
are not correct, you’re wasting your time. And sure enough, as those
of us who’ve seen the movie, they start waterboarding
him, and he kind of mocks them afterwards
and spits the water out and asks them,
how long was that? And then all hell breaks loose. But it’s the notion and
understanding that anybody can break under pressure. I remember when I
was in prison, one of the sheiks used to come in. And he said, you know, prison
in America is not as rough– it’s rough, but it’s
not as rough as prison in other countries. He said, people
can go in one day and come out crazy the next day. He said, if they want to cause
you to confess to something– said you don’t have
to tell us nothing. They bring your family in. They bring your babies in. They strip them naked
and slather them down with animal fat and sick
hungry dogs on them. Any one of us would cause– we would say anything to get our
families out of that condition. And then they parade us in
front of this thing saying, hey, this is the criminal– I mean, this is the
criminal justice– I was going to say criminal
system of injustice. This is the criminal
justice system. They want to tell you is the
criminal justice system when codified in the founding
documents of this country is the 13th Amendment,
clearly stating that if you get
arrested for a crime, we can turn you back
into a state of slavery. Only people that
vibrate with that word differently are black
and brown folks. BRANDON GARRETT: I
want to turn to what it was like to be on trial for
something that you didn’t do. YUSEF SALAAM: Mmm, woo! BRANDON GARRETT: And which is– there’s a lot there. And there you have your lawyers. And you were up against
this team of prosecutors and against the media. If you could reflect
back– and then obviously, there were the two separate
trials with Wise and Richardson tried separately. Yusef, it was really
hard for me to read this in the transcripts. You testified at the trial– YUSEF SALAAM: Yeah. BRANDON GARRETT:
–and said, look, I never confessed
to that detective. And Santana, I–
Raymond, you had to sit and watch this
unfolding in the courtroom. RAYMOND SANTANA: Yeah. I mean, it had its ups
and downs, a lot of downs. We remained hopeful. I mean, we try to do
everything in our power, even Yusef to get on the stand. We didn’t want him
to get on the stand. But he felt like, you know,
if I can get on the stand, it can change the dynamic. It could show people who
he really is as a person. YUSEF SALAAM: Even that, I
thought I was playing chess. I was playing checkers
at that point. RAYMOND SANTANA: Yeah. YUSEF SALAAM: I thought
I was playing chess. RAYMOND SANTANA: I mean,
frustrating to sit there– what, three month trial? To hear Bobby Burns
snoring in the court room. Oh, man, you know– my lawyer, Peter
[? Herrera, ?] to see him talking to the
prosecutor, like having these conversations,
and they’re laughing. And I’m sitting there like,
what are you laughing about? Like, my life is on trial here. And– YUSEF SALAAM: I think his
lawyer said something like, don’t worry. RAYMOND SANTANA: Yeah. YUSEF SALAAM: You got the rest
of your life ahead of you. RAYMOND SANTANA: Yeah,
that was later on after we were convicted. You know, he came back
there and said, you know, don’t worry about it. It’s five years. You’re still young. So it had many ups and downs. I mean, we got a lot of
hopeful correction officers at the time, court officers
who sat in the back with me. And they being behind the scenes
and looking at that picture, not being in it, they
were able to see. And they would
come and talk to me and say, look, you’re
going to beat this case. You’re going go home. They were more hopeful. And so I mean, I
just knew, like– even when our lawyers
came and said, let’s take the plea deal– right, that’s how bad it
got for us, that they said, let’s take the plea deal. And at that time, I had
over a year incarcerated. So I benefited from a plea deal. And I really thought about
the plea deal, you know? And it wasn’t until Yusef said
no– at the end of the day, we didn’t do it. We can’t take no deal. And I had to side with him
because that was the truth. But there was many ups and
downs during the trial. And that was a lot for a
15-year-old kid at that moment to go through. YUSEF SALAAM: You
know, the reason why I said I was playing chess– I mean, I thought
I was playing chess but I was playing
checkers was because I remember getting on the stand. And I’m like– if you
remember those times, like, if you ever
had the opportunity to be in the courtroom
in those times, this wasn’t just a
prosecutor doing her job. This lady hated me. She hated– I mean,
I couldn’t understand what they were looking at
when they were looking at me. She hated the very
presence of me. And what I found
out was the reality of what they were looking
at didn’t dawn on me until I came– until like today. Like, they were
looking at today. They were looking
at the future me. And they were trying
to kill that future me. You know what I’m saying? And that’s the part that’s
so crazy to even think about. Like, they are looking at
me as a 15-year-old child, and they are peeping into
my future and saying, oh no, this is the
darkest one of them. This is the tallest one at home. This guy’s a problem. I get up there saying that
I’m about to play chess with these folks. And they said, did
you go into the park? Yes, ma’am, I was there. Tell us. Did you have–
what did you think? What was your thoughts? Did you think it
was going to be fun? Yeah, I thought it
was going to be fun. You know, I’ve been
in the park before. Oh, you thought it was
going to be fun, huh? And we were all
like this, you know? What [INAUDIBLE]? Yes, they were. And if I wasn’t even hip to it. I said, well did you– then she flipped it. It was like [? tricknology ?]
right in front of me. I said, oh my goodness. What’s going on? She said, did you go in
the park with a basketball? Basketball? I said, what’s
she talking about? Did you have tennis shoes on? I said, no, we play
basketball in our Timberlands. What you mean? You know, like–
and in our jeans. You know, we don’t
got no, like– you know? But I didn’t even realize that. And so when we
lost, when we lost– and I just want to
share this with you. I was going to talk about this. I said I was going to
do this last night, but I want to share
this with you today. When we lost, I thought that
was the last time that I was going to be able to speak. And they had given us the
opportunity to say something. So I stood up. And they said, Yusef Salaam,
do you have anything to say? And I stood up, and I said, yes. And now I was 16. And I said, I’m not going
to sit here at your table and watch you eat and
call myself dinner. Sitting here at your
table doesn’t make me dinner just like
being here in America doesn’t make me an American. Those were the words
of my hero Malcolm X. And then I bust out
into a rap song. I mean, because rap– RAYMOND SANTANA: [INAUDIBLE]
were like [INAUDIBLE].. YUSEF SALAAM: You know,
but that’s the thing because like, hip hop for me– you know, like I said
last night, hip hop, there was always a
message in the music. And there was always
music in the message. And I was like, this
is my opportunity. This is the time. So I stood up, and I
said, let us begin. Stress is the anger
that is built up inside. Rage is the anger that is no
longer built. Taken on a sucker that soon you have killed. American free will
doesn’t mean you can kill And take another person’s life. You live your life [INAUDIBLE]. I’m a skill builder. So [INAUDIBLE]
skills I do build. Create a given knowledge
to this wise black man. Soon to enhance my
words across the land. I’m a smooth type of fellow–
cool, calm, and mellow. I’m kind of laid
back, but now I’m speaking so that you
know that used and abused and even worse, put on the
news without clues, [INAUDIBLE] clues selling out like fools. Now check it. Who did what and who did who in? Put in a situation that you
don’t know what to do in. Some brothers go wilding. We’re not down with them. Who would have thought
I have to lock in? I stand accused. Checking the scene from
how the situation was, instead of getting facts,
the media made you blurred. Now the people don’t know. All they see is the media. They never hear the blame
because they’re constantly deceiving us. The DA is dead wrong. This is her master plan? This case is not a case. It’s just a crafted shame. Then I had the audacity
to look at the DA. Looked at the D. I
said, yo, instead of trying to get
your name made, it’s reconstructing the
crime that really pays. Islam, [INAUDIBLE],,
being supreme over Satan, but no man is [INAUDIBLE]. Yes, I’m a science dropper
on a righteous path. So how the hell could
I take a rapist path? Think about that and
then think about this. All my friends, it
was me they dissed? They’re dismissed
because I don’t really need any friends like that. Like, when I really needed
you, where were you at? I’m not dissing them
all, but the ones that I called that
went and dissed me like I was an inch
small like a rat, a mouse, not even a man,
[? but only ?] accused? Like the knife’s in my hand– how does it look, me clocked? Now I’m shook. But like Matlock– I don’t know if y’all
know the show “Matlock.” Know the show “Matlock?” You know what I’m talking about. But like Matlock, soon the
accused gets off the hook. It’s real when she
remembers and says, damn, the cops did you in. I stand accused. Just before we lost trial,
there was a young man named Yusuf Hawkins, as we
were talking last night, that was murdered
in Bensonhurst. And I chose to take
his case and what was happening around his case
and juxtapose it with our case because they were
giving the people who murdered Yusef Hawkins
bulletproof helmets, bulletproof body armor. Those of us that were out on
bail, they said, [INAUDIBLE],, y’all got to get the court. And I mean, those
of us that remember, it was like hell trying to get
in and out of the courthouse, you know? So I brought Yusuf Hawkins’
case into the courthouse. And I said, you people stop
this racial [? disperse. ?] Hey yo, you seen
that kid Benson? He’s in a hearse. And so we take it to the
[? Bensonhurst ?] fields right to bullet proof vests. We got no kind of shields. How does it look? They killed a black
man being black. It’s time we take a stand. In our situation, you saw our
faces clear but not mine, not because of fear. It’s because the black
race was disgraced. And for the Muslim, they
must have felt shame. But I’m not to blame
with the word your boy. The media took our
words to paper, the ones the cops distorted. I told the cops truth
like this, and then boom, they were smacking my man
Korey Wise in the next room. Now we know why the rosters
can’t stand the [INAUDIBLE].. They never help. They just babble on. I used to think that
people and cops were cool. And I said KRS-One was one of
my greatest artists, right? One of the persons
I really look up to. So I had to drop
him in there too. I said, I used to think that
people and cops were cool. But who protects us from you? I stand accused. RAYMOND SANTANA:
[INAUDIBLE] was like, they will throw the book at you. YUSEF SALAAM: Listen. I mean, and it was– it was so crazy, though,
because you could see– like, the judge’s face? RAYMOND SANTANA: Yeah. YUSEF SALAAM: He was
so angered and enraged. Like, I still thought
I was playing chess. I was playing checkers, man. There was a– RAYMOND SANTANA: Daily News. YUSEF SALAAM: No,
it wasn’t the Daily. It was the New York Post. They came up to
me and said, man, can I get a picture
of your rap song? I said yes. There it is, you know? They took the picture, put
it on the front of the Post. And on the top of the post,
it says Salaam baloney. Look at that. Like, I said these
words 30 years ago. And I put it in
my book of poems. And I’m like, you know what? At least– like,
for me, it was that. It was their moment. It was the time where I was
like, damn, I’m not going to be able to see anything. Like, they convicted us. This is a death sentence. They’re going to
kill us in prison. So I had mustered
all up everything that I could think
of to say something. This was my last
chance, you know? Yeah, mmm. RAYMOND SANTANA: I
ain’t got no rap poem. I’ll tell you right now. BRANDON GARRETT: [INAUDIBLE]
could say something. I really want to take
questions from everyone here. Please. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
I think this is not a legal question at all. As a black man in
America, I feel like it’s a lot [INAUDIBLE]. You know, if you’re [INAUDIBLE]
another 14 year old, what do you say to someone
who is on the streets, they get picked up? [INAUDIBLE] you know,
violence and oppression tends to be like a hurricane
or a natural disaster. We can’t [INAUDIBLE]
what’s going to happen. What would you tell a
young kid that [INAUDIBLE] the other end of some,
like [INAUDIBLE]?? YUSEF SALAAM: Damn. I think the hardest part
is that young people today are fearless. You know, they’ll go toe to toe
with the enemy just like that. But my thing is to try to
not arrest their emotions but to guide their emotions
and to pinpoint it. I’ll never forget. Dr. Maya Angelou sound like
she was having a conversation with Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela did
27 years in prison. He comes out, and people are
like, wow, you’re so peaceful. You’re so– you know, this is– what did [INAUDIBLE]? How are you not bitter? And he said, I had to leave
anger and bitterness in prison because if I didn’t, it
would’ve destroyed me. And Dr. Maya Angelou, she
said you should be angry, but you must not be bitter. She said bitterness
is like a cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the
object of its displeasure. But what I love about
what she says next is she gives us a direction. She says, so use that anger. You march it. You dance it. You vote it. She said, you vote it. She said, you vote it. He said, you do everything. She didn’t say it three
times, but I”m just, you know, right around the corner, right? She said, you do
everything about it. And then she said, you talk it. Never stop talking it. See, one of the things that
they have done as a disservice to the communities
that we come from is they’ve taken
away social programs. They’ve taken away
the ability for us to take this natural
energy that we have. And they said, we’re not
going to give y’all nothing. You know what I’m saying? As a matter of fact, the
reason we’re not going to give y’all nothing is
because y’all worthless. And what happens
[INAUDIBLE] some of them start believing that. So they begin to
produce worthlessness. [? I said, as a ?]
[? matter of ?] fact, you ugly too. So I created a line on
my brand that said, I am. Because I found out I am is one
of the greatest affirmations that you can give
yourself because whatever you say after that,
you begin to believe. And so if you say I am ugly,
you going to produce ugliness. But if you say I am brilliant– we was in prison
and had to begin to believe in ourselves again. Part of that was us going
back to college in prison and getting college degrees
because once we believed in ourselves, we
knew that we could begin to turn it up a little
more, turn it up a little more. And so for young people, I
think part of the challenge is to project themselves
into the future, to realize that they need to
begin to plan from a vantage point where they can’t see yet. And that vantage point is in
their children’s children’s children. Whatever they do today in
this YOLO kind of reality that you only live
once can’t be reckless. You can’t be– you know,
just, I’m a smoke it all. That’s crack. That’s coke. Man, put it together. Let’s go. You know what I’m saying? You know, you in the clubs. You like, man, let
me drink it all. Let me– oh, you mixed? I don’t care about mix. As long as it’s clear– throw a little brown
in there too, you know? And you become mad because
you thinking that life is not promised anyone. And the truth is, life
is not promised anymore. So we got to be
like Nipsey Hussle and start planting
seeds into the future. We got to begin to meditate
and think about ourselves and our future self. What is my current
circumstance going to be and contribute to me
as a 50 year old, as 100 year old, then beyond, right? Because the dash in between
your life and your death leaves a fingerprint. It leaves a mark. You don’t want to leave
this earth without a trace. You want to leave something
that says, I was here. And that’s– a lot of people
say, hustle for your last name. You got to leave your
mark and say, I was here. You know what I”m saying? And so what I tell a
lot of young people is that I want them to begin
to think about themselves in their past self and how
they are in their present and how they want to
be in their future. I want to begin to tell them to
think about themselves as being successful. What does that look like? And then I ask them
a simple question. What did you do just before
you became successful? And if you can envision
that, now you’ve got a plan. And then what did you do
just before that and just before that and
just before that? And I want to walk them back
to their present circumstance in order to give them
the path, all right? Like I said before,
they start looking like they’re walking
around with a Ouija board because they
looking like they’re lucky where LUCK is an
acronym for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge– that they begin to be
courageous and brave. And they look at
fear and understand that fear is false
evidence appearing real. All of it is to a
rush of development. All of it is they’re
throwing dirt on your birth. They’re telling you’re
not worth nothing. The only place that you
can occupy is a jail cell. There’s no other
options for you. Like my mother
said, they need you in order to
participate in whatever it is that they about to do. All you got to do is refuse. BRANDON GARRETT: [INAUDIBLE] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
question [INAUDIBLE] There’s no god but God. [INAUDIBLE] this
dynamic [INAUDIBLE] could not change this condition.
[? The ?] first change, the concept, [INAUDIBLE]
of white supremacy. BRANDON GARRETT: Sir? RAYMOND SANTANA: That’s the root
cause of injustice in America. Mr. Malcolm X [INAUDIBLE]
I think [INAUDIBLE].. That’s like [INAUDIBLE]
stood up and said, brother X, what can I do to help? He said, nothing. [INAUDIBLE] I’m here to
challenge the white students [INAUDIBLE] become lawyers,
prosecutors, judges. But you first must
understand, how do to deal in a society
rooted in white supremacy? That becomes the
conveyor of injustice. YUSEF SALAAM: Yes indeed. AUDIENCE: Bother Yusef Salaam,
brother Santana, brother [? Ross– ?] they were
falsely accused mainly because of racism. YUSEF SALAAM: Yes, sir. AUDIENCE: Now there’s a
book [INAUDIBLE] Dr. Andrew [INAUDIBLE]. It’s called Two Nations– Black, White, Husky,
and [INAUDIBLE].. There’s another book
by Derrick [INAUDIBLE] called Faces [INAUDIBLE]. Now as [INAUDIBLE]
young potential lawyers who’s going to function
in the [INAUDIBLE] system, well, you have an obligation. [? It’s to ?] become not just
a lawyer prosecutor, judge. How do I look at law based
on race and dispense justice? [INAUDIBLE] who was a
protege with Dr. King. YUSEF SALAAM: Yes sir. AUDIENCE: He said I
[? pastored ?] for 40 years. He said once I understand
what service meant, he said my understanding
of pastor work changed. YUSEF SALAAM: [INAUDIBLE] AUDIENCE: You all have an
obligation to be servants– not just to black, to white,
but servants to humanity. BRANDON GARRETT: Thank you. YUSEF SALAAM: Yes indeed. Yes indeed. I appreciate that. That’s what’s up. BRANDON GARRETT: Right YUSEF SALAAM: That is what’s up. BRANDON GARRETT: Yes, over here. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
I’d like to– RAYMOND SANTANA: Stand up. We need to see that shirt. AUDIENCE: OK. [INAUDIBLE] YUSEF SALAAM: Yes, indeed. And it’s official. And it’s official. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] RAYMOND SANTANA: Yes, yes. Imagine if it wasn’t. AUDIENCE: Thank you all so much. Thank you for coming. I’m really proud of you. I’d just like to say that I
feel like y’all are my uncles, and I’m so thankful that
you came down to talk to us. But because of that, I worry
a little bit about you, especially last
night, Raymond, when you said malaise [INAUDIBLE],,
oh, you know, you’re my dad. It’s fine. You’re OK. RAYMOND SANTANA: Yeah. AUDIENCE: How do you each attend
to the trauma of what you’ve been through personally
and also taking care of yourself us as a unit? I know a lot of you
suffer differently, and sometimes it’s more
visible than others. But I just wonder,
you know, if you feel a responsibility to
look after your brothers and how you do that responsibly
while also taking care of yourself and your family. RAYMOND SANTANA:
Well, it ties back to what their brother said over
there– that we know that we have a service to fulfill. We have a duty. We have an obligation. Of course, our health is main. Our family is main. It’s priority. But then there’s
also the obligation that you got to tell
this story, to tell you what happened to
us, for you guys to learn because you will
enter into that field, right? And like we spoke
with students earlier, we just want you to do your job
to the best of your ability. Don’t cheat. Don’t cut corners. Don’t just go in and say, I
need the highest conviction rate percentage. You know, I need to be
making $300 an hour, right? Just go in there
and do your job. And so, you know, for me,
health is definitely important because we still deal
with trauma, right? It never ends. There’s not a day that
doesn’t go by that we don’t think about this situation. An hour, a minute– it’s constantly on our minds. But we also understand
for me that this is part of the
therapeutic process just to sit here in front of
you today and tell my story. So there’s any psychology
majors in here, you know, don’t send me
no invoice or a diagnosis. You need this type
of medication. You know, so that
helps also with us. You know, we are
extremely active. We have to be. I mean, Yusef have
10 kids, all right? So you know he has to be active. He has to take his
health serious. YUSEF SALAAM: Oh yeah. RAYMOND SANTANA: But we all– YUSEF SALAAM: –my
part, by the way. God said be fruitful
and multiply. RAYMOND SANTANA: But you
know, health is extremely– because we know that
also, like you said, the marathon continues. This isn’t a sprint. It’s for the long haul. So we definitely take
that into consideration. But one thing for me is
like, even with Antron– like Antron now,
he’s now starting to seek some type of counseling
because he understands that he still carries a lot. He still carries
a lot of weight. And we have– I mean, we talked
this morning, right? And every time we talk,
it’s about letting go. It’s about enjoying
the moment, you know? I wish that he can
come on the circuit and see this because
if he doesn’t see it, then he doesn’t believe it. Like, I’ll tell him about last
night and he’s like, you lying. And then I got to
sell him the photos. That’s the proof that I have. But for him, now he’s
starting to see that too. Like, he says, Raymond, I
don’t want life to go back, and then I can’t do anything. And then I got to look
back and I didn’t enjoy it. I want to enjoy something
out of this life. And so when it comes to
the mental and the health, that is very important. It is. YUSEF SALAAM: You know, I
was asked that question. I think Oprah asked
that question. And I talked about meditation. But coupled with meditation
was prayer, you know? Because at the end
of the day, you have to seek help from the most
highest power in your life. You’ve got to give it
all to God because like, I couldn’t force
anything and draw it to me that wasn’t meant for me. And I could never avoid anything
that was going to hit me. And so when I looked at my
life, the beauty of it– and I didn’t say this last night. But the beauty of this
night, for those of us that were there
last night, I was talking about the question that
was asked of me, who are you, and realizing that in my
culture and my religion that we have baby
naming ceremonies where the children are celebrated
seven days after they’re born. And in that celebration,
the whole community begins to understand
who is this. So my parents named me Yusef
[INAUDIBLE] Abdul Salaam. I didn’t find out the
meaning of my name until I got to prison
because when I asked my mom– and I think this is
where I left off. When I asked my
mom about it, she said that means boy born with
hair on his head, you know? I think I asked her around
the same time I still had my flattop, you know? But imagine my surprise finding
out that Yusef means God will increase, that [NON-ENGLISH]
means the teacher, [NON-ENGLISH] is with justice,
and that Salaam is peace. My parents named me God
will increase the teacher with justice and peace. And I’m in the belly of
the beast learning this. These trials and
tribulations are now being interpreted differently. You know Raymond said, you
know, people asked him, would he ever change– if he could change
anything about his past, would he ever change it? And we’ve all been
asked that question. And we all say no
because who we became out of that is what we were
supposed to be, you know? And so in reality, the
pin has been lifted off of the history of our lives. The ink is already dry. And so for us to
be able to see that and to know without
a shadow of a doubt that if I was born on purpose,
I was born with a purpose– and so just kind of connecting
yourself to that source, you know, we do it five
times a day or more. Even just putting up
your hands– like, I remember listening
to this preacher. And he said, Moses
went to Pharaoh. And he told Pharaoh,
let my people go. And that’s what I usually hear. Like, I’ve heard that. And then he said, so that
they could worship God. And I said, wow. You know, people hear about
a person being Muslim. And I say all the time,
I said, man, you know, if I got on a plane and I said– I kind of made a big
commotion in the front, I said, man, god
is the greatest– man, people going to be
pulling out their phones. Hey, brother, do
that again, man. High fives in the
hour and all of that. Imagine if I got on a plane
and did the same kind of thing and I said [? Allah ?] Ackbar– man, Trump hits–
the whole Trump staff is going to be coming down. But you know, it’s
the xenophobia of the misunderstanding that
this is just a description of the same thing. And so when somebody say,
hey, man, I’m Muslim, that means that I am practicing
the faith of one who has turned their whole life over to God. This is what Islam is. And so you look at that and you
say to yourself, how beautiful would that be and could
that be if I recognize that God had a purpose for me? God in his infinite
wisdom looked at me and said, what I’m a give you
is not more than you can bear. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be challenging. But keep on praying. Stick with it. When you’re walking
through hell, keep on walking because
when you emerge, you realize that you
was born for this. You were being shaped and
formed in the belly of the beast just like you were shaped and
formed in your mother’s stomach to be birth into this world,
to challenge it, to change it, to spark it, all right? And I think that
that’s important. And I try to give that same
information to the children because they need to
know that they too have a purpose, that they
too have a great– they have to have a greater
vision of themselves than what popular culture
is telling them, you know? That you can only be cool
and hip if you show a bit. You can only be cool and hip
if you bear at all, you know? Some of the most
attractive women are those who leave your mind
wondering and questioning. [INAUDIBLE] I wonder
how she really looks. If you show it all, there’s
no question, you know? Then the outcome is
often disastrous. And so in my 10 children,
I got seven girls. I got three boys. RAYMOND SANTANA: Yeah, all. YUSEF SALAAM: You know? So it’s a challenge. It’s a big challenge, you know? But the thing about
it, like I said, is that we’ve been given life. And now we have to humble
ourselves and realize, how do we plug into the source? Because then we look
like we’re doing magic. It’s not magic. It’s just that the favor
of God is upon you. [INAUDIBLE] YUSEF SALAAM: Thank you. Thank you all so much. [INAUDIBLE] I
think, you know, we have a class coming
into this room. But we can all talk
outside and, yeah. [INAUDIBLE] YUSEF SALAAM: We
got a few moments, and I got some books if
anybody wants to grab them. BRANDON GARRETT:
And I know there are people next door who would
love to come say hello too. But we do have to let
the students– thank you for meeting with our students. Thank you for–

Cesar Sullivan

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