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34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Monday, January 20 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Keynote Speaker:
Dr. Yusef A. Salaam
Member, ๐™€๐™ญ๐™ค๐™ฃ๐™š๐™ง๐™–๐™ฉ๐™š๐™™ 5

** The event is ๐—™๐—ฅ๐—˜๐—˜ and open to the public.
Doors open at 5:00 pm, the event will start at ๐Ÿ” ๐ฉ๐ฆ **

Event partners include:
Grand Rapids Community College
Grand Valley State University and
Davenport University


In 1989 when Yusef Salaam was 15 years old, he was accused and convicted of attacking and raping a woman who was jogging in New York Cityโ€™s Central Park. Salaam was one of five teenagers convicted of the crime; they collectively became known as the Central Park Five, and their lives were upended and changed forever.

Their convictions were vacated in 2002 after spending between seven and thirteen years of their lives imprisoned. The unidentified DNA in the Central Park Jogger Case, unlinked to any of the five, had finally met its owner, a convicted murderer and serial rapist who confessed. The convictions of the boys, now men, were overturned, and they were ๐™š๐™ญ๐™ค๐™ฃ๐™š๐™ง๐™–๐™ฉ๐™š๐™™

Since his release, Yusef has committed himself to educate people on the issues of false confessions, police brutality and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in Americaโ€™s criminal justice system. In 2013, documentarians Ken and Sarah Burns released the documentary โ€œThe Central Park Five,โ€ which told of this travesty from the perspective of Yusef and his cohorts.

In 2014, The Central Park Five received a multi-million dollar settlement from the city of New York for its grievous injustice against them. Yusef was awarded an Honorary Doctorate that same year and received the President’s Life Time Achievement Award in 2016 from President Barack Obama.

He was appointed to the board of the Innocence Project in 2018 and released a Netflix limited series called โ€œWhen They See Usโ€ based on the true story of the โ€œCentral Park Fiveโ€ with Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro, in May of 2019.

Since his exoneration, Dr. Salaam has become a husband, father, poet, activist, and an influential transformational speaker. Determined to educate the public, Yusef eagerly shares his story with others to advocate for drastic policy changes to the prison industrial complex. Furthermore, in speaking out against injustice, he conveys the importance of continuing oneโ€™s educationโ€”whether formal or otherwise. He also touches on the effects of incarceration and the disenfranchisement of economically disadvantaged people and its devastating impact on both their families and the community at large.

His most recent awards have included the Roger Baldwin Courage Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California; The Freedom Fighters Award from the Circle of Sisters; and a long list of Proclamations – most notably from New York State Senate (2018), and New York City Council (2013).


Fountain Street Church
24 Fountain St NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503 United States
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