Writer and activist Yusef Salaam, a member of the Exonerated Five, will join ALOUD with his memoir Better, Not Bitter, whose story of resilience and strength is an inspiring call to action. Better Not Bitter is the first time that one of the now Exonerated Five is telling his individual story in his own words. Yusef writes his narrative: growing up Black in central Harlem in the 80s, being raised by a strong, fierce mother and grandmother, his years of incarceration, his reentry, and exoneration. Yusef connects these stories to lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life’s experiences. He inspires readers to accept their own path and to understand their own sense of purpose. With his intimate personal insights, Yusef unpacks the systems built and designed for profit and the oppression of Black and Brown people. He inspires readers to channel their fury into action and, through the spiritual, to turn that anger and trauma into a constructive force that lives alongside accountability and mobilizes change.
Yusef Salaam is the inspirational speaker and prison reform activist who, at age fourteen, was one of the five teenage boys wrongly convicted and sentenced to prison in the Central Park jogger case. In 1997, he left prison as an adult to a world he didn't fully recognize or understand. In 2002, the sentences for the Central Park Five were overturned, and all Five were exonerated for the crime they didn't commit. Yusef now travels the world as an inspirational speaker, speaking about the effects of incarceration and the devastating impact of disenfranchisement. He is an advocate and educator on issues of mass incarceration, police brutality, and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in the criminal justice system, especially for men of color.
Ekow N. Yankah holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Columbia Law School, and Oxford University. His work focuses on questions of political and criminal theory and, particularly, questions of political obligation and justifications of punishment. His work has appeared in law review articles, peer-reviewed legal theory journals, books, and medical journals, including NOMOS, Ratio Juris, Law and Philosophy, Criminal Law and Philosophy, the Fordham Law Review and the Illinois Law Review among others. His interests have also led him to develop expertise in voting rights and election law, serving as the co-chair of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council as well as the voting rights arm of the New York Democratic party. He maintains a public presence writing for publications spanning The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and Salon among others and has been a regular commentator on criminal law issues on television and radio including NBC, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, BBC International, NPR and PBS.