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Raymond Santana Jr. of the ‘Exonerated Five’ to Give Annual MLK Distinguished Speaker Lecture

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Speaker in Social Justice annual lecture, which honors those who carry on the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will feature Raymond Santana Jr. on Wednesday, Jan. 29 from 2:30-4:00 p.m. in Wilson Hall. This event is free and open to the public.  

Santana is an advocate and activist for prison reform, as well as a fashion designer, producer, and member of the New York City Justice League. He is a member of the “Exonerated Five,” whose life story has been featured in the award-winning documentary “The Central Park Five,” and more recently Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” on Netflix. 

This is the second year the university is hosting the MLK Distinguished Speaker event. The speaker is chosen via committee deliberation, through the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, according to Zaneta Rago-Craft, Ed.D., director of the university’s Intercultural Center. 

On the night of April 19, 1989, a young woman was brutally attacked in Central Park. Five boys, including Santana, were tried and convicted of the crime in a frenzied case that rocked the city. At the time, the defendants were between 14 and 16 years of age. They became known collectively as “The Central Park Five.” On Dec. 19, 2002, after DNA evidence and a confession from the true perpetrator, the convictions of the five men were overturned. Santana spent five years in prison for a crime he did not commit. 

Now known as “The Exonerated Five,” the group has been committed to advocating and educating people on the disparities in America’s criminal justice system. The investigation of this conviction has raised questions regarding police coercion and false confessions, as well as the vulnerability of juveniles during police interrogations. 

Santana tweeted award-winning director Ava DuVernay about the story of the Central Park Five, which led to it becoming the subject of the hit Netflix series, “When They See Us.” The four-part series not only became one of Netflix’s most-watched shows, but it also earned the streaming giant its most Emmy nominations with a total of 16. 

Santana now works closely with the Innocence Project. 

This event is coordinated by the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of the Provost, Student Activities, and the Intercultural Center. 

Link to event flyer

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Speaker in Social Justice Annual Lecture