AAMI Hosts “The Central Park Five” Screening, Panel Discussion

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On Tuesday night, several dozen young men who are part of Children’s Aid’s African American Male Initiative (AAMI) attended a screening of the 2012 Ken Burns documentary, “The Central Park Five.”  The documentary recounts the wrongful conviction of five black and Latino teenagers for the brutal attack and rape of a female Central Park jogger in 1989.

Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise, two of the five accused as young men, joined the AAMI participants for the screening and later offered their reflections on the film, discussing the various racial and social issues depicted in it. Mr. Salaam and Mr. Wise, now in their 40s, spoke about their tribulations before, during and after their prison sentences and how they have managed to stay positive and hopeful.

The young men from AAMI, most the same age as the Central Park Five at the time of their convictions, were able to connect on many levels with Mr. Salaam and Mr. Wise as they could image what they stand to lose if ever in the same situation. The youth learned to appreciate trivial things in their lives like how much time they spend with loved ones or merely eating a home cooked meal, two things that are lost while in prison. It was inspiring for these young men to witness the resiliency of their visitors, who through forgiveness have been able to move on to productive and fulfilling lives.

The African American Male Initiative was launched in 2007 by The Children's Aid Society to help young black males receive all the support needed to become successful. Rooted in research and guided by expert advisors, the program aims to reverse persistent negative outcomes—academic, social-emotional, health and behavioral—for African American boys by intervening early in their lives and urging them to reach for excellence.