Bookmarks presents : In Conversation with Dr. Yusef Salaam
About Dr. Yusef Salaam:
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.
About Better, Not Bitter:
This inspirational memoir serves as a call to action from prison reform activist Yusef Salaam, of the Exonerated Five, that will inspire us all to turn our stories into tools for change in the pursuit of racial justice.
They didn't know who they had.
So begins Yusef Salaam telling his story. No one's life is the sum of the worst things that happened to them, and during Yusef Salaam's seven years of wrongful incarceration as one of the Central Park Five, he grew from child to man, and gained a spiritual perspective on life. Yusef learned that we're all "born on purpose, with a purpose." Despite having confronted the racist heart of America while being "run over by the spiked wheels of injustice," Yusef channeled his energy and pain into something positive, not just for himself but for other marginalized people and communities.
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, 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.
This memoir is an inspiring story that grew out of one of the gravest miscarriages of justice, one that not only speaks to a moment in time or the rage-filled present, but reflects a 400-year history of a nation's inability to be held accountable for its sins. Yusef Salaam's message is vital for our times, a motivating resource for enacting change. Better, Not Bitter has the power to soothe, inspire and transform. It is a galvanizing call to action.
About Phoebe Zerwick:
Phoebe Zerwick, director and associate professor of the practice, is an investigative journalist, narrative writer, and web-based documentary maker who teaches writing and journalism in the Journalism and Writing programs. She came to teaching after 20 years at the Winston-Salem Journal, where she was a reporter, columnist and editor. In 2003, Zerwick wrote a series about the wrongful murder conviction of Darryl Hunt, which led to his exoneration. Zerwick has written for a wide range of publications, including Glamour, Parents, National Geographic, O, The Oprah Magazine, Our State, the Duke Law Magazine, and The Nation and her work has been recognized by The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, Columbia University, and the North Carolina Press Association. Zerwick has a BA from the University of Chicago in General Studies (1982) and an MS from Columbia University in Journalism (1987).