RALEIGH — Campbell Law School’s Black Law Student Association (BLSA) welcomes “Exonerated 5” member Yusef Salaam for a night of open dialogue aimed at jump starting local debate on the issues of false confessions, press ethics and bias and other disparities in America’s criminal justice system.
The “Rap Session” with Salaam and Bakari Kitwana, which is by invitation only to those outside the law school, will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5. Campbell Law students, faculty and staff interested in attending must RSVP by Saturday, Feb. 28, at the following link: An Evening with Yusef Salaam.
Salaam was one of the five black and brown teenagers wrongfully accused and imprisoned for the 1989 rape of a white woman in New York City’s Central Park. Salaam, whose story was explored in Ava DuVernay’s 2019 Netflix series “When They See Us,” was convicted at age 15 and spent nearly seven years in prison. He and the other teens falsely accused were not exonerated until in 2002, more than a decade after they were first imprisoned.
The 45-year-old father of 10 living just outside Atlanta, Georgia, Salaam now spends much of his time as a public speaker, namely around criminal justice issues. As someone who was directly impacted by the ways the U.S. criminal justice system disproportionately targets black people, he says he wants to see reforms from the “top-down,” as he put it, starting with the federal level, according to a recent article in the Huffington Post.
Kitwana is the editorial director of “Rap Sessions: Community Dialogues on Hip-Hop,” which conducts town hall meetings across the U.S. on difficult dialogues facing the hip-hop generation. He is the Senior Media Fellow at the Harvard Law based Think Tank, The Jamestown Project.
BLSA Public Relations Chair and Event Coordinator Robyn Sanders is excited about the program that is the result of a lot of hard work and planning.
“I am incredibly proud and excited to bring such a historic event to Campbell Law,” Sanders says. “I’m encouraged by the sense of commitment from the administration and student body to embracing transparent dialogue about the ways in which we all have a responsibility to promote and preserve justice and fairness in the legal system.”
BLSA and Campbell Law would like to thank sponsors Smith Anderson, Ellis Winters, Smith Debnam Law and the City of Raleigh as well as individual sponsors Stephanie Gibbs, Mary Katherine Kurth, Gerald Roach and Issac Thorpe for their support of this event.
The “Rap Session” event wraps up BLSA’s celebration of Black History Month, which included a series of events surrounding issues of diversity, equity and racial injustice prominent in our society today. BLSA members say they drew inspiration from the efforts taken by many within the legal profession to create a space for open and honest discussion of difficult topics that affect everyone, whether directly or indirectly. The five-week program including a screening of Ken Burns’ documentary “The Central Park Five” at Alamo Drafthouse as well as three diverse speaker panels that covered a variety of issues including criminal justice, due process and legal ethics and professional responsibility.
ABOUT CAMPBELL LAW
Since its founding in 1976, Campbell Law has developed lawyers who possess moral conviction, social compassion, and professional competence, and who view the law as a calling to serve others. Among its accolades, the school has been recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) as having the nation’s top Professionalism Program and by the American Academy of Trial Lawyers for having the nation’s best Trial Advocacy Program. Campbell Law boasts more than 4,200 alumni, who make their home in nearly all 50 states and beyond. In 2019, Campbell Law celebrated 40 years of graduating legal leaders and 10 years of being located in a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of North Carolina’s Capital City.