Central Park Five exoneree Raymond Santana kicks off fall ULS

Santana will be sharing his experiences on the University Lecture Series (ULS) stage Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Oval Theater. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Since the release of the Netflix mini-series, When They See Us, in May, a new generation of people were able to view the 1989 Central Park jogger case from the eyes of the wrongly convicted men — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise and Raymond Santana — known as the Central Park Five. 

Santana will share his experiences on the University Lecture Series (ULS) stage Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater. As part of Hispanic Heritage month, he will be the first ULS speaker of the fall semester. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

The drama series relives the case of Trisha Meili, a white female jogger, who was severely beaten and raped the night of April 19, 1989, in Central Park in New York. 

As the only Hispanic in the group of black men, Santana ended up being involved in a case that was perceived to be racially motivated. The 14- to 17-year-old boys were arrested for various assault and sexual battery charges for being in the park on the same night of the crime. 

Santana served nearly six years before his conviction was overturned in 2002 when the rapist came forward and confessed. This generated the group’s new name — The Exonerated Five. 

The men received $41 million collectively from the state for the wrongful conviction and $3.9 million in a 2016 settlement, according to the New York Daily News.  

Santana will be paid $15,000 for the lecture, according to his ULS contract.

Santana helped spearhead the creation of the series when he reached out to Ava DuVernay, the director of the film, on Twitter. He was inspired after seeing some of DuVernay’s previous work. 

“What’s your next film gonna be on?? #thecentralparkfive #cp5 #centralpark5 maybe???? #wishfulthinking #fingerscrossed,” Santana said in the tweet. 

Last year, Santana started his own clothing company called Park Madison NYC. The merchandise pays homage to all the men involved in the case. The inspiration behind the brand came from Santana’s desire to pursue a “missed dream” in fashion design.

Santana now lives in Georgia and spends his days advocating for criminal justice with the Innocence Project

Although Santana is appreciative that his story is being shared in a new light, he is still emotional about his past. 

“Reliving the events of the mini-series brings back the pain; it brings back the memories,” Santana said in an interview with the New York Times. “But it’s necessary.”