ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Two members of the group dubbed the "Central Park Five" appeared before a crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, speaking publicly after the release of the Netflix series about their wrongful arrest and conviction.
The series, "When They See Us," has been seen by millions of people and has sparked discourse over criminal justice reform for impoverished minorities, who often face serious hurdles to fight wrongful charges or convictions.
In 1989, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam were among the five teenagers, all 14 to 16 years old, arrested for the rape of a female jogger in Central Park. The courts tried and convicted all teenagers and sentenced them to prison, but exonerated them in 2002 when a convicted rapist confessed and was connected through DNA evidence.
"Folks are now getting an opportunity around the globe to not only see that we survived this, but are the heroes of the story," Salaam said.
"The message is, it's real. It happens every day. Don't believe it doesn't happen," Santana said.
Salaam and Santana are speaking at the Ending Mass Incarceration Conference at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Although New York gave the five men $41 million, the men believe the city never apologized to them for the trauma and lost years of childhood.
"That was 14-, 15-, 16 year-old children... part of justice, I think, would have been for the system to apologize," Salaam said.