DARC to fete olympian, poet, exonerated Central Park jogger with meritorious awards

Yusef Salaam, right, addresses the audience as presenter Michael B. Jordan looks on during the ACLU SoCal’s 25th Annual Luncheon at the JW Marriott at LA Live, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press, File

Internationally, nationally and locally acclaimed individuals will be feted on Nov. 3 during the annual Ethiophile Banquet and Rastafari Meritorious Awards hosted by Diaspora African Rastafari Congress (DARC).

The annual event commemmorates the coronation of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I and his bride Empress Menen Asfaw as well as honor distinguished individuals throughout the diaspora.

Slated for Antun’s in Queens, the black-tie gala will pay tribute to Yusef Salaam, one of five Harlem youths that was unlawfully arrested in 1989 and gained national notoriety with four others to be known as the Central Park Five.

It is now wide knowledge that Salaam was railroaded by a network of collaborators representing the New York Police Department, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and a media pool that inveigled negative public opinion resulting with conviction and prison sentencing extending past his adolescence and into manhood.

Wrongfully convicted, Salaam was maligned as a rapist and publicly humiliated when Donald Trump paid for full advertising in several daily newspapers to execute the youths.

The court case ended with Salaam a disgraced and convicted youth indelibly stained by unproven evidence that he had raped Patricia Miele, an investment banker whose association was that she was the innocent jogger victimized by the crime. Ultimately, after serving years in prison, Salaam was reprieved when the brutal attacker — incarcerated for another crime at the same facility — boasted he had violated the jogger and with DNA evidence was proven the demon.

Since his release, Salaam has dedicated time and energy to preventing similar travesties. Relentless in his attempts to save innocent Black youths from a similar fate, he has been on a mission that DARC recognizes to be worthy.

“When They See Us” an enlightening documentary about the miscarriage of justice amplified the travesty and perhaps further vindicated recently by receiving accolades and Emmy awards for the research director Ava Duvernay applied to the television project.

Her detailing retrospect forced successful book publisher Linda Fairstein, the chief prosecutor of the case and the alleged principal perpetrator of coercive interrogation tactics to resign a position she maintained since leaving the DA’s office.

Salaam is neither a Rastafarian nor a Caribbean national, however as the lyrics of a popular reggae song declares, “You Don’t Haffi Dread To Be Rasta.”

Olympian John Wesley Carlos was a champion in Mexico in 1968. He won a bronze medal for his third place run in the 200 metres race.

His colleague Tommie Smith took the gold.

History documents that when the winning pair stood on the podium to collect their medals, as the world’s biggest television viewing audiences watched, during the playing of the Star Spangled banner, both American athletes raised their fists to dramatize American racism and the hypocrisy they believed the world audience of nations should be informed.

Carlos and Smith may well be the pioneers of the Black Power movement for raising a salute wearing black gloves. They later explained the gesture to be a call for improved human rights.

Neither Salaam nor Carlos are Caribbean nationals or Rastafarians however, throughout the years DARC has applied lyrics penned by reggae recorders Morgans Heritage to amplify their mission.

Rastafarians are often identified by the dreadlocks hairstyle advocates publicly display it does not define character or personalities.

Add the names Mutabaruka, a talk show host and poet, Don Green, an entrepreneur whose venture with others established Reggae Sunsplash, Jamaica’s first internationally acclaimed music festival, Queen Mother Moses, Mayayaa Nature, Bob Beamon, Ras Daniel, Anthony Hall and Sista P for the complete list of 2019 recipients.

During the banquet ceremony a lavish feast for the senses commemorates the coronation of the Ethiopian ruler revered for his benevolence and good deeds.

The calendar date has annually attracted the likes of past honorees David Hinds, and veteran recorder Sister Carol who in the fast dress to the nines for the occasion.

A royal fashion parade will likely repeat on Nov. 3 at Antun’s, 96-43 Springfield Blvd. Queens Village when 10 outstanding individuals are bestowed recipients of the honor that exemplifies the legacy left by the African couple.

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