INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Madame C.J. Walker Legacy Center held its 38th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration, featuring speaker Kevin Richardson of the ‘Exonerated Five,’ formerly known as the Central Park Five.
In 1989, a group of five teenagers were accused of raping a jogger in New York’s Central Park. Their story has gained renewed attention because of a Netflix show about the case.
Center leaders said although the facility is still being renovated, they made it a point to make it back to make it back home in time for King. They knew they needed a speaker with a powerful story. They said Kevin Richardson is who they needed.
The Madame C.J. Walker Theater carries a name that comes with a legacy. She was America’s first black woman who became a self-made millionaire.
“Keep going forward and digging in knowing what our past was,” said president of the Legacy Center Judith Thomas.
It’s a fitting location to honor another legacy: Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s MLK Day. To be on stage and speaking about justices and injustices and fighting for equality is everything he was about,” said Richardson.
He’s a criminal justice reform advocate. And he knows firsthand about injustice. Tears frequently streamed down his face. He said even after all this time, knowing what he lived through gets to him.
“I thought I would channel that aggression. I have and changed it to something positive.”
Thirty years ago, he and four other teenage boys known as the Central Park Five were convicted of raping a jogger, but were ultimately exonerated in 2002 after another man confessed to the crime. Their story gained new attention with the Netflix release of “When They See Us.”
“We thought Kevin Richardson was the perfect person to get a message out there of renewal and faith and focus,” said Thomas. “And that’s what we’re doing we’re really doing ourselves, we’re focusing on the future.”
Richardson said it’s odd being put in the same class as King when it comes to fighting injustices: “It’s overwhelming, but I must carry that.”
He’s also working on a new venture called the Exonerated Five Foundation.