Oklahoma Christian University’s annual Black History Month event, History Speaks welcomes Raymond Santana, one of the wrongfully convicted 'Central Park Five' now known as the 'Exonerated Five.' A popular annual event in its sixth year, History Speaks is known for bringing in the most influential voices for civil rights and Santana is no exception.
History Speaks takes place Monday, February 3, in Baugh Auditorium at 7 p.m. The event is free, but tickets are required and typically sell out quickly.
The tragic events unfolded in 1989, when a young female jogger was brutally attacked and raped in New York City's Central Park. She was found unconscious with severe, life-threatening injuries. She recovered with no memory of the assault. Initial police investigations quickly focused on a group of African American and Latino youths. The defendants, five boys between 14 and 16 years of age, were convicted and became known collectively as the ‘Central Park Five.’
After the teens served out their sentences, Matias Reyes came forward to claim sole responsibility for the attack. A convicted serial rapist and murderer serving a minimum 33-year sentence, Reyes’ DNA and confession matched evidence. The Central Park Five were finally exonerated in 2002.
Santana had spent five years in prison and more than a decade as an outcast for a crime he did not commit. The investigation of the convictions of these five teenagers has raised questions regarding police coercion and false confessions, as well as, the vulnerability of juveniles during police interrogations.
After his exoneration, Santana became a vocal advocate for criminal justice reform and often speaks on the topic.
A tweet from Santana to award-winning director Ava DuVernay led to the dramatization of their story in the popular Netflix original series, “When They See Us.” The four-part series not only became one of Netflix’s most-watched shows, but it also earned the streaming giant its most Emmy nominations with a total of 16.
History Speaks is an annual civil rights lecture hosted by Oklahoma Christian University as a part of the institution’s commitment to engage students and the community with complex dialogue. Past History Speaks lecturers include Ambassador Andrew Young, Wheeler Parker, Jr., Diane Nash, Olympic medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Carlotta Walls LaNier and Terrence Roberts of the Little Rock Nine, and Claudette Colvin and Fred Gray.
Reserve tickets at OC.edu/historyspeaks.
Santana now works closely with the Innocence Project and is a member of the New York City Justice League. He owns the clothing company Park Madison NYC, named after his home city.