Power in Diversity Leadership Conference - Multicultural Student Services

Keynote Speakers 2021

Yusef Salaam

Yusef Salaam

On April 19, 1989, a young woman in the prime of her life was brutally raped and left for dead in New York City’s Central Park. Five boys—four black and one Latino—were tried and convicted of the crime in a frenzied case that rocked the city. They became known collectively as "The Central Park Five."

Their convictions were vacated in 2002 after spending between seven (7) and thirteen (13) years of their lives behind bars. The unidentified DNA in the Central Park Jogger Case, unlinked to any of the five, had finally met its owner, a convicted murderer and serial rapist who confessed. The convictions of the boys, now men, were overturned and they were exonerated. One of those boys, Yusef Salaam, was just 15 years old when his life was upended and changed forever.

Since his release, Yusef has committed himself to advocating and educating people on the issues of false confessions, police brutality and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in America’s criminal justice system. In 2013, documentarians Ken and Sarah Burns released the documentary "The Central Park Five," which told of this travesty from the perspective of Yusef and his cohorts.

In 2014, The Central Park Five received a multi-million dollar settlement from the city of New York for its grievous injustice against them. Yusef was awarded an Honorary Doctorate that same year and received the President's Life Time Achievement Award in 2016 from President Barack Obama.

He was appointed to the board of the Innocence Project in 2018, and has released a Netflix Feature limited series called "When They See Us" based on the true story of the "Central Park Five
with Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey and Robert Dinero, in May of 2019.

Crystal Leigh Endsley, Ph D.

Crystal Leigh Endsley, Ph D.

Crystal Leigh Endsley, Ph D. is Associate Professor of Africana Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. where she was honored with the 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award. Crystal Leigh is an internationally renowned spoken word artist. She has been recognized by Cosmopolitan Magazine as a "Fun, Fearless Female," honored in 2019 by Syracuse University with the Poetic Icon award, and by George Mason University with the 2015 Sojourner Truth Award for her social justice work. Dr. Crystal Leigh is a poet, performer and professor, and works to serve her community as an artist, and advocate for change. 

Two-time co-host of the Zanzibar International Film Festival Music and Performing Arts stage, Crystal Leigh has collaborated with communities in Tanzania since 2006. She facilitates poetry workshops with youth in global communities and across the US. Her most recent scholarship-activism focuses on how spoken word poetry and performance can connect girls to each other globally, impact their communities, and inform government policy. From 2015-2019, Crystal Leigh directed the creative performance of spoken word at the United Nations for International Day of the Girl program hosted at the UN Headquarters each year in the month of October. She is the co-chair of the Working Group on Girls, Girls Participation committee, where she trains high school girls for advocacy at the United Nations. She was a featured performer for the closing of the 61st United Nations Commission on the Status of Women – Youth Forum in March 2017. Most recently, her John Jay students joined her to perform spoken word poetry for the UN Women's Generation Equality opening event where they received a standing ovation in September 2019.

Crystal Leigh's first book, The Fifth Element: Social Justice Pedagogy Through Spoken Word Poetry was released in March 2016 by SUNY Press and explores spoken word poetry as a tool for social justice, critical feminist pedagogy, and new ways of teaching and learning. Her second co-authored book entitled Open Mic Night: College Programming that Champions Student Voice was published September 2017 and was awarded a 2018 Outstanding Book Award by Division B from the American Educational Research Association. Crystal Leigh's scholarship has been published in Girlhood Studies, Feminist Formations, Transformations, Journal of Black Masculinities, and Words, Beats, Life among others.

Spoken word poetry performances, workshops and curriculum development have taken Crystal Leigh around the world from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Hawassa, Ethiopia. From upstate New York to Managua, Nicaragua, Crystal Leigh delivers powerfully through performance. Check out her most recent TEDx talk hosted by Hamilton College entitled “Re-Mixing Master Narratives through Spoken Word Poetry”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_k2j22gfIY8&t=3s or find more of her work at www.drcrystalleigh.com