Five black and Hispanic men — then boys — were falsely accused of raping a white woman, then 28-year-old Trisha Meili, jogging through Central Park in 1989. After the real rapist came forward in 2002, the five were exonerated.
Raymond Santana, 14, Kevin Richardson, 14, Antron McCray, 15, Yusef Salaam, 15, and Kory Wise, 16; their story, portrayed in the Netflix miniseries "When They See Us," hit home for many.
"Honestly, I think I felt what a lot of people felt,” said Syracuse University student Jalen Nash. “I felt horrified. I felt disgusted, shocked. Even though this is something that happened over 20 years ago, seeing it so realistically, like seeing the children cry and getting beat up and getting yelled at, was a very vivid visual representation of what happened."
In a follow-up called "When They See Us Now," Oprah Winfrey sat down with the five boys, now men.
Richardson opened up about his plans to attend Syracuse University and play music prior to his arrest. As a response, Nash is taking hopeful steps to fulfill Richardson's dream.
"That really spoke to me as an SU student, as someone who cares about social justice, who cares about political science," Nash said.
Nash started a petition to get Richardson an honorary degree.
"Kevin Richardson is representative of a problem that happens to a lot of young black and [Latinx] men throughout this country,” Nash said. “The inspiration was the broader message of what they represented and the broader community they represent in New York state, where there [are] a lot of prisons."
As of July 7, Nash is approaching 5,000 signatures.
"The excitement people have behind it and the passion people have behind it is very surprising for me because I don't feel like I'm the only person carrying it,” Nash said. “I feel like there are 5,000 other people who are passionate on the issue as I am. I hope that, in the future, we will have people and leaders who are cognizant of these discrepancies and really fight to change them.”
At the time of their accusation, President Donald Trump paid for full-page advertisements in New York newspapers, asking for the death penalty. The Central Park 5, also known as the Exonerated Five, are not alone in their stories but are shared by others like The Scottsboro Boys, Emmett Till, and more.