Their harrowing journey to justice has just been chronicled in the brilliant Netflix series When They See Us.
The Central Park Five – also now known as the Exonerated Five – received an emotional standing ovation at the 2019 BET Awards.
The five men – Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise – were wrongly convicted of raping a female jogger in New York’s Central Park in 1989.
The then teenage boys spent years behind bars before being exonerated in 2002.
Host Regina Hall introduced the men to the stage, as the show cameras cut to the audience members that included stars Cardi B, John Legend, and Tyler Perry.
Korey Wise took to the microphone first and shut his eyes closed overcome with emotion at such a rapturous welcome.
“We are all in our own individual journeys in life,” Wise said, his voice breaking.
“We don’t know where our journeys will take us or how they will collide with others,” Antron McCray followed.
“We didn’t know that one day would bond me to these men for the rest of our lives,” Kevin Richardson added.
“But I know that in telling our truth, our lives have been changed forever,” Yusef Salaam said.
“Your truth is the foundation your legacy will be laid upon. Your truth will be the memories people keep long after your gone,” Raymond Santana concluded.
McCray wore a T-shirt featuring each of their names and Santana sported a shirt with his own teenage mugshot on it.
The Netflix mini series When They See Us is directed by Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay. It follows the case from the five boys wrongful conviction to the five’s exoneration.
The teens were forcefully coerced by the police to admit to raping and assaulting Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old, white woman who was jogging in the park.
Director DuVernay shared video of the moving standing ovation writing: “#BETAwards We see you, brothers. We see you.”
The Central Park Five were sentenced to six to 13 years until they were final exonerated when serial rapist and killer Matias Reyes confessed to the crime.
Their names were cleared and New York City awarded them $41million in 2014 for their wrongful sentence.