SHRLG Masterclass Series: When They See Us with Yusef Salaam


On Tuesday 6th April, the Scottish HR Leadership Group (SHRLG), in conjunction with Executive Search specialists FWB Park Brown, welcomed Entrepreneur, Author, Trainer & Leader Yusef Salaam to speak at the third in a series of virtual masterclasses.  This series of HR focused and workplace behaviour masterclasses is attended by many of Scotland’s senior HR leaders and their teams.  This masterclass was sponsored by SAADI the Diversity & Inclusion Working Party of the SHRLG.

The third masterclass in the series, was chaired by Gautam Dev, SAADI Board Member and Global Head of Talent and Change at Standard Life Aberdeen. Yusef delivered a lecture and demonstrated a huge capacity of resilience, self-awareness and determination for self-improvement. He eloquently talked about black Americans being considered only 3/5th of a human being in the setting up of the US and believes institutions allow this ideology to continue. He discussed survival in prison knowing he was wrongly accused and how he found his coping methods and calling. He asked us to understand where inequality and injustice occurs and to read about and listen to the experiences of marginalised people to get some idea of what it’s like to walk in their shoes. The session closed with an audience based Q&A with Yusef that was chaired by Gautam.

Alix Meekison of FWB Park Brown and Secretary to the Scottish HR Leadership Group commented on the session “Yusef was a profoundly moving speaker, he endured unimaginable horror and has come through this with a focus on educating on the history of racism from slavery to the present day. It was a life experience to attend his session.”

As per this series of masterclasses we have a different charity partner for each event and on this occasion we were delighted to be supporting Muscular Dystrophy UK and were joined by SHRLG member Arlene Stokes who shared her first hand experience with this disease.

Yusef Salaam, Entrepreneur, Author, Trainer & Leader

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 De Niro, in May of 2019.

Should you wish to purchase a copy of Yusef Salaam’s book ‘Punching the Air’ please click here.

The charity partner for this SHRLG Masterclass session was Muscular Dystrophy UK, to learn more about the work they do please have a look at their website (  Should you wish to donate to Muscular Dystrophy UK you can do so using the following link:

The series of masterclasses run from March through to June 2021.  For further details on the Masterclass series, please download the full Masterclass Series brochure. For more information on the Scottish HR Leadership Group please contact Alix Meekison on

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