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Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice

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One of the "Exonerated Five," Yusef Salaam tells a wrenching story of injustice and offers a humbling chronicle of survival, perseverance and coming through. That he has chosen to be a light in the darkness of a culture steepled in racism and oppression, to bestow the lessons of inspirations that sustained him, to focus energy and spirit toward healing action is a dear gift. This is an eloquent book about a great man's life and trials.

Named a Best Book of 2021 by NPR

This inspirational memoir serves as a call to action from prison reform activist Yusef Salaam, of the Exonerated Five, that will inspire us all to turn our stories into tools for change in the pursuit of racial justice.

They didn't know who they had.

So begins Yusef Salaam telling his story. No one's life is the sum of the worst things that happened to them, and during Yusef Salaam's seven years of wrongful incarceration as one of the Central Park Five, he grew from child to man, and gained a spiritual perspective on life. Yusef learned that we're all "born on purpose, with a purpose." Despite having confronted the racist heart of America while being "run over by the spiked wheels of injustice," Yusef channeled his energy and pain into something positive, not just for himself but for other marginalized people and communities.

Better Not Bitter is the first time that one of the now Exonerated Five is telling his individual story, in his own words. Yusef writes his narrative: growing up Black in central Harlem in the '80s, being raised by a strong, fierce mother and grandmother, his years of incarceration, his reentry, and exoneration. Yusef connects these stories to lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life's experiences. He inspires readers to accept their own path, to understand their own sense of purpose. With his intimate personal insights, Yusef unpacks the systems built and designed for profit and the oppression of Black and Brown people. He inspires readers to channel their fury into action, and through the spiritual, to turn that anger and trauma into a constructive force that lives alongside accountability and mobilizes change.

This memoir is an inspiring story that grew out of one of the gravest miscarriages of justice, one that not only speaks to a moment in time or the rage-filled present, but reflects a 400-year history of a nation's inability to be held accountable for its sins. Yusef Salaam's message is vital for our times, a motivating resource for enacting change. Better, Not Bitter has the power to soothe, inspire and transform. It is a galvanizing call to action.

ISBN-13: 9781538705001

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: 05-18-2021

Pages: 304

Product Dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

Yusef Salaam is the inspirational speaker and prison abolitionist who, at age fifteen, was one of the five teenage boys wrongly convicted and sentenced to prison in the Central Park jogger case. In 1997, he left prison as an adult to a world he didn’t fully recognize or understand. In 2002, the sentences for the Central Park Five were overturned, and all five were exonerated for the crime they didn’t commit. Yusef now travels the world as an inspirational speaker, speaking about the effects of incarceration and the devastating impact of disenfranchisement. He is an advocate and educator on issues of mass incarceration, police brutality and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in the criminal justice system, especially for men of color.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Born on Purpose, with a Purpose 1

1 The Escape 17

2 Master Yusef Salaam 39

3 Before 57

4 95A1113 75

5 Elevate and Decide in the Air 99

6 Love and War 125

7 Salaam Baloney! 147

8 The Safest Man You Could Ever Meet 169

9 The Expendability of a People 197

10 A Mother's Love 223

11 Ignorance as a Trillion-Dollar Industry 247

12 Becoming an Alchemist 265

Acknowledgments 283

Suggested Reading List 287

About the Author 289