Eighteen years after the death of Amadou Diallo––an unarmed 23-year-old college student from Liberia who was fatally shot by police officials in the doorway of his Bronx apartment building––his family has turned their tragedy into triumph by using the young man’s legacy as an avenue to combat police brutality and advocate for education.
Diallo’s loved ones, politicians, civil rights advocates, and the mothers of individuals who have fallen victim to police brutality, gathered Thursday at the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem for the second annual Amadou Diallo Foundation benefit dinner.
The event, hosted to raise scholarship funds for promising students, celebrated Diallo’s legacy and honored individuals who were instrumental in fighting for justice for Diallo and others who lost their lives at the hands of police officers. ABC reporter A.J. Ross served as the MC. Among those honored included former New York City mayor David Dinkins, former Rep. Charles Rangel, and Rev. Al Sharpton.
“Through the 18 years, you’ve supported us; not only my family, but many others after Amadou,” said Diallo’s mother Kadiatou Diallo. “Thank you for letting the community know that you are the shoulders in which we can stand on in a time of crisis.”
During the dinner, the award recipients, who were on the front lines fighting for Diallo’s family, recounted the sacrifices they made for the sake of justice. Dinkins, Rangel, and Sharpton all shared their experiences during the 1999 demonstrations at One Police Plaza following Diallo’s death, during which scores of people were apprehended.
The Rev. Sharpton delved into how pivotal it was for Dinkins to participate in the protests and risk being arrested. “He knew that if he made that statement, it would resonate all over the world. Because he sacrificed, the world stopped and had to deal with police brutality,” said Sharpton.
Grammy-nominated soul vocalist Aloe Blacc delivered a powerful live performance. He says he wants to use his music as a way to show the younger generation how they can utilize their art for social change.
Although the event was celebratory, keynote speaker Dr. Steve Perry, Head of Capital Preparatory Schools, ended the evening on a serious note as he touched on the current political climate, the state of race relations in America, and the strained relationship between law enforcement officials and communities of color.
“Tonight, we’re here to celebrate the life of a man who racism killed. The same racism that has elected this President; internalized and positioned in such a way that it’s become a cancer that has us thinking that we can’t even trust each other,” said Dr. Perry. “We’re here today to give comfort to a family that has lost someone that they love; whose life was cut short by violence. We’ve got to get tired of this; so tired that we change and make it so that this is a rare occasion.”