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Thanks and remembrance for Amadou

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 4:38 p.m.

"It's tough," Kadiatou Diallo told the AmNews on the eve of the 10th anniversary of her son being gunned down in a fusillade of 41 bullets outside his home in the Bronx. "We are doing an event on the 5th of February at Bronx Community College, where he was a student, to remember him and commemorate his passing."

This woman, a picture of quiet dignity and unrevealed, steady pain, seeks to offer inspiration to others with her work: by comforting other mothers who have lost children to police bullets; with her building of a school in Guinea; with her granting scholarships to African students studying at the Bronx Community College; and with her profusely thanking those who call to greet her and ask how is SHE doing?

It is like a paradox to begin Black History Month with this solemn commemoration, but it seems like it was yesterday that New York was rocked on its heels as news spread that four white cops had gunned down an unarmed Black man on his way home just after midnight on Feb. 4,1999.

"The memory is so fresh. It's not easy," said Ms. Diallo. "For the whole week I have been going through that day every day. It has been 10 years. Babies have been born; people have moved on. Me? I'm not moving on. I keep living that day. But we can move on by keeping Amadou's memory alive and working for positive change. On the anniversary, we will pray, give some food and remember him. We have five African students to whom we will present scholarships in his name. We have given scholarships to students from all over Africa: Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Togo--every country has been represented." In the decade since the world first met Kadiatou Diallo, she has not wavered in her mission to ensure that her son did not die in vain.

"I have been touched by the love and support of so many people," she told the paper. "I want to thank everyone who marched and protested--I mean everyone: those young men who were arrested for the first time protesting for Amadou; the mothers, the sisters, the fathers and the brothers. Amadou is a mountain now for the community, for all the people. His name lives on in all our memories."

Ten years ago on Feb. 4, 1999, Amadou Diallo, 22, was shot at 41 times by four New York police officers as he stood at his front door at Webster Avenue at his Bronx home. The names of Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy became synonymous with police brutality.

The Guinean immigrant street vendor was a regular, unarmed man when the cops unleashed the deadly barrage, which was to be repeated eight years later in Queens, when Mike Oliver, Michael Cooper and Gescard Isnora fired 50 bullets at an unarmed Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, killing Bell mere hours before his wedding day.

A city of activists, residents, elected officials and the like joined Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network in immediately taking to the streets. There were marches in the Bronx, in Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge, and what Sharpton determined "was the most successful New York civil disobedience in National Action Network's history."