Amadou Diallo’s name still ‘echoes’ 20 years later

Stephon Johnson | 2/7/2019, midnight
“Unfortunately, Amadou will never get justice and we still feel that there’s not any change,” said Kadiatou Diallo, the mother ...
Kadiatou Diallo

“Unfortunately, Amadou will never get justice and we still feel that there’s not any change,” said Kadiatou Diallo, the mother of the late Amadou Diallo. “Before hashtags, before Twitter, Amadou’s name echoed around the world.”

Twenty years ago this past Monday, 22-year-old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by New York Police Department officers. The police, who said they’d mistaken Diallo’s wallet for a gun, fired 41 shots at the unarmed man. Nineteen of those shots hit Diallo.

“As a mother, when my son was killed in this way, I had to cross the ocean to give his story,” said Kadiatou. “Because his story was completely twisted. So every time I speak about Amadou, I want people to know about the life he lived.”

According to Kadiatou, Diallo was passionate about education and was about to enroll in college. He sold wares on the street to help raise money to pay his way through college. Diallo’s journey took him to various African countries and Thailand, where he graduated from high school. After a short stint in Singapore, Diallo made his way to the U.S.

“I want people to understand how a young person of Black skin is portrayed by the media,” said Kadiatou. “I want people to know his background.”

Diallo was killed by NYPD Officers Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss. Angered and aggrieved, the community participated in demonstrations around the city, including one where protestors carried a coffin in front of Officer Carroll’s home.

Kadiatou said that she’s still working for a change in the relationship between the police and the Black community, but she knows she’s fighting an uphill battle.

“We didn’t have the change that we were supposed to have because, still, people have been killed and the community is still going through the same things 20 years later. I would hope that in Amadou’s name that we can turn the page. Still, we have many parents who have suffered. Mohammed Bah. Eric Garner. Sean Bell.”

Later in the year, when the officers went to trial, controversy erupted when the court decided to move the trial from New York City to Albany. All the officers were found not guilty on all counts. This led to even more demonstrations, and high school students around the city staged walkouts in the middle of the day to display their distaste for the verdict and for police brutality.

Kadiatou related that her son was the origin of the movement. “His named echoed around the world about injustice, the criminal justice system and everything else,” she said. Even though we did not get a conviction, the Civil Rights Movement didn’t happen overnight. This is the new Civil Rights Movement.”

Last weekend, Kadiatou spoke with children at Bronx Community College during an event commemorating her son’s life. She emphasized the importance of an education to the kids.

“They’re interested in learning,” shared Kadiatou. “I was talking to students who weren’t even born when Amadou was killed.”

Some members of the state legislature are working to make sure that Amadou and the names of others slain by police will not be forgotten.