"Beyond shock and horror,
through Boundless Love and
the Healing Power of Grief Work:"
(An exclusive interview with Madame Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou), 5-12-07
By meshá Mongé-Irizarry, Idriss Stelley Foun
dation - firstname.lastname@example.org
In May 2003, during her tour of the Bay area, Madame Diallo a
nd I met for the very first time at the "Green House " on 3rd St. in SF Bayview Hunters Point, for a scheduled interview, which ended in two hours of bonding and Sister Love, merging our common grief and struggle for Justice for our Young Black Sons, slaughtered by rogue police.
Escorted by Kelly Anderson (CO-producer of "Every Mother's Son", //www.andersongoldfilms.com)
(featuring Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez, Portorican,
Doris Buscky, mother of Gideon Busch, Hassidic Jew,
and Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo, West African student from Guinea,
all brutally murdered by NYPD),
Kadiatou Diallo walked in, wearing traditional African clothing...and the air stood still... luminous, quiet strength and beauty instantly permeating through the room.
Beneath her melodious voice and velvety, beautiful soft brown skin, mild, distinguished manners, brightly shines the soul of a Fierce Warrior, who knows no tolerable boundaries, born to freedom in spite of her ancestral, traditional oppressive upbringing, challenging hierarchy and authority with loving, respectful but formidable strength since early childhood...and still......
Unabated by the horrible tragedy of Amadou's senseless NYPD murder in the Country of the Proud and the Free, where he met his tragic, untimely death in the middle of a quiet winter night, while simply getting his keys out of his pocket to enter his apartment, mistakingly (sounds familiar?) "thought as a weapon" by his executionners...
We quickly resorted to speaking in French, the colonizers' language we share from our respective native countries, Guinea and Euskadi (Basque Nation).
Daily endeavors, (both operating Foundations in our respective son's name), and the enormity of our respective task, gradually faded sustained contact;
but the habitual reading of her book "My Heart will Cross the Ocean" (my secret "Bible!"), meditating on our amazing encounter in times of doubt, suicidal depression and adversity, always remained my ultimate salvation during the darkest moments...
Upon launching EFAPO, Empowered Families Against Police Oppression website, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EFAPO/
last week, I wondered:
"What would be Kadiatou's outlook and message to our community, amidst the exacerbation of racist police murders exploding all over the US, primarily in Poor Communities of Color communities?"
So I posted, with minimal hope, a message on Amadou Diallo Foundation, INC. Website : "Lost contact with Madame Diallo, wish to interview", and promptly received her e-mail accepting the offer.
"Madame Diallo, (...May I call you Kadiatou? In spite of intense kinship, I always address this amazing lady with the proper traditional western AfriKan deference: "Madame"), What year was Amadou killed ?
On February 4, 1999... But it's like yesterday.
You would not believe the mail and cards sent to Amadou prior to his killing, like this girl who handed out a Valentine card to him "You always make me smile". My son was a wonderful man, well loved and respected by all whose lives he touched. Another woman who wrote "I came in, my child was crying, you held him and smiled, it changed my day!"
But all the officers who killed him were acquitted...
Kadiatou, every time Idriss Stelley Foundation takes "Every Mothers' Son" on the road to churches , schools and community centers in the Bay Area, I promise myself not to lose composure... Until I see you, again on the screen, collapsing in front of Amadou's apartment building, crying out: "WHY????? WHY........" and I have to run out....
Yes, Why...How can you make sense of such injustice....As well described in my book, "My heart will Cross the Ocean", why the killing, why the twisted, truncated portrayal of my child through press coverage as the "Immigrant street vendor"? Not a word about him being a Student, an aspiring Businessman, a Son, a Brother...
I want to let your readers know about the new documentary film that came out about my son, and an young European American from California, entitled
"death of two sons":
Jesse Thyne, a young white Peace Corps volunteer, friend of Amadou, went to Diountou, Amadou's native village in Guinea, at which time Amadou was still alive. Jessie died tragically in a road accident, and the taxi driver was condemned. Such different treatment of their respective cases....Amadou died first and Jesse attended his funeral. Should it matter if the victim is Black or White? Amadou was 21 when he came to the US. Where is Justice, where is Tolerance, beyond racial lines... Martin Luther King once said: "Injustice Anywhere is Injustice Everywhere". I had speak out to give back his dignity to my son .... When Amadou died, I knew my life would never be the same, I felt like life as I knew it ended. So I dedicated the rest of my existence to Amadou's legacy.
Wow...You grew up in a traditional society, forced into an arranged marriage as a very young girl... What happened to this little girl now?
I am educated, and emancipated. I will not tolerate oppression. I eventually left my husband and moved to Asia with my children, started a business venture in exotic import-export, gems stones and a clothing line in Bankok, Thailand. Amadou was part of this venture. His goal was to work hard, save for college, get his degree, open his own business, and follow our African tradition, as the oldest child, to help his mother and sisters. When I spoke to him for the last time on the phone he said to me "Mom, I am so lucky now with what life has in store for me !..." When I saw his humble apartment that he was sharing with other African student-friends, I could not believe how hard he was trying... (repressing tears)... He is in a better place now.
Kadiatou, what is your Faith?
I am Muslim
What is the mission of your Foundation?
The Amadou Scholarship Fund helps young Africans enroll in college. Currently, we sponsor 22 students. We do speaking engagements, and use funds to promote Racial Healing. We recently started a computer center in Labe, Guinea, the Amadou Foundation Education Center, to bridge the gap between the Bronx Community College and young Africans, help them with basic English skills and acquiring their GED, towards their transfer to Bronx Community College, and we sponsorize trips to Guinea.
What are your Foundation's funding sources?
The settlement of Amadou's case. I started the Foundation with my own money..
We have secured tax exempt "501-c3" nonprofit status, the Amadou Diallo Foundation Inc can now apply for grants and receive donations. People who wish to help contribute to our School Project in Guinea, please let us know!
What is your outlook on the current Struggle to fight police brutality?
It is a long road to travel.. It is very hard to get convictions. The FBI has considerably decreased their investigation of wrongful death cases since Amadou's case, then even more after 9/11/2001. Kathryn Johnston...And Sean Bell !!... I had to go to the initial Justice4Sean protest and spoke.... UNBELIEVABLE! What is going on??...I sat in the church after the funeral and wept ... Then went to visit the young men who survived the police assault in the hospital, dropped and wept again.... A VERY painful moment. If Amadou's case had been handled properly, this would have never happened. Amadou was unarmed, why not approach him, question him? The message is that the system invariably lets guilty cops go.
A few years ago, Alberta Spruil, over 50 yr., a Sister, Black... The police broke into her home looking for drugs. Half an hour later, she died of a heart attack ....There is a RIGHT way to do things... The police has a difficult, good job to carry out. Those who kill, brutalize innocent people have to be held accountable. Look, I called 911 two months ago when someone broke into my house and I was happy they came.
Juanita Young...is a New York activist, volunteer with October 22 against police Brutality. The police killed her child, Malcom Ferguson, also an activist, who marched and spoke at Justice4Amadou protests. I visited Juanita at her home when Malcom was killed... Last year tthe police came into her house, brutalized her and booked her, she remained in the hospital for a week handcuffed to her bed... Juanita is legally blind. A beautiful woman inside, very brave. I gave her a bouquet of flowers, she could not see the colors, but smiled, smelling them...Yes, true Beauty from Within.
Kadiatou, do you still live back east ?
I now live in Maryland with my children ... God has blessed us! My daughter Laura, 27 yr. is married to someone she met here in the US, and they are they are the proud parents of 2 yr. triplets sons! Perhaps the greatest joy I ever felt was when my grandsons where born. My daughter informed me that she and her husband are naming one of the boys Amadou Diallo; I live with my two sons Abrahim, 24, and Abdoul. 23, they are pursuing their college education...Their Brother Amadou's dream, that he never lived to fulfill...
What is your message to other Families who suffered your terrible fate, and whose Loved Ones' lives were stolen by racist police violence?
Well...Although you might feel down, lost, and grieve, try not to get bitter, try to move forward, for the victims, for your Loved Ones, even when you don't feel like getting out of bed... Bitterness is destruction! But Solidarity moves us forward. Slavery is only GRADUALLY over...Let's strive for a better future, and always be thankful. Do the very best you can, even if you are not perfect, push ahead!
Let Amadou's life and legacy make racial profiling and police brutality History! We believe that all corruption will be wiped out: spread the Positive Message!
Imus: We don't play!
And is all that Hip Hop cool? Shouldn't all parents be concerned about the degradation of women, of our Girls? Our Youth needs to be educated to respect Humanity and Dignity!
That IS the message!
Hmmmmmm, I'm glad it's out."
Madame Diallo is still waiting to be granted permanent residency with her surviving children , so that she can continue to expand the Amadou Diallo Foundation Inc. , across the US and Africa.
For more info on Bill #739, For the relief of Kadiatou Diallo, Laouratou Diallo, Ibrahima Diallo, Abdoul Diallo, Mamadou Bobo Diallo, Mamadou Pathe Diallo, Fatoumata Traore Diallo, Sankarela Diallo, and Marliatou Bah, sponsored by Congressman Charles Rangel , Feb 26, 2007: Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.
please log onto the Congress/ Bill #739. website
Madame Diallo will soon travel to her native Guinea.
When she returns, sometimes in the midsummer, the Idriss Stelley Foundation, in collaboration with Dawn Edwards , Director of Bay Area Police Watch (Ella Baker Center for Human Rights) will organize her book signing tour in... San Francisco!
Javier Reyes, Director of Colored Ink, has generously offered to host it at his dynamic SF Mission District Brava Theater, on 24th Street, along with a special 30-minute performance by his troupe, Colored Ink, in honor of International icon of love and healing power, Madame Kadiatou Diallo.
"My heart will Cross the Ocean" can be purchased at Amazon.com.
As a token of our admiration and to thank her for her long-standing, amazing contribution to healing the World, Beyond shock and horror, through Boundless Love and the Healing Power of Grief Work,
Idriss Stelley Foundation is currently working of the French version of her book, as well as talking books for our sight impaired Brothers and Sisters.
The Book is currently available in English, Spanish and German, and sorely needs to be translated for the viewing pleasure of the People of Color Francophone Community in Afrika, the Caribbean and Europe, and the French community at large.
Madame Kadiatou Diallo is also a recent recipient of the
spearheaded by Latino Activist Dorinda Moreno, Mother of the Xicano Moratorium, honoring a thousand Women globally , who have changed our world for the better.
From your fervent admirer meshá, a humble recipient of the Award : Welcome to our planetary Women Warriors Family, Sister Kadiatou !
(Have our Beloved Sons, Amadou and Idriss , who left our world respectively at 21 and 23 yr., both devote Muslims, and Honor Students, bonded by now on the "other side"?
On Mother's Day, were they smiling at us from above, stretching their huge wings around our Valley of Shadows, proud of us, watching our backs,
while exchanging gentle jokes in English and French? )...
Amadou Diallo, Idriss Stelley, Malcom Ferguson, Cammerin Boyd, Gus Rugley, Sheila Amaya, Cau Tran , Mark Garcia, Sean Bell, Kathryn Johnston, and the myriads of Stolen Angels brutally slaughtered at the hands of racist police, (how could we list them all...) LIVE ON !
Sent on Moher's day to Idriss Stelley Foundation llist serves:
(mesha, Idriss Stelley Foundation),
MAMA DONT CRY ~ ON MOTHER'S DAY
* TO ALL OUR BEAUTIFUL MOMS *
WHOSE CHILDREN WERE KILLED,
BY LAW ENFORCEMENT
they won't know why
in spite of smiling
in spite of feasting
smelling the flowers
offered to you
reading the letters
of love for you...
your heart is achin'
amisdt the laughters
your soul is yearnin'
Day after day
~ Forever ~
...and Mother's day
they will forget
why you can't sleep
turn off the lights
real as it gets
on Mother's Night
they need you NOW
fight for their Dream
time to allow
beyond the pain
on Mama's Beat
~ Another day ~
* Happy Mother's day, Mama ! *