“Education is the key to success,” was advice that Kadiatou Diallo delivered at Bronx Community College of The City University of New York’s African Women’s Empowerment Day. An immigrant herself and the mother of a son who had hoped to go to college, but died prematurely in New York, Ms. Diallo said that she had dedicated her life to keeping alive her son’s memory by encouraging West African immigrant students – women and men — to aggressively go after information they need to succeed in their adopted country. As president of The Amadou Diallo Foundation, Ms. Diallo has established a $30,000 Amadou Diallo Scholarship Fund to be equally divided between Bronx Community College and Borough of Manhattan Community College.
When Ms. Diallo arrived to speak, she entered the BCC meeting room with a surprise visitor, Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr. Upon seeing her and the Borough President, the audience of 100 eager New Yorkers erupted in cheers. Two of the attendees – high school students Marianne Diallo (no relation to Ms. Diallo) from Guinea and Aminata Keita from Sierra Leone – said they were very appreciative that Ms. Diallo and BCC had sponsored a day when issues of West African women could be addressed.
“Lack of education and lack of health are what holds African women back,” emphasized Ms. Diallo in her remarks to community residents and people who work with African populations – social workers, lawyers, health workers, educators and African women, some 30 of whom were students from Bronx International High School. The high school students – mainly from Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Togo and Sierra Leone – have been in the U.S. for less than four years. Most are newcomers to English. They have had to adjust to new customs, new food, and new friends as their parents have had to find their way in the workplace in their adopted country.
Earlier, in opening welcoming remarks, Bronx Community College President Carolyn G. Williams said, “This event was planned to highlight the experiences and perspectives of West African Women. This immigrant population is increasing here in the Bronx and we at BCC have noted these students joining our student body. It is hoped that this panel will draw attention to the issues and problems that impede their success as they seek critical health, social, educational, housing and employment services for themselves and their families, and attempt to gain entry into the NYC labor markets.”
Continuing, President Williams added, “Bronx Community College is committed to developing a series of projects that focus on international issues. Our college is already involved with a project in South Africa aimed at strengthening the educational opportunities of black South Africans in Natal province. Another international educational exchange is underway in Senegal with the University of Dakar and the Senegalese-American Bilingual School; and we plan to get involved with a school in Guinea supported by the Amadou Diallo Foundation.”
Borough President Carrion, speaking before Ms. Diallo, said that he welcomed West Africans to the Bronx and urged that they seek information for their work, education, health, housing and needs and not suffer in silence. He reminded the audience that America has always been a nation of immigrants and West Africans happen to be the newest immigrants. BP Carrion also reminded listeners that BCC held a special place for him because he had worked on the Bronx Community College campus for five years as District Manager for Community Board 5 before becoming a City Councilman and then successfully running for two terms as Borough President. His new term starts in January 2006.
Social service groups who sponsored the Women’s Empowerment Day included Sanctuary for Families, Fidelis Care, Affinity Health Plan, Citizens Advice Bureau and CAMBA, Inc. Representatives from each organization brought outreach information which they dispensed at tables during the all day event.