Students Prepare Exhibit on Diallo
Eboni S. Cohen, a third-year student at Harvard Law School (HLS), said she fears for the life of her 13-year-old brother when she thinks about the outcome of New York's Amadou Diallo case.
Yesterday, she and other members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) began a poster campaign in Harkness Commons, showcasing stories of HLS students who have been affected by racial profiling and police harassment.
They want to make the community aware that the prejudices that they claim caused Diallo's death figure very personally into their lives.
"We want to make sure that people know that even we, as Harvard Law School students, aren't immune to this type of behavior from the police," said Nicole D. Lewis, a first-year HLS student who is spearheading the poster effort.
Diallo, a West African immigrant, was shot and killed by four white police officers in the lobby of his Bronx apartment after they mistook a wallet he held in the air for a gun. On Feb. 25, all four officers were acquitted of second-degree murder charges.
Jess E. Alderman, a third-year student at HLS, was walking through Harkness Commons last night when she noticed the banner that BLSA had posted on the wall. It read, "Once it was Diallo. Once it was me. Next time it could be you."
Displayed underneath is the story of Mari E. Zellner-Sawyer, Alderman's classmate, who claims her father has been a victim of racial profiling.
Zellner-Sawyer wrote in her testimony that when her white mother and black father took walks together through their northern California neighborhood, their white neighbors sometimes called the police to report suspicious activity or assault.
"It's police brutality since even after my father identifies himself, he's either further detained or at best, released without apology," she wrote.
"We lived five minutes from Stanford University," Zellner-Sawyer continued. "My dad was a lecturer there. That shouldn't make a difference, but maybe it does to the people reading this."
Alderman said she felt the impact of Zellner-Sawyer's story.
"Even if it's something that doesn't affect you personally, it helps to see it through someone else's eyes who you know and go to class with," she said.
Cohen said that promoting such awareness is the central purpose of the campaign.
"We're hoping to put a face to the [Diallo] story so it can hit home a little more on campus," she said.
Lewis has compiled 20 stories and plans to continue the campaign with a new story each day as long as students are willing to share them.
The BLSA also plans to form a "solidarity line" of 41 students this afternoon on the HLS campus, representing the 41 bullets that police fired at Diallo.
BLSA members have written a letter to the Harvard Law Record, an HLS publication, expressing their outrage over the Diallo verdict, and have urged professors to discuss it in their classrooms.
BLSA's efforts, which are part of a national campaign to raise awareness about the Diallo case, will culminate next Wednesday in a candlelight vigil.
"We're mourning the death of justice," Lewis said.
"I want to do all that I can do now to prevent [my family] from becoming a victim of racial profiling and police brutality," she added. "No one should have to live in fear that they, a family member, or a friend will die at the hands of the people who are supposed to provide protection for us all."