My name is Abdourahamane Diallo. I am an elected member of the Bronx Democratic County Committee and a candidate for New York City Council District 16. My journey began in Guinea, where I grew up surrounded by immense poverty and high inequality due to incompetent and corrupt leadership. While far from ideal, my childhood sparked in me a passion for seeking ways to empower and serve underserved communities around me. This goal has been my driving force in my academic and professional pursuits.
Eventually, I moved to the United States to further my education. It was not a smooth transition, but I was excited to live in New York City, one of the world’s wealthiest cities. I worked in various jobs, such as being a cab driver, dishwasher, garbage truck helper to support myself and my family back home while enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student.
As I became familiar with the city, I noticed the disparity each time I turned my cab around Park Ave in the Upper East Side, and when I went back to the Bronx in the evening, it was like experiencing two different worlds in the same city. I found it absurd that just across the bridge from one of the wealthiest parts of the world exists the most impoverished district in the entire United States. That’s the south Bronx and where I lived. I was curious and embarked on a journey to understand why and how this level of inequality could happen.
I wanted to be a part of the solution by developing skills to address the emerging issues in the 21st century, which led me to the Schwarzman Scholars program.
Through this journey, I spearheaded the establishment of a nonprofit organization to promote academic and professional development in marginalized communities, was appointed to serve on the Bronx Community Board Three and was elected as the youngest member to serve on the executive board of the African Advisory Council of the Office of the Bronx Borough President as General Secretary. As I served in these various positions, I gained substantial knowledge of the concern faced by the diverse communities in the Bronx. I realized that African immigrants from the Bronx, more or less, faced similar issues as other members of the Bronx Community but had no real commitment to civic engagement and, as a result, lacked any substantial representation in the NYC governing body. I noticed that the prevailing trend of food insecurity, inequality, and underrepresentation existed across the board in poor communities. I wanted to be a part of the solution by developing skills to address the emerging issues in the 21st century, which led me to the Schwarzman Scholars program.
Being a Schwarzman Scholar reinforced my values of creating sustainable change through action for underserved communities. I had the opportunity to meet like-minded scholars who had positively improved their communities. Among many other exciting learning opportunities, the thing that made the most impact on me was the Deep Dive in poverty alleviation. (I hope things get better so that the fifth cohort can have this experience). It was an eye-opening experience. I gained firsthand knowledge of China’s real action to lift over 850 million people from poverty. I spoke to residents and elected officials of various levels of the Chinese local government. However, my China journey was cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak.
All of a sudden, I found myself back in NYC. It was not very long before the pandemic amplified the already existing issues resulting from inequality, such as food insecurity, inadequate healthcare, failing educational system, amongst myriad issues. I immediately rolled my sleeves and got to work. I decided to run for the Bronx Democratic County Committee. Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, my team and I had to go out, knock on people’s doors to meet the petitioning requirement for my candidacy. So, we geared up with pens, masks and hand sanitizers. Despite the justified reluctance of residents to participate in the petitioning process, we were persistent until we reached the required number of petitioning signatures. The rest is history.
Throughout all this, I worked with community leaders and organizations to feed about 600 families per week, secured and distributed more than 40,000 masks, and provided resources to help over 270 families with unemployment applications in the Bronx. My team and I developed an online tutoring program to assist hundreds of families struggling with transitioning to the new remote learning system. We also hosted city agency representatives to inform the community about resources available during these trying times.
I am currently working vigorously on my campaign for the New York City Council and look forward to the journey ahead. When elected, I plan to use my experience and education as a “Schwarzie” to uplift the underserved communities of the Bronx by addressing poverty, education, inequality, police reform, food insecurity, healthcare, housing, and transportation. It is a priority to support the immigrant communities by ensuring that the city government provides services tailored to their needs.