Liberal Arts junior spends summer seeking justice for others

Amanda Miller
August 22, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Awaly Diallo, a Penn State junior majoring in sociology and African American studies, worked for the Civil Rights & Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) at Northeastern School of Law in Boston this summer. The CRRJ investigates cold cases involving racially motivated homicides that occurred between 1930 and 1970. The project works to uncover what happened to the victims, tell their stories, and try to provide closure to the affected families and communities through restorative justice.

Diallo first heard about the CRRJ from Nan Woodruff, professor of African-American studies and modern U.S. history. Woodruff had previously helped two other African-American studies majors from Penn State obtain internships with the CRRJ, and after Woodruff invited them to share their experiences with one of her classes, Diallo was fascinated.

“Their experiences were not only full of determination to bring justice to the families of the victims but to utilize the research in the CRRJ for contemporary issues," said Diallo. "The parallels captivated my interest for my current research but also for my future goals.”

One of Diallo’s tasks was to investigate lynching and police-related deaths in the South during the Jim Crow era. She credits her liberal arts education with helping her succeed in this work.

“As a double major in sociology and African-American studies, I have not only obtained knowledge in methodologies and theoretical frameworks but also a historical foundation for the Jim Crow South,” she said. “Both of my majors have provided me with the tools of critical thinking and analysis, archival retrieval, and simply to believe in myself. The African-American studies department has been especially helpful in my endeavors at the law school with financial support, an independent study course specifically on the racism and capitalism in the Jim Crow South, and guidance in my revelations of how we can utilize these manifestations for present-time matters.”

In addition to her internship duties, she took a course at the Northeastern School of Law on the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline.” Students in the class unraveled restorative justice practices within the prison system and learned how to reimagine policing and punishment in our society.

At Penn State, Diallo serves as the executive director for the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Committee, a University-wide committee that plans events throughout the year to commemorate King’s legacy and spread the message that his legacy is more than just one day. Diallo is also a program assistant for the Ritner Experience within the Eberly College of Science, a peer mentor in the BLUEprint peer mentoring organization, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.

Diallo’s career aspirations of attending law school and working in civil rights law have been strengthened by her involvement with the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project.

“This internship gave me experience in the field of civil rights law through the work that the clinic does. I have also received much advice and support from the professors and law students at the law school in how to approach the legal field with law school and post-JD. I feel very confident in my path in research at Penn State and how to find my purpose through the law. The CRRJ clinic reassured me that there is much work to do for our legal system and to reach beyond the framework that people may give to me.”

This is the second in a series on the experiences of students in the College of the Liberal Arts this summer.

  • Awaly Diallo standing in front of Northeastern School of Law

    Awaly Diallo worked for the Civil Rights & Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern School of Law in Boston this summer.

    IMAGE: Photo provided

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 30, 2018