Kalief Browder may be gone – but his legacy will live on forever.
On Thursday, May 25, Councilman Ritchie Torres, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other elected officials, as well as the family and friends of Kalief Browder, gathered for the street co-naming ceremony of ‘Kalief Browder Way’ at East 181st Street and Prospect Avenue.
The street co-naming of Kalief Browder Way was held to honor the life of a young individual who took his own life following a wrongful accusal and a several years in prison.
Browder, who grew up on Prospect Avenue and attended the now-defunct public school New Day Academy, was walking home from a party at night with a friend on 186th Street and Arthur Avenue in May 2010, when they were stopped by the police. The police had stopped them in response to a 911 call regarding an unrelated incident involving a stolen backpack.
Police then placed Kalief and his friend under arrest and took them to the 48th Precinct. They were then taken to Bronx County Criminal Court, where Browder was charged with robbery, grand larceny and assault. Kalief’s friend was excused from the case by the presiding judge.
Kalief was later charged with second-degree robbery and his bail was set at $3,000. When his family was unable to pay the set amount, he was sent to Rikers Island, where he spent three years, mostly in solitary confinement. At one point, he was in solitary confinement for nearly a year and half straight.
While he was in prison, Browder tried to commit suicide multiple times – including attempting to hang himself using a noose he made out of his bedsheets and slit his wrists using a piece of a broken metal bucket he would use to wash his clothes. Additionally, he was beaten by correctional officers as well as inmates.
When Browder’s case was reviewed in March 2013, the judge offered him a plea agreement – which would have given Kalief the ability to go home by pleading guilty to two misdemeanors. He refused the plea bargain and maintained his innocence.
In May 2013, just after turning 20 years old, Kalief was released without being convicted of a crime.
Despite earning a GED and enrolling in Bronx Community College following his release, the damage had been done and his mental health had deteriorated. Two years after he was released, Kalief committed suicide at age 22 – on June 6, 2015, by hanging himself from his bedsheets at his home.
“This street co-naming will not only honor Kalief – it will stand as a moral inspiration for the rest of us,” said Councilman Torres. “Those who knew Kalief are better people for having known him and those of us who knew of him and his scenario are better for having been awakened and inspired by his struggle for justice.”
“Since Kalief’s unfortunately and timely death, our family has dealt with a loss that not only affects us but also everyone who took heart to his story,” said Akeem Browder, Kalief’s brother. “Now, we can look up and see ‘Kalief Browder Way’ and think of the legacy he left for us to continue.”
The date of the street co-naming would have marked Kalief’s 24th birthday.