“In the name of my brother”, Assa Traoré, who has become a figure in anti-racism in France

(Paris) She had never campaigned but is now seen compared to a French “Angela Davis”: since her brother Adama was, according to her, “killed” by the police, Assa Traoré became an emblematic figure in the fight against police violence and racism, in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

Tiphaine LE LIBOUX

France Media Agency

Bulky afro cut and always wearing a “justice for Adama” t-shirt, this 35 year old woman will receive Sunday in the States -Unite a BET awards, a prize awarded by a television channel to African-American or minority personalities.

“A reward for all that we have done in four years and which gives us strength for the future,” she told AFP.

Because, since the death in July 2016 of his brother after his arrest by gendarmes in Beaumont-sur-Oise, in the Paris region , it connects demonstrations, speeches, interviews. Backed by a solid “committee” of some 20 relatives and activists from the neighborhoods, she tirelessly demands “truth and justice” for Adama.

Her “truth” is that her brother was “killed”. The investigation, still underway, turned into a battle of expertise, without questioning the police.

Having become a full-time activist, she has never returned to her job as a specialized educator and lives with her three children of six, eight and 12 years in an apartment on the outskirts of Paris.

If the “Adama fight” has so far been limited to districts and militant spheres, the planetary emotion aroused by the death of George Floyd has given it another dimension.

With his committee, Assa Traoré gathered thousands of people in the capital at the beginning of June and hundreds more everywhere else in France.

“Assa, we're all fans of her with my friends. Girls in the neighborhoods are politicized thanks to her, ”says Samira, 24 years old, who moved from Pontoise Paris region, in Paris for its first events.

An Assa Traoré, “it's once every 50 years! “Ignites activist Youcef Brakni, a pillar of the Adama committee. “It's like Simone de Beauvoir, Angela Davis, she smashed everything in her path.”

“Now the average Frenchman knows her. When she walks down the street, people stop her, “he adds.

Assa's “fight” also crossed borders. Several American newspapers have painted his portrait in recent days and the star Rihanna has split a message on social networks via the account of his brand to salute his commitment.

In France, its positions continue to cause controversy, several intellectuals denouncing a “racialization” of public debate, in defiance of “republican universalism”.

Change “everything I can change”

The day after Adama’s death, Assa Traore “naturally” became the spokesperson for the family, his elder brother Lassana told AFP last year.

“It's a bit like a mother who lost her son,” he added, because she “took care of her little brothers, took the family by the arms” after the death of their father in 1999.

The latter, a site manager of Malian origin, had 17 children of four different women- “Two white women” successively then “two black women” at the same time, says the young woman, proud of this family of “all colors, all religions”.

Since 2016, his speech has become politicized. “With my brother's name, I will change everything I can change,” she said today at the AFP.

She was thus seen leading a demonstration against the policy of Emmanuel Macron by 2018, parading alongside “Vests yellow “or more recently caregivers.

In 2019, she co-signed a book with the left sociologist Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, seduced by her “completely new way of speaking about society , racism, social classes ”.

With his friend, the media writer Edouard Louis, they joined the ranks of his supporters, as did the actor Omar Sy and figures from French rap.

A law enforcement official, interviewed last year, noted, not without a touch of admiration, that she “embodied with talent this anti-system movement which lacked a charismatic standard”.

Since 2016, four Traoré brothers have been imprisoned. Some for violence that followed Adama’s death, others for crimes unrelated to the case.

“She has a myth, but the facts are cruel,” added the official.

All are “political prisoners”, retorts the thirty-something. “They made Traore soldiers in spite of themselves”.