The Bronx renamed the northwest corner of E. 181st St. and Prospect Ave. Thursday to honor the life of Kalief Browder on what would have been his 24th birthday. Now known as “Kalief Browder Way,” the street sign was unveiled around 10 a.m. by council members and the Browder family, according to officials.
“Renaming a street that will bear his name is not merely an honor for him; it will stand as a moral inspiration to the rest of us,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “The virtue of one’s life is measured by the impact that one has on others. Those of you who knew Kalief are better people for having known him. And those of us who knew of Kalief are better for having been awakened and inspired by his struggle for justice. None of us will ever be the same again. The criminal justice system as we know it will never be the same again. And we all have Kalief Browder to thank for that.”
Kalief’s brother, Akeem Browder, credited Spike TV’s docu-series with creating awareness surrounding his brother’s case. “This is our family’s second year, since Kaliefs untimely death; dealing with the loss that not only affects us but everyone who took heart to his story,” he said. “All across this nation he left a marker for all to remember him by with the docu-series from Spike TV. Now in the Bronx, his hometown, thanks to the leadership of Councilman Ritchie Torres and the 15th District; and all that will gather for this street re-naming we can all look up and see ‘Kalief Browder Way’ and think of the legacy he left for us to continue.”
Accused of stealing a backpack, Browder spent three years at Rikers Island while awaiting trial and was never found guilty of a crime. Of his three years at Rikers, he spent two in solitary confinement, attempting suicide on multiple occasions while behind bars.
Though prosecutors eventually dropped the charges, the mental distress Browder endured was irreversible. “Before I went to jail, I didn’t know about a lot of stuff, and, now that I’m aware, I’m paranoid,” Browder shared with journalist Jennifer Gonnerman in a piece published by The New Yorker. “I feel like I was robbed of my happiness.” Browder ultimately took his own life at the young age of 22 years old. His mother, Venida Browder, died of what attorney Paul Prestia called “a broken heart” a year later.
This story was updated on May 25, 2017 at 6:34 p.m. EST.