Five years later, Abou Traore’s legacy lives on.
Last Wednesday night, faculty, staff and students came together for the fifth annual Pros vs. Joe’s Abou Traore scholarship event to honor an involved young man whose life was cut short by drowning.
“At SVSU, it’s all about students,” said J.J. Boehm, director of media relations. “Here we are now five years past, and we’re still honoring Abou’s memory and his legacy and still trying to make sure we can perpetuate that for future students.”
Abou Traore was an SVSU student who fully invested himself in the university. He was involved in his classes and planned to take his knowledge and skills back to Senegal after graduation. He participated in extracurricular activities, and was preparing to be a resident assistant.
“For students who weren’t here at the time, the effect of Abou’s passing really affected the entire campus community,” Boehm said. “His memorial service had hundreds if not thousands of people attending.
“To be able to take that emotion and channel it into a positive cause, to raise money for student scholarship, is a wonderful way to try to use that and make something positive out of it.”
In a means to raise money for the student scholarship and to honor Abou for years to come, former Resident Director Marcus Bennett, along with the help of men’s basketball head coach Frankie Smith, organized the Pros vs. Joe’s basketball game five years ago.
“When the tragedy happened, Marcus Bennant took it over and he collaborated with me about putting this game together,” Smith said. “For such a worthy cause, it was an automatic no-brainer to do it and to help out in his memory.”
This year, the pros, male and female varsity basketball players, defeated the Joe’s, the faculty and staff, by a score of 46-45.
“As a participant, it’s fun to go out there and run with people who are clearly younger and more talented than I am,” Boehm said. “It’s fun to entertain the crowd because we always get a very good turnout, but it’s also to carry on that legacy.”
This year, for the first time ever, the legacy will continue with two students, who were recognized at halftime during the game. Senior nursing major Adrienne Dudley from Flint and junior nursing major Dashonda Woods from West Bloomfield both received scholarships and will continue Abou’s memory as they continue in their paths to becoming nurses.
In addition to honoring Abou, the game also provided an opportunity for faculty and staff to interact with student athletes and the student body as a whole.
“I would say my greatest memory is the involvement of everybody. It’s obviously a rarity that faculty and staff get a chance to actually interact with the student athletes,” Smith said. “It ends up being a fun event.”
This year’s entertainment was highlighted with a pregame performance by the African Dance Performance Group. This group, consisting of three female SVSU students, showcased traditional African dance.
Smith, who resigned from his coaching position last week, said that while he may not be able to attend future events, he will remember the time he spent participating in them.
“This is the last one I’ll be doing, but every year, I’ll think about the event and Abou,” Smith said.