A once-deaf amNewYork promotor from Guinea is among those meeting Pope Francis Friday at Our Lady Queen of Angels school in East Harlem.
Mamadou Drame, 34, a Muslim and a married father of three children who lives with his family in the Claremont section of the Bronx, is among the 150 immigrants and refugees who received assistance from Catholic Charities and were selected by the organization to meet the pontiff shortly after 4 p.m. Friday.
Drame was deaf until a series of recent operations in New York City to restore his hearing and, as a result of a progressive illness, has only about 40% of normal vision.
Drame, who has a degree in international relations, came to New York City in 2013 to attend a conference at the United Nations to discuss disability issues. He declined to speak about the difficulties which led him to stay in the U.S., but was happy to discuss his parley with the pontiff.
"I think this pope is a good person," confided Drame, explaining he shared the pope's commitment to interfaith dialogue and reconciliation between religions. "Some Christians hate Muslims. Some Muslims hate Christians. I'm fed up with that!"
Drame laments that the perception of Islam has been perverted as a result of the 9/11 attacks. "All Muslims are not terrorists. Good Muslims do not kill. In the Quran, killing one person is like killing all people all over the world," he said. While "I was born Muslim and I will die Muslim," he is grateful for the help he has received from Catholic Charities, noting that there is a federation of good people of all faiths from all over the world who help those of other religions.
Drame distributes amNewYork at the 103rd St. and Lexington subway stop, rising at 5 a.m. to be on site by 6 a.m., hawking the paper for three to four hours of the morning rush. But he still takes classes in English and computer literacy offered by Catholic Charities and hopes to return to college: "I want to improve myself. I'm legally blind, but I want to do something with myself."
Ideally, he would like to go on to graduate studies in international law and land a job helping people with disabilities who face employment discrimination -- a problem disabled people encounter all over the world, he noted.
"When I went to amNewYork (to apply) I was scared for them to find out I was legally blind -- maybe they would not hire me," but he began work in July of last year.
Some amNY readers have chatted up Drame about headlines this week, telling him how excited they are by the pope's visit. "Sometimes I tell them, 'I have a ticket to meet him,' and they tell me, 'You are a very lucky man!'" Drame recounted. Drame won't be distributing the papers in which this story about him appears, however, because he took Friday off to see a guy.