In 2023, a heroic teen captured the hearts and souls of Black folk around the country after he dove into a river and swam to the aid of a friend in need. What unfolded that day on the banks of the Alabama River proved that African Americans were “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” and would never allow what happened to George Floyd in broad daylight happen to another Black person.
A punch was thrown, a white mob attacked and a Black man threw up a cap into the air in what was later called the “hootie-hoo” call-to-action, and a 16-year-old high school student, Aaren Hamilton-Rudolph, became the symbol of courage, strength and unity.
The Incident at Montgomery Riverfront Park
On August 5, 2023, Dameion Pickett, part of the crew of the Harriott II Riverboat, asked the occupants of a pontoon to move their vessel so the riverboat could dock.
The group, all white, did not like the request and one of them punched the worker in the face amid a barrage of racial slurs, followed by the rest of the group attacking the man mob-style.
Aaren, a fellow crewmember, leapt off the riverboat and swam across the water to come to the aid of his colleague. His strong swimming skills, captured in now-viral footage, earned him the nickname “AquaMayne.”
Following Aaren’s actions, dozens of Black people also rushed to help defend the worker and began fighting with the white mob.
One man used a chair to swing at the attackers, knocking out a few, in his attempt to get them off the outnumbered victim.
Several of the white attackers were arrested, including the chair-wielding Black man, but the message was loud and clear: “Not on our watch!”
The Aftermath and Support
The incident and Aaren became a sensation on social media. People across the nation praised his bravery and selflessness. He received various superhero aliases such as “Shaquille O’Gills,” “JaMichael Phelps,” and “Scuba Gooding Jr.”
While memes and videos swept the internet and we collectively laughed about the whooping that was given that day, it was no laughing matter that such atrocities are still committed against Black people by those with superiority complexes.
In the end, there were no real winners because the entire incident showed how racism and brutality against people of color are still happening today.
One thing is for certain, young Aaren is definitely a hero whose swift actions potentially saved a man’s life. The outpouring of support for the teen included financial contributions, so much so that his CashApp donations could potentially secure his college education.