Essence Magazine features the voice of a young Black Immigrant woman from Jamaica in the July Issue. Pick it up on newsstands if you support this type of reporting and storytelling. Also participate in their poll to show your support of immigrant rights.
Often times it’s easy for Americans to live our lives unaware of the global context that we are a part of. Many U.S born people will never know the impact that our government policies have globally and how we inadvertently contribute to the oppression of people worldwide. Americans have a bad habit of living life in the small bubble of local current affairs and are oblivious to global issues. A large part of our US centric views is because we have limited sources of media that expose us to anything on an international scale and the little international news we get is distorted to justify the imperialistic doctrine that our government presses on us.
As relates to Haiti, Many of us heard about the earthquake that decimated the whole nation but many of us don’t know that prior to the earthquake, Haiti was in dire need of aid. After the earthquake made an already adverse situation even worse, billions of dollars from all over the world were donated to help Haitians recover. Yet three years after the tragedy, Haiti is no better off. Many Americans go about their day to day and have no idea that these things are going on and the US government is playing key roles in many situations.
BAJI is teaming up with our ally, InSolidarity to send a delegation to Haiti to witness the struggle of our brothers and sisters firsthand and to see how we can join hands with them to fight for justice for all of us. In order to raise money to send our delegation, we have been hosting ”Raising Up for Haiti,” a series of fundraisers that feature Haitian activists, art, and culture. At our kickoff event we had Haitian activist and BAJI ally’ Pierre LaBossiere speak to us about the Haitian plight and the history of Haitian liberation struggle. We also watched the film: “Haiti – Where Did the Money Go” We also had the special treat to have the dynamic choir Vukani Mawethu come through and lift our spirits with freedom songs and inspirational music. Stay tuned for the next event announcement.To find out how you can help contact Kijani@blackalliance.org
Post by Tia Oso, BAJI Arizona Organizer
Around a table of African immigrants in Las Vegas, preparing for President Obama’s January 29th speech on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the questions flew. What will President Obama do for us? Will Africa be acknowledged? We are so different, how can we come together on one issue? Students, business owners and professionals in medicine and other fields voiced their concerns from personal experience. After telling stories and voicing strong opinions, we decided on a common thread. We want immigration reform that simplifies the process of immigration for our families and encourages success. We want policy reform that reflects the interests of Black immigrants. We want President Obama to support our American dream.
As we lined up to enter the gymnasium to hear the speech, some of us dressed professionally, some in fine African attire with prints from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Gabon. We got looks and of admiration, smiles and handshakes. One of the members of the Cameroon American Council delegation remarked “we are the only Africans here”.
“Stars and Stripes Forever” and other patriotic marching songs played as the President’s arrival became imminent. The crowd cheered enthusiastically when Congressman Steve Horsford (D-Nevada) appeared. Horsford is the first person of color to represent Nevada in Congress, and he met with several members of Nevada’s immigrant community the evening before the speech. The assembled group recited the pledge and sang the National Anthem with enthusiasm. It caused me to seriously ponder, in light of the subject of the meeting, when will these lofty words “liberty and justice for all…land of the free” ring true for ALL Americans?
As President Obama began his remarks, he laid the groundwork framing the U.S. as a “nation of immigrants” with various stories of hard fought journeys from Mexico, Ireland, Italy and Germany, even the West Indies. Notably absent, however, was any mention of any of the 54 countries in Africa. In telling the story of immigrants “doing their part to build this country by hand” while facing “hardship, ridicule and racism” there was no reference to the FREE labor of African slaves brought the U.S. in chains to do that building. It is the free labor of African slaves and low wages during the industrial revolution that propelled America’s economy to be the strongest in the world. To flat out omit the truth of this history and the reality of the contribution that millions of Black immigrants make today is an insult. Without the determination of President Obama’s father, an immigrant from Kenya, pursuing a life in the U.S and the hard fought battles of African-Americans breaking the chains of slavery and asserting their civil rights, President Obama would not be President today. I cannot accept the absence of our forefather’s dreams in a speech before the entire nation in this pivotal moment in history. How can Obama say that we must “remember where we come from” and deliver a speech that denies his own roots! Perhaps, he should remind himself of his own reflections and musings on race and its implications on the history of this nation and his life in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995).
Many African immigrants shared my sentiment of disappointment in the President’s remark, demanding “Don’t forget about Africa” as he shook hands on his way out of the hall. In the fight for immigrant rights and social and economic justice, this is just the beginning. Many of us, individually, in communities and organizations have been forced to face the reality of America’s “broken immigration system” for generations. Through bureaucracy, quotas, thousands of dollars spent, blood, sweat and tears to make a better life for ourselves and our families, we have pressed on, determined to succeed. How can President Obama champion the story of Mexican American “dreamers”, while simultaneously ignoring the dreams of his own father? Black immigrants have also endured punitive enforcement measures, I.C.E home invasions and a President, whom many would call brother, touting record deportations as a success as families are torn apart and dreams are destroyed. As President Obama has rolled out a platform of principles that echo right-wing priorities for increased enforcement and border militarizations, penalties and criminalization of migrants and a narrow path to citizenship, we must not be pacified. I call on fellow organizers, activists and freedom fighters to hold President Obama and the United States accountable, once again, to the ideals this country is supposed to be founded upon. We cannot afford to remain silent and our community can no longer wait for its dreams
Blog post by Terence Courtney, BAJI Southeast Regional Organizer
As I approach 2013, I can’t help but reflect on 2012 to help jump start conceiving of future strategies that will advance the mission of BAJI (Racial Equity, Economic Justice, & Immigrant Rights) next year. This time of year seems to call us to it. I ask myself what have been some common themes from the victories and failures that have fundamentally affected the forward march of our cause? What have been some powerful tactical approaches that changed the dynamics for creating social justice? Are there historical roots and corollaries that will help inform a theory I can learn from and apply today? These are deep questions. And while I can’t say I say I know all the answers, I believe I am starting to see some patterns.
December 13th 2013 will mark the one hundred tenth birthday of Ella Josephine Baker. Baker was an outstanding and extraordinary civil and human rights organizer who is often overlooked when we talk about leaders from the Civil Rights era. With a career that covered some of the most turbulent periods in US history (the 1930’s through 80’s), Ella Baker worked with and helped found some of the most iconic organizations in black American history. When we think of organizations like the NAACP, the SCLC, SNCC, and others, we have to place Baker as powerful agent for change in their pantheon of heroes. She often would travel throughout the south –alone- organizing people to fight Jim Crow. And this was during a time when it was extremely dangerous for black people to organize alone, especially black women.
Besides her heroism, Baker was brilliant theoretician. She developed a method of organizing that was set apart from what was traditionally being done. Her model of organizing called upon a more collectivized and egalitarian process that in many ways radically challenged the status quo, and gave people a vision of bettering their lives without falling into traps. And from what I see in the successes over the past year -one way or another- the lessons that Ella Baker taught so many years ago are alive and working.
Consider that Baker’s theory for change called upon 3 main elements: (1) Focus on grassroots organizing, or organizing that is rooted and springs forth from a community and their concerns, where they get to make decisions about their lives; (2) Prioritizing the people in that community who are most impacted by the issues, because they have the most at stake; and (3) prioritizing the use of Direct Action, to destroy fear and seriously challenge unjust powers. And one group in the Immigrant Rights struggle that has achieved victory by –perhaps not consciously- using the Ella Baker model is the Dream Activists. I’m very impressed by these young people who have changed minuses into pluses by going deeper.
Being undocumented, many Dream Activists are illegible to vote, and they live under the constant threat of imprisonment and deportation. Yet, they have not let those hurdles stop them from making real change. Like black people under Jim Crow who similarly found themselves disenfranchised, Dream Activists found that they had more than one way to improve their lives; they began to organize their communities, prioritize those most affected by the attack on Immigrants, and utilize direct action. As one blog written on the Dream Activist website says, they got Back to Basics. And doing this enabled them to bypass the morass of Washington DC, and force the hand of Obama; making him sign an Executive Order called the “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” And whereas many groups would have rested on the laurels of this improvement, the Dream Activists that I’ve spoken with are not placated by the Order, its small scope, or expiration date of Feb 28, 2013. They know that if they can achieve this victory, there is more to come if they keep doing what they’re doing.
My hats off to them, and I think Ella Baker would be proud. So, it seems to me that there are some lessons the rest of us who are concerned with Immigrant Rights, Human Rights, or even Civil Rights can learn, or re-learn from Dream Activist and the Ella Baker model. As the centrists and right wingers continue to try to chip away at our voting rights, we need to keep in mind that we secured our voting rights by using direct action, and it perhaps by using these lessons we can protect past gains, and fight for more.
Blog post by Tia Oso, BAJI Arizona Organizer
BAJI Phoenix has focused this fall on educating a wide variety of populations on the importance of solidarity in the journey for migrant justice and cross-racial alliance building for successful progressive movements. Arizona Organizer, Tia Oso, was featured as a panelist in the Arizona State University’s Healing Racism Community Dialogue Race and the Border: At the Intersection of Fear, Immigration and Justice on October 9, 2012. Tia took the opportunity to elevate the conversation beyond personal attitudes about race, to systemic effects of racism, including the use of racial profiling in laws like SB1070 and the effective shutout of Black men from the U.S. workforce due to felonies in their backgrounds. White Supremacy, global capitalism and systemic exploitation must enter the discourse to have an accurate picture of the forces behind anti-immigrant laws, policies and attitudes. The experience of African-Americans in the U.S. is extremely pertinent and interconnected with that of immigrants of color, especially when it comes to jobs and the criminal justice system. Recognizing this fact, BAJI continues to lift this perspective in critical conversations, such as the ACLU Immigrant Rights Project conference, which took place October 10th, 2012 in Oakland, CA. Too often overlooked in migrant justice advocacy is the story of Black immigrants, as well as the importance of engaging African-Americans in progressive movement building.
As a participant in the U.S. Human Rights Network Southwest Regional Conference and Human Rights training, discussion focused on using the United Nations Convention to Eliminate all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to bring international attention to the critical condition of people of color in the United States. Attended by several grassroots organizations and individual activists, it was sobering to hear the stories of how systemic racism continues to devastate people’s lives in a myriad of ways. Even those who seek refuge and asylum in the United States are faced with challenges brought by xenophobia and discrimination. Arizona receives a number of refugees through the United States Refugee resettlement program. At the Faith Based Summit on refugee resettlement on November 1, 2012, faith based institutions representing many belief systems, non-profit agencies, government agencies and advocates came together to discuss the unique challenges and the charge of providing shelter, safety and tools for navigating life in the U.S. to immigrants forced from their home countries. BAJI’s perspective on identifying and naming the unique challenges faced by Black immigrants was valued and necessary.
Increasingly, with the shifting demographics and the clearly multi-racial and increasingly progressive leadership shown possible in the recent National election, it is more important than ever that we use critical analysis and a multi-level approach to answering the challenges to economic and social justice. Educating the community is a key-part of the process and BAJI Arizona will work with the Greater Phoenix Urban League to offer a series of political education forums beginning in December 2012. The series is aimed at providing in-depth perspective and encouraging dialogue around issues affecting communities of color. Through these and other initiatives, BAJI Arizona is dedicated to being a voice for truth and real change.
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration invites you to our 5th Anniversary Dinner and Awards Ceremony. Come celebrate 5 years of work in the community and help us recognize those who have helped to ignite a movement.
Founder Awards – Rev. Phillip Lawson and Rev. Kelvin Sauls
Ally Award – Priority Africa Network
Community Activist Award – Catherine Tactaquin, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Community Activist Award - Pierre LaBosierre, Co-founder, Haiti Action Committee
Young Leaders Award - R.I.S.E. Immigration Research Team, Berkeley High School
Saturday, June 4, 2011
5:30 pm: Reception & Silent Auction
7:00 pm: Dinner and Program
Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California
1433 Madison Street, Oakland 94612
Tickets are $60. Please purchase at: http://bit.ly/BAJI5year
Facebook Event Page.
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) is an organization founded in Oakland, California in 2006 to engage African Americans and other communities in a dialogue that leads to actions that challenge U.S. immigration policy and the underlying issues of race, racism and economic inequity that frame it.
BAJI is an education and advocacy group comprised of African Americans and black immigrants from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. BAJI’s goals are: 1) to develop a core group of African Americans who are prepared to actively support immigrant rights; and 2) to facilitate the building of relationships and alliances between African American and immigrant communities around a range of social issues to further the mutual cause of economic and social justice for all.
BAJI works to expose the ways in which racism and economic globalization have negatively impacted African American and immigrant communities alike, giving them common cause to fight together for economic and social justice for all peoples. BAJI’s strategy is to provide education and information to African American communities about the commonality of interests between African Americans and immigrants of color and to give technical assistance and training to leaders and organizers in communities of color.
In the past 5 years we’ve done various things including:
+ Led numerous “Conversations on Immigration” in local African American churches;
+ held public forums on Black Diaspora issues such as ‘Imprisonment of African Immigrants in Europe’;
+ Worked with various Inter-Faith initiatives around immigration and immigrant rights issues;
+ Active in Local May Day Immigrant Rights Demonstrations since 2006;
+Worked in local immigrant rights coalitions with Latino & Asian organizations;
+A major organization in the Oakland City I.D. card campaign ;
+ Collaborated with local groups working against car impoundments; for multi-language translation of Public documents; and most recently against the DHS-“Secure Communities” program;
+ Sponsored “Africa Diaspora Dialogues” between Africans and African Americans along with the Priority Africa Network; attempting to build unity along political and cultural lines;
+Collaborated with the Oakland Museum of California as part of the planning and publicity for the Museum’s “Africans in Mexico” Exhibition;
+Sponsored Tele-Conferences with prominent academics and activists on topical Black Diaspora issues;
On a the national and international level we’ve done the following:
+ Led campaigns to secure Temporary Protective Status for both Haitians and Liberians in the U.S.;
+ Active participant in both the U.S and World Social Forum processes 2007 -2011;
+ Founding members of the Pan African Network in Defense of Migrant Rights – participated in founding meetings in Bamako, Mali, Mexico City, Mexico and Dakar, Senegal;
+ Set up the Black Immigration Network (B.I.N.) as an advocacy network for Black Immigrants in the U.S.;
+ Led a delegation of Black Pastors to Phoenix, Arizona for the May 29th Rally in 2010;
+ Participated in various national and state conferences on Immigration and related topics;
+ Along with the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos and the National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, BAJI led the first all-Black delegation for a Tour of the Mexico/Arizona border in 2007;
+ Published 2 editions of the BAJI Reader;
+ Published the Report – Crossing Boundaries, Connecting Communities: Alliance Building for Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice. detailed case studies of 16 organizations from across the country that are forging effective cross racial alliances between immigrant and native-born communities in order to build power and win just policies and practices in their communities.