Militarism, Surveillance, and Police Terror in Alameda County

Sep 29, 2015   //   Blog, Surveillance  

Post by Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer

urbanshieldThe Alameda County Sheriff wants authorization from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to execute an agreement on behalf of the District Attorney’s office for a telephone tracking technology upgrade in the amount of $113,419 for the period 8/31/15 – 12/31/15. The technology referred to is commonly known as the “Stingray” tracking device. When cellphones within its range connect, it harvests the IMSI from all of them, which could include data from thousands of unsuspecting people. If the authorities have the IMSI of a subject — which sheriff’s officials said they wouldn’t obtain without a search warrant — they can focus on where the phone’s signal is coming from and, after moving the device a few times, triangulate a location to within 10 feet.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) would fund this “Stingray” tracking device upgrade. UASI is DHS funding offered to localities across the nation to prepare, train, and equip first responders for terrorism and disaster situations. In order to receive funding for training, equipment, and other programs, UASI requires a “nexus to terrorism,”  which the government uses to ensure that all law enforcement and first responders take action in emergency situations in a militarized fashion. With the “Stingray” upgrade, first responders could have the capacity to invade the privacy of thousands of unsuspecting people. The perceived threat of terrorism and programs like UASI have militarized local law enforcement agencies and provided them with the ability to mass surveill communities, bringing the War on Terror to communities of color in the US. Our communities are not safer when first responders have war weapons and surveillance equipment.

The militarization of local law enforcement has been used to terrorize the Black Community here in Oakland. During public comment at the Board of Supervisors meeting on September 29th, 2015, I was able to raise the case of Yuvette Henderson who was a Black Mother shot and killed in Oakland by Emeryville Police Department. She was killed with 3 different weapons, one of which being an AR-15, a military weapon. There’s another case of police terror in the recent killing of an Ethiopian refugee, Yonas Alehegne, who was left gunned down bleeding out in the street. Please click here to help Yonas’ family transport his body back to Ethiopia for a proper burial. In the video post, one can hear someone screaming,  “he’s dying someone help him. Someone get the ambulance, he’s almost dead.” Instead of getting help, the officers proceeded as though Yonas was able to attack and left him in the street to bleed out, weapons still pointed towards him. This is one case of many. Police in Oakland are terrorizing Black and Brown communities and we must be able to identify and address root causes to this issue. One of which being the Urban Area Security Initiative.

All new contracts and renewals of any and all programs, equipment, trainings, etc. related to the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) should be evaluated by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors individually given their connection to the increased militarization of local law enforcement agencies. This means that they should not be passed through standard mass motions in Board of Supervisor Meetings. The Department of Homeland Security is using this fund to militarize and mass surveill communities of color, i.e: “urban areas”, bringing the War on Terror to our backyards.

Join the Stop Urban Shield Coalition at the next Board of Supervisors meeting on October 13, 2015 at 10:45am to demand the Board of Supervisors vote no on the “Stingray” tracking device upgrade! Additionally, join as we continue our fight to Stop Alameda County’s participation in Urban Shield; a militarized SWAT training and weapons/technology exposition. We must continue to resist militarism, criminalization, and the mass surveillance of our communities.

Representation Matters

Sep 22, 2015   //   Blog, identity  

We Need to See More Stories Reflecting a Variety of Black Experiences


“The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity,” “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” – Emmy Award Winner Viola Davis

On Sunday, Viola Davis became the first Black woman awarded the Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama. During her very moving acceptance speech, in which she quoted Harriet Tubman, Davis highlighted the fact that women of color are not often featured in roles such as hers in How to Get Away with Murder, and championed the increased portrayals of Black women on primetime television.

Indeed, Sunday’s Emmy Awards proved to be a night of #BlackGirlMagic as Regina King, Uzoamaka Adubo and Viola Davis won honors in their respective categories. Their achievements are notable and an encouraging sign that more opportunities are becoming available for women of color in significant roles. Along with this increased representation comes the demand for even more diversity and complexity of Black characters and stories.

Uzoamaka Aduba, won her second Emmy award for her portrayal of “Crazy Eyes” in the Netflix Series and breakout hit Orange is the New Black. In an interview with Mother Jones Aduba, a first generation American born to Nigerian parents in Boston, MA,  shared her dream to see more stories like hers on the big screen:

“I want to tell the stories of the missing—the people we don’t see in our daily narratives, whose voices aren’t heard. In terms of biopics, I’m drawn to the Nina Simones of the world, the Leontyne Prices, the Marian Andersons. African stories are missing. First-generation stories. Female-driven stories. I would love to see my own story, because I know I’m not alone in being where I’m from.” Aduba shared.

Aduba is right to dream big, it is still rare to see complex portrayals of Black stories in mainstream culture, and rarer still to see those of African or Caribbean immigrant families. With the critically acclaimed and awarded success of these fine actresses, perhaps Hollywood will look to incorporate more stories that feature these stories. Maybe a Haitian American family that is seeking to bring  their loved ones to the U.S. following the earthquake, or a multi-generational Nigerian family and their experiences, like in the pilot for Yvonne Orji’s sitcom FirstGen seeking a major network now.

Representation in pop culture matters beyond entertainment value. Studies show that media portrayals of Black people as criminals has an affect on perceptions and treatments of Black people in real life, including in interactions with police, teachers and other people in authority. The overwhelming negative images, with no counterbalance contribute to implicit and overt bias, with devastating results.  Though mass media and pop culture are no excuse for the dehumanization and discriminatory treatment of Black people in our society, the fact is that media and culture are a function of the system and every effort can and  should be made to present more nuanced and varied stories of Black people in film and television.

As sisters like Uzo and Viola continue to break records and leap over barriers, I look forward to a variety of Black stories breaking through onto my TV screen.

The Root Names Opal Tometi in Top 100 List

Sep 15, 2015   //   Blog, Opal Tometi, Press  

Exciting news!! We are delighted to share that The Root has named Executive Director of BAJI, Opal Tometi, in their Top 100 List. Congratulations, Opal!!

OT - The Root

#TheWakeUp: How This Movement Moves

Sep 8, 2015   //   Black Lives Matter, Blog, events, racial justice  

It is not often that movement moves, and politics finds its rhythm. But that is exactly what is going to happen at The WakeUp, a morning dance party

3 DJ's, 2 Organizations, 1 Movement

3 DJ’s, 2 Organizations, 1 Movement

supporting Black Lives Matter NYC and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. The Wake Up is from 7am-9am tomorrow [9/7] at C’mon Everybody. This movement for Black lives will follow the tradition of past movements that moved with their own great music.

In many ways, music is the narrator of this current moment. Despite thousands of statements written and spoken no one is completely certain about the impact and direction of this current movement. The most accurate measure of the difference between the current movement and those of the past may be their sheet music. We can see it in how resistance has marched with Lil Boosie and Nelly while at the same time presenting a politics that exceeds the misogynistic and capitalist confines of the particular musicians, showing us that the break is just as important as the beat. The notes and cadence of this current uprising is heard in artists like Tef Poe and the current movement anthem ‘We Gon’ Be Alright,’ by Kendrick Lamar.  The politics of the artists aside this moment, preceding or in the middle of movement, chose them. In a now well-known incident at the Cleveland conference, Movement for Black Lives activists confronted police arresting a Black teenager. After the child was returned to their mother the group erupted into Kendrick’s ‘We Gon’ Be Alright,’ and a small butterfly floated above the crowd.

The WakeUp is a gesture to this tradition, and a new one of presenting principles that exceed the political or artistic tools that are available. BLM NYC has led locally on direct actions for Black women like #SayHerName and #BlackTransLiberationTuesday that present a challenge to movement: asking how we can address the needs of Black women and girls. This is not just a change in movement rhythm but also a break in the beat that for this new hip-hop generation that has enormous creative potential. And like the music that animates this generation, BAJI has pushed movement agendas that span the globe. We have led locally and nationally on the current crisis in the Dominican Republic, and presented a framework to the movement for Black lives that understands antiblackness as global reality. BLM NYC and BAJI came together in the Safety Beyond Policing collective to resist Mayor De Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s NYPD expansion efforts and help our community imagine safety on our own terms. Safety Beyond Policing continues in a new phase as we address the surveillance and impact of “community policing.” When it comes to policing we are drawing on the past and providing important breaks from tradition.

This and much more lies in a shout, the beat, and the span of swaying hips and limbs. Tomorrow morning our chants will sound like music because our music sounds like protest. There will be room for everyone at C’mon Everybody, so bring a friend and the entire family. This will be a dry party where you can get some breakfast, contribute to two amazing organizations, and find a new rhythm.

A video posted by BAJI (@instabaji) on

NILC Honors Opal Tometi with 2015 Courageous Luminaries Award

Sep 3, 2015   //   awards, Blog, Opal Tometi  

We are delighted to announce Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter, Opal Tometi, a recipient of the The National Immigration Law Center’s 2015 Courageous Luminaries Award. Join us in Los Angeles on October 1, 2015 for this tremendous honor!


Reflections As We Approach 9-11-15

Sep 1, 2015   //   African immigrants, Blog, racial justice, Surveillance  

Post by Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 9.32.51 PMWe are approaching 14 years after the September 11th attacks in 2001 and we are still enduring its aftermath. The reality is that the U.S. exploited this tragedy to broaden its global hegemony in a never ending “war on terror” and to further criminalize communities of color in the U.S. Many activists in the AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian) community have been fighting the Islamophobic and Xenophobic government and societal response to the 9-11 attacks which has negatively impacted their community through mass criminalization and surveillance, increased hate crimes, and discrimination in schools and the workforce to say the least. But Black Muslim and Black Immigrants’ experience are often silenced through dominant narratives on the the post-911 era. We must understand that there are levels of anti-Blackness in the Xenophobic and Islamophobic response to the September 11th attacks. For example,
Somali-American students in Owatonna, MN reported that they were severely harassed by their classmates and disproportionately disciplined by school officials”.

By honing in on the Black experience in this era, we see the connections between the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. We must first acknowledge that the state had already been waging a War on Drugs when the War on Terror was declared. Domestically, the War on Terror served as a vehicle to expand the State War on Drugs practice and policy of Mass Criminalization. The impact of this expanded the capacity of the state to lock up communities of color through the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and expansion of federal collaboration with local law enforcement agencies.

Before 2001, the inclusion of civil immigration records in the NCIC [National Crime Information Center] had not yet been approved by Congress. Less than a year after September 11, 2001 data on criminal and civil immigration violations began to be integrated into the NCIC system, culminating in the creation of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System.”

During this era, Mexican Nationals made up 71% of immigration violations, African or Carribean Immigrants 8%, and Asian or Middle Eastern 4%. These figures indicate that Black Immigrants were overrepresented approximately 5 times their actual presence within the larger undocumented community.

We must lift up Black Muslim and Black Immigrants’ experience in order to complicate the narrative around who was impacted by post 911 backlash AND we must complicate the narrative on whom society views as a terrorist as we approach 9-11-15.

This year alone police killings have increased, 9 Black people were killed while in Church in Charleston, several church burnings occurred and went largely unnoticed, and there is a current state of emergency in regards to recent killings of Trans Black Women. This is terrorism. Black people have been terrorized by the Police, White Supremacist Vigilantes (who are infiltrating local law enforcement agencies and the military), ICE, Transphobic Violence, and much more. Much of this is state-sponsored and we see much of this over and over through our social networks which have exposed the conditions.

As we approach 9-11, let us reject militaristic notions of safety and challenge state terrorism that is being waged on Black Lives and communities of color at home and abroad.

Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise: 10 Years since Katrina, Black Communities in Resistance and Recovery

Aug 25, 2015   //   Blog, Campaigns, Katrina, racial justice  

Post by: Tia Oso, National Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network

On August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the costliest natural disaster and one of the five deadliest Hurricanes ever in the history of the U.S. Devastating to a nearly immeasurable degree, the property and environmental damage suffered throughout the Gulf South region has been calculated in the billions of dollars. And while recovery efforts will be  celebrated this month by some government and corporate institutions, this belies the human cost of the storm and flood damages in the days following which have yet to be properly measured or compensated. In fact many of the most lauded recovery efforts have been damaging, including the privatizing of the Louisiana public school system. Instead, this moment calls fur us to solemnly reflect and assess the state of Black communities impacted by the storm, still healing, still recovering and still fighting to be free. Black leaders across the region created Gulf South Risingto lift the leadership of the people on the frontlines as the region moves from recovery to resistance.

We must never forget the way that Black residents in the cities hardest hit, most notably New Orleans, were abandoned, attacked, abused and neglected in the days following Katrina. As the world watched President George W. Bush fly over the scene, and government agencies such as FEMA and non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross scrambled to provide a woefully inadequate response, one thing became abundantly clear, to paraphrase Kanye West, [America] doesn’t care about Black people.

In the ten years since Katrina, Black communities have withstood and are withstanding with incredible courage and creativity the highs and lows on the path to liberation, with the sometimes faint  but unmistakeable drum beat of resistance. We stand with our brothers and sisters of the region, which holds so much history of the depths of the Black experience of captivity and fight for freedom in the U.S., we must remember our past to draw from it the strength to stand and fight together for our future.

Colette Pichon Battle, BIN Member and Director of Gulfcoast Center for Law and Policy      


Black Lives Matter Visits Cuba

Aug 17, 2015   //   Blog  

A group of Black Lives Matter activists reflect on the lessons they learned during a recent solidarity trip to Cuba.

By Anita, Chapter Coordinator and Community Organizer with Black Lives Matter,
Amity, the BYP100 NYC Communications Co-chair,
Shannon, Organizing Committee member of the NYC Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Outreach Director for 2013 documentary film Black and Cuba.

“Venceremos, my favorite word in Spanish, crossed my mind. Ten million people had stood up to the monster. Ten million people only ninety miles away. We were here together in their land, my small little family, holding each other after so long. There was no doubt about it, our people would one day be free. The cowboys and bandits didn’t own the world.” – Assata Shakur

Ninety miles south of the United States is a truly different world. As Black Lives Matter activists, from various groups in the movement,  who have been calling for massive structural, political and social changes in our country, we decided to see just what change can actually look like. So in late July we came together with 45 strangers to embark on a life-changing journey to visit and learn about Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade.

In 1969, a coalition of young people formed the Venceremos, “We Shall Overcome”, Brigade, in order to show solidarity with the Cuban revolution and challenge U.S. policies towards Cuba, including the economic blockade and our government’s ban on travel to the island. Our trip, like those that came before us, consisted of work, educational activities, and travel.

We were introduced to a highly educated, politically conscious and diverse society that our government has tried to keep us from for more than 50 years. We met resilient, inspirational, loving people who taught us about generosity, community, humility, and the one simple truth of socialism: that people are consistently prioritized over profit. We found that even within socialism, racial justice is a struggle that must be fought for and encouraged. While we cannot claim to be Cuban experts after one or two weeks, we did learn a great deal about ourselves and what it will mean to continue to build and win a revolutionary movement in our own country.

The three of us — Anita, Chapter Coordinator and Community Organizer with Black Lives Matter; Amity, the BYP100 NYC Communications Co-chair and Shannon, organizing committee member with the NYC Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Outreach Director for 2013 documentary film Black and Cuba– came with different perspectives, met and bonded over our questions and analysis of the experiences we had during the trip.

(L to R: Amity, Shannon, and Anita)

We found that In Cuba, people do not like to talk about race.








For Cuba, racial discrimination is a curse that both fled the country with the Cuban exiles and stayed behind with the revolution. 

To be fair to the Cuban revolution, many of the Black Lives Matter movement’s “radical” demands to alleviate the effects of structural racism have been fulfilled in Cuba: all education (including higher education) is free, healthcare is free, housing is subsidized, healthy food is subsidized, and more. In 1962 the Cuban government declared the end of racial discrimination through the implementation of these egalitarian policies.  In the U.S., racism is aggressive and deadly, systemic and carefully calculated. Although not fully eradicated, we found it true that Cuba’s socialist model diminishes the presence of structural racism and Cubans rightfully take pride in being more socially advanced than the U.S. in their “pursuit” for racial equality.

But, more than 50 years into the ongoing revolutionary project in Cuba, racial equality has still not been fully achieved and is often not addressed directly. While Cuba is an amazing example of how socialism can work to benefit the good of all people, Cuba is also proof that socialism or any tactic other than deliberately and intentionally working towards eradicating institutional and structural racism will not yield total racial equality.

But, it is 2015 and Cuba still does not like talking about race and if you try, we learned, you may be seen as an enemy to Cuban unity. As we attempted to delve deeper into racial conversations while on our trip, we gained a deeper understanding of the possible reasons this response was so common.

We were told “structural racism doesn’t exist in cuba,” after all, the country was unified under the spirit of Cuban nationalism, the people are one. In fact, in the face of American imperialism Cuba needed to come together as a nation inclusive of race, in order to fend off violent physical, psychological and ideological attacks from the United States.  White, Black, and “Mestizo” or “Mulatto” Cubans fought side by side for justice against the oppressive ruling class of Americans and their Cuban business partners. In America we are Black Americans or White Americans, we fall (or are placed) into clearly marked categories that have been promoted to divide us for centuries. This difference presented a confusing paradox for us as we learned and traveled through Cuba.

What does it mean to an anti-racist movement if everyone– black, white, racist or ally– belongs to us?

Esteban Morales Domínguez, one of Cuba’s most prominent Afro-Cuban intellectuals and a leading authority on race in the country, told us that “when someone is racist towards you, you have a big responsibility in that moment. You can either make a friend or a foe in that moment.” For Amity, who is biracial, this reminded her of the relationship she has with white family members where she feels ownership and responsibility for them even when they say or do racist things. The idea is, if everyone, even a racist, belongs to you and your society, you are responsible both the your aggressor and to society as a whole in that moment.

 We were at an impasse. Almost every pivotal moment for African Americans in the United States has shown that this is not a reality that society affords us. While our allies have been strong and unyielding, on a national scale we are not treated like we belong and have consistently faced violence from our neighbors and even the state. The love of a family member is not present when dealing with American society’s racism on a larger scale and the three of us do not believe that it mentally or physically is safe for an oppressed person to have the inherent task of educating their oppressors. We have each advocated for white allies to take a more active role in responding to and educating racist Americans. We want to deal with the permanent racist element in our country in more holistic, balanced and safe ways in order to build a more supportive society for all of us.

It was particularly affecting for us to hear Esteban say this, especially when most white Cubans we met did not like to talk about or admit that racism even exists in Cuba. But you can use your eyes to see. Black Cubans do not have access to economic liberty in the same way that white Cubans do. This can especially be seen in the booming tourism industry in Cuba where economist and labor leaders told us that many Cuban businesses are owned and ran primarily by white Cubans. Much like in the U.S. for Black Americans, it is more common to see Black Cubans behind the scenes– in the kitchen as cleaners rather than servers, as performers rather than managers.

For many of us Black folx on the trip, the non Black Cubans’ approach to racial discrimination felt very similar to #AllLivesMatter, a dismissive response to the urgency and need for #BlackLivesMatter in the U.S. It felt silencing and hurtful. Especially when one Cuban government economist claimed that “institutional racism does not exist in Cuba,” only racism on the individual level, therefore making it a problem that cannot be solved by the State.  Especially when we Black Brigadistas experienced and witnessed racism in Cuba and in our own group. Our last night in Cuba, for example, Shannon was approached by two light-skinned Cuban men and aggressively implored to bleach her skin “in order to be prettier” after spending two weeks in a country where race was treated as a second-thought. This triggering incident made us think- if this happened to just one of us, how many dark-skinned Cuban girls are growing up with this type of violent messaging about their place in the world?

We were once again being told how to feel, see, and witness what it is like being Black.

This is an experience that is shared by both Black Cubans and Black Americans alike. In Cuba there are folk songs, monuments and effigies to the heroes of the revolution, the victors who freed the country from the cruelty of the dictator Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar and the strong arm of U.S. imperialism and enacted a total socialist revolution. The most prominent of these heroes are the three comandantes:

  1. Fidel Castro, revolutionary leader turned prime minister and president

  2. Camilo Cienfuegos, leader of rebel forces who tragically disappeared when his plane went missing less than a year into rebel forces winning the country’s governance

  3. Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the man with one of the most identifiable faces in the world, top Comandante and a symbol of revolution worldwide.

Over and over again we saw images of these men on t-shirts, highway signs, murals, memorials, posters and in the songs and talks we had with Cubans. From the siege of the Moncada Military Barracks for weapons led by a young Fidel Castro to Che Guevara’s bombing of an armed military train and subsequent capture of the city of Santa Clara to the folk tale of Camilo Cienfuegos standing in the middle of an open field, cigar in mouth, shooting at a Batista fighter jets– these heroes are the stuff of legend.

The fact that these three — good looking, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, white, Latino men coming from class, education and privilege — became the leaders of a poor and working class socialist revolution did not escape us involved in the BLM movement.

They are shining, untouchable, messianic figures revered in by Cubans as the “Trilogia de la Revolucion Cubana” similar to white Americans reverence of the founding fathers and Black Americans love of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Though their valor and heroic deeds were revolutionary and produced real change, their total visibility takes up space where Afro-Cubans, women and LGBTQ people should also share some glory.

Though Celia Sanchez emerges as one of the most beloved Cuban women from the revolution she is not treated to the same mythic proportions as the three comandantes. Although the revolution granted women equal status in the eyes of the law, protection from workplace discrimination, comprehensive maternity leave and the right to choose their efforts are not heralded as loudly. Much of the same social and interpersonal sexism and marginalization persists in Cuban society. LGBTQ of all genders experienced increased homophobia and transphobia during the revolution  (Fidel was openly homophobic) and, although progressive legislation has passed, sex-reassignment surgery has been available for almost three decades day to day life is still riddled with homophobia and transphobia.

La Trilogia de la Revolucion Cubana’s prominence continues the marginalization of these communities- communities that have always carried the brunt of the burden of the oppressive state and does the hardest, dirtiest work in eradicating it. In 20th century movements for social justice abroad and domestically cis, straight men are still typically the most prevalent figures to emerge, we see this as a detriment to the movements as a whole.

We thankfully saw another difference between our own movement and that of revolutionary Cuba. Standing in the Museum of the Revolution looking at the statue of these three pointing up and outward, named the “Trilogia de la Revolucion Cubana”  we couldn’t help but feel genuinely grateful for the community that Black Lives Matter has created that doesn’t ask us to repress any parts of ourselves for the greater good.

We wish we had come from girlhood to womanhood with the powerful image of  Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors the founders and leaders of Black Lives Matter leading the greatest movement for Black liberation in the 21st century. Seeing Black women in open communion with each other and even more open dissent against a powerful, oppressive regime is crucial in countering the harmful narratives of popular media that tells young, Black women to turn up on each other and be complacent with our position in society. Their leadership, action and humility are emblematic of a new dawn of social revolution that centers Black femmes of all fashion- queer, trans, cis, poor, working-class, differently abled. We know we can all be part of the movement because they are. In the words of Opal Tometi,  they want a leaderful movement because they believe can,

“create much more room for collaboration, for expansion, for building power when we nurture movements that are full of leaders, and allow for all of our identities to inform our work and how we organize. This then allows for leadership to emerge from our intersecting identities, rather than to be organized around one notion of Blackness. Because of this, we resist the urge to consolidate our power and efforts behind one charismatic leader.”

Not only did they selflessly create the platform for revolutionary leadership and organizing, but they don’t need the glorification of owning the movement and they don’t ask that any of us tone any parts of ourselves down.  This is what revolutionary Black femme-led leadership looks like.  The Cuban revolution was successful in creating a socialist economic and political system but its cis, white, hetero male leadership had the blinders of patriarchy on and they remained unable, or unwilling in some cases, to fight for the complete liberation of all Cubans.

Luckily Cubans realize the revolution is an ongoing, ever growing national project.

Unlike movements in the U.S. which have historically had beginnings and ends, the revolution in Cuba never ended. Coming from the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S., we are very grateful and inspired by the results of the ongoing revolutionary efforts by the Cuban people.

As our own imperialist, racist country begins to open up relations with Cuba, we fear that our own communities will become a force that enhances the very racism and inequality we strive to eradicate at home. We challenge our movement and our country to study Cuba and travel with care and thoughtfulness as our country makes Cuba more accessible to us. And for those Black, queer, cis and trans Cubans who are still feeling the brunt of oppression, Black Lives Matter is a worldwide call to action in full support of your continued organizing for liberation and we will continue to lift you up and stand in solidarity until we are all free. Venceremos!

Surveillance and Black Political Futures

Post by Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, BAJI NYC Organizer

There is something different about the air we are breathing today. As much as we are expecting something there is also a sense that by our every action history is expecting us. The arc of history does not naturally bend in a particular direction so BAJI and the Black Immigration Network joined hundreds of activists and organizations in Cleveland for the Movement for Black Lives Convening (M4BL). We expected to get some answers, but we may have left with more interesting questions.

cle1Many of you have heard about the confrontation with police officers at the end of the convening but our first confrontation with security forces came during a night out at a local Cleveland lounge. What appeared to be an especially powerful night out for Black activists turned Michael Jackson werewolves and afro-beat mavens was in reality laced with aggression as Black trans men and women were surveilled throughout the night as they used facilities many take for granted. In response marching orders came from the DJ booth but for many the story that a Black trans man was forcibly removed from a bathroom came by mouth to mouth under the din of music cutting across the dimly lit lounge. We changed rhythms from dance to protest and the music stopped.

Mark Winston-Griffith argued convincingly that, “Black Love Matters.” If this principle of Black love is as central to our new rhythm then we must come to terms with the modes of surveillance different Black bodies face. This can be frightening and it is fear that in part explains the erasure of Black people who have no hope of translation, citizenship, or basic empathy. But if we are honest we are all under surveillance because anxiety over Black movement as any immigrant will tell you is central to understanding policing, the American Dream, or anything for that matter. And for that matter we can take for granted that M4BL was under heavy surveillance.

Convening attendee Dr. Brittany Cooper, wrote about the many times “leaders vocally reminded attendees that this space was not safe from surveillance.” Ric Wilson, a musician and BYP 100 member based in Chicago talked about how “folks had an idea they were gonna pull something like that” even before the confrontation with police that he documented extensively. It has also been noted that coming at the end of the convening “the timing was surreal,” for the arrest and pepper-spraying. Not only was the convening ending but this police aggression happened as buses holding many of the attendees had just left.

cle2Today, and always, the “threat actors” are Black protestors not agents of anti-Black violence. Baltimore, Cleveland, and of course the federal government want to maintain surveillance over Black communities. But it’s not just government agents we can safely categorize outreach from mainstream politicians as a form of surveillance especially we consider how all political parties engage Black organizers. Hillary Clinton in particular sent her black outreach director, LaDavia Drane, to meet with unknown convening attendees in a dialogue that intentionally “went largely under the radar.” While we were at the convening we held a workshop on our Safety Beyond Policing campaign where we made it clear that our neighborhoods will begin to see a new form of surveillance under the “community policing” framework.

We are building something new but we have been here before; the era is different, the communication platforms are faster and broader but the need to surveil Black movement has not changed. The emphasis on symbolic politics where protest and direct actions are central is transitioning to or being combined with an increased focus on strategy and policy. This transition is important because it is at this moment that surveillance from political parties, law enforcement will exert themselves using “some among us who …had their own agendas, who sought to prove discord and confusion.”

In this new era where the language of progressive politics is being used to enhance policing our communities have to be very cautious and disciplined with our political agendas, organizing, and our very lives.

Real Story Behind European Migration Crisis

Real Story Behind European Migration Crisis

by Opal Tometi, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration

This past month I had the opportunity to travel to Europe and meet with immigrant rights activists from Greece, Russia, Germany, Brussels, France and more – and the common story that I heard was that economic hardships were leading to increased migration and migrant and refugee presence was being criminalized through various means across the continent of Europe.

In this video I shot and edited, Koray Yilmaz-Gunay, a Turkish immigrant who works with the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation and Migration Council of Berlin, discusses the root causes of migration across Europe and the political crisis that leads to tens of thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean Sea each year.

Tia Oso’s Statement on the SayHerName Action at Netroots

I Am the Black Woman Who Interrupted the Netroots Presidential Town Hall, and This Is Why

Tia Oso, National Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network and BAJI Arizona Organizer

“I felt I was the right person to open the action and shift the focus of the program, especially in the context of the conference theme of “Immigration.” I am a native to Arizona, the child of a Nigerian immigrant father and African-American mother, whose parents were migrant farm workers, aka “Okies.” I also served for three years as the Arizona organizer (and continue to work as the National Organizer) with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the premier racial justice and migrant rights organization in the U.S. As I shared in my remarks on Saturday, racial justice intersects with all progressive issues, especially immigration. Black immigrants experience a double oppression, as they must contend with both the reality of racial discrimination in America as well as its complicated and punitive immigration system.

Feeling dissatisfied with Netroots’ framing of black issues and the narrow focus of its immigration-themed activities, I worked with Phoenix-based organizers to create #BlackRoots, a space to focus on black perspectives and connect national organizers with local black community members.

Saturday’s action was powerful. Black organizers claimed our rightful place at the front of the progressive movement. Allies from Latino, Asian, LGBT and other communities stood in solidarity with us as we called the names of black women killed in police custody, expressed our heartbreaking requests to the community should we ourselves die in police custody and looked on as respected and revered progressive leaders were woefully unable to answer our reasonable question as to how they will lead America to a brighter future.”

Originally posted on, read the full article here.


Stop Zoologizing Africans Campaign Victory!

Jul 14, 2015   //   Africa, Blog, Campaigns, racial justice  

By Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer and Rufaro Gwarada, Priority Africa Network

A Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and Priority Africa Network (PAN) Bay Area Collaborative.

sza1On Monday, July 13th 2015 the Oakland Zoo announced its closure of the ‘African Village Display’:

“Due to the concerns of some members in our community, the Traditional East African Women’s Dwelling, located at Oakland Zoo has now been closed. The Zoo will re-purpose this location to highlight our efforts surrounding the conservation of African elephants and the ivory trade”.

This marks a major victory for Bay Area community members of the African Diaspora and our allies who have fought for the removal of this exhibit since mid-2014 under the leadership of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Priority Africa Network.

In 2014 members of the African Diaspora, Bay Area community, and friends engaged with The Oakland Zoo demanding the removal of the ‘African Village’ exhibit by launching a petition demanding the removal of the African Village Display. The Oakland Zoo did not respond.

The Oakland Zoo established ‘The African Village’ in 1998-99 noting: “the buildings in the area replicate a Kikuyu village … [with] authentic African artwork, cultural exhibits in the nimbia hut, and, periodically, South African dance and music bring the village to life.”

This description of the exhibit plays into colonial, centuries-old racist exotification and othering that devalues the humanity of Black Africans for profit and entertainment. It is notable that while there are wild animals from various other places around the world, including Asia, Australia, and the Americas, the Oakland Zoo does not exhibit the material culture of the racial and ethnic groups that live in these places. This is not a coincidence. The African Village Display was symbolic of white supremacist ideologies equating Blackness to Wild Animals. This anti-Black racism has manifested time and again to dehumanize Black Lives!

A History of ‘Animalizing’ Black Lives

Sarah Baartman: Throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st century Sarah Baartman, a Khoisan Woman from South Africa was taken from her home, sold, then displayed as an exotic, abnormal spectacle in ‘freakshows’ in London and Paris. While alive, Sarah refused to be nude for displays. But following her death, Sarah’s body was dissected and studied. Her preserved genitalia, skeleton, and brain were displayed, emphasizing racist notions that Sarah was closer to being an ape, than to being a (superior) European. Sarah’s remains were only returned to and buried in South Africa in 2002.

Ota Benga:–Ota Benga, a young man from the Congo, was on display at the New York Zoological Gardens from 1904-1906. He was stolen from his home, in the Congo, then caged and put on display with monkeys and orangutans. Amid mounting pressure and a protracted battle by African American clergymen to free Ota Benga from captivity, and daily debasement, he was set free in 1906. Ota Benga died, of his own hand, in 1916 still distressed and longing for his home and people.

African Village Festival:  In 2005-there was an African Village Festival at the Augsburg Zoo in Germany. This was a ‘cultural’ festival featuring African jewelry, masks, food, and music, in the middle of the zoo. Despite protests, Zoo officials moved forward with the festival stating: ‘This event is intended to promote tolerance and international understanding as well as to bring African culture closer to the people of Augsburg’”.

Recently, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the Priority Africa Network (PAN) have organized multiple community members and organizations from the Bay Area to sign on to a letter to Oakland Zoo demanding the African Village Display removal. Amidst our organizing efforts, the Oakland Zoo responded to PAN’s Facebook post regarding the campaign and announced the closing of the ‘African Village’ Display.

Oakland Zoo’s closure of the African Village Display is a major step in the right direction. Our community wants to ensure that the Zoo will never again display human material culture. We request the following of Oakland Zoo:

  1. Public Statement, such as the one by San Francisco Zoo  denouncing the anti-Black attitudes that contributed to establishment of the ‘African Village’.
  2. An apology to the African Diaspora for contributing to an the dehumanization of  Black Lives.
  3. Commitment to never displaying human material culture in the Zoo again.
  4. Commitment to establishing clear channels for community members to engage with the Zoo to share concerns about any displays.
  5. Commitment to actively engage core constituencies to receive input with all new developments at Oakland Zoo.

Black Lives Matter, Beyond Borders

Jul 7, 2015   //   Blog, Dominican Republic, haiti, human rights, immigration, racism  

A call to action against Ethnic Cleansing in the Dominican Republic

Post by Tia Oso, National Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network and BAJI Arizona Organizer

DRThanks to grassroots activism led by Dominican American and Haitian American community activists, many are aware of the humanitarian crisis taking place in the Dominican Republic, where a government ruling has rendered over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian ancestry and Haitian migrants stateless. Ruling 168-13 by the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal was passed September 2013 specifically targets Haitian migrants and those with Haitian ancestry by denationalizing Dominicans born to Haitian parents prior to June 20, 1929, retroactively, as well as revoking civil documents and civil rights from recently arrived Haitian migrants. The harsh ruling requires that all affected be subject to apply for new identification documents and stipulates that any undocumented people are subject to immediate removal, as of the “regularization” deadline June 17.

This nationality law is a racist policy, targeting Dominicans of Haitian descent and those who appear Haitian based on their physical features, namely dark skin. Rooted in deep tensions and historical conflict between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, this current threat of expulsion is a continuation of ongoing ethnic violence. Many activists and scholars attribute this to anti-Black sentiment among some in Dominican society that seek to deny the mixed heritage of the Dominican Republic–the lasting scars of European colonial violence. The situation has bolstered a social and political climate putting Black people in harm’s way through xenophobic violence including public lynchings, raids and arson, which has and continues to drive people from their homes.

As a native to Arizona, the Dominican ruling rings all too familiar. In the United States, policies such as Arizona SB1070 and other “show me your papers” provisions are used to restrict the rights and abilities of migrants to participate in formal society. The hypocrisy and injustice of governments criminalizing and exploiting the same people that are migrating into these countries to work, as economic forces seek to maximize profit by using cheap labor.  The DR government has also imported U.S. immigration enforcement tactics, including militarized border walls, detention centers and immigration agents to enforce raids and violent removals, often accosting individuals at random in the street and demanding documentation. The crisis of ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic is just the latest newsworthy example of collusion of global economic and government powers to disenfranchise, exploit and subjugate primarily black and brown people, easily facilitated by racist social structures that have yet to be repaired.

Already, over 30,000 people have fled to neighboring Haiti, in fear for their lives and uncertain of their status and ability to return to the Dominican Republic. This situation will put an exponential amount of pressure on an already economically strained Haiti, still in recovery from the 2010 earthquake and resulting humanitarian issues there. It is important to support the expansion of policies such as Haitian Family Reunification Parole, and other administrative measures that expand and improve immigration to the United States, as many affected, both directly and indirectly, will seek relief and possible refuge in the United States.


What can we do? The Black Alliance for Just Immigration, as well as the Black Immigration Network is working with groups on the ground across the United States, as well as in the Dominican Republic and Haiti to call for a global movement to address anti-Black Racism in the Dominican Republic. Organizations such as We are All Dominican, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, Haitian Women of Miami  and more have been calling attention to this issue for years, as well as international NGO’s as the America Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) and Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). Now is the time to build coalition and unify efforts to demand an end to this violent and racist policy endangering the lives of tens of thousands of men, women and children. The Black Immigration Network calls for a Week of Action July 27- August 1, in partnership with grassroots activist and organizations to build strength and work in unity to address this human rights crisis. We hope you will join us and partners in declaring that Black Lives Matter, beyond borders. We must stand in fight in solidarity with Black struggles both at home and abroad.

African Diaspora Dialogues at the Museum of the African Diaspora: San Francisco, CA 07/18/15

Jul 2, 2015   //   Blog, events  

A transformative transnational dialogue on race, identity and culture held between Black immigrants and African Americans.

In the San Francisco Bay Area and nationally, the number of Black immigrants, especially from Africa, has grown exponentially over the past two decades. This migration and settling into new communities outside of Africa conjures many questions for the new arrivals, as well as for African American communities.

What are the experiences of new Black immigrant and refugee communities as they navigate their ethnic and racial identities in daily interactions with one another and with their American counterparts?

What are the triggers behind existing tensions between U.S.-born and Black immigrant and refugee communities? How do we rise above the tensions and begin to build strong alliances?

Hosted by BAJI, Priority Africa Network and MoAD.

moadDATE: July 18, 2015 @ 9:30 am
LOCATION: Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
COST: $10

To Freedom Fighter Bree

Post by Juwaher Yusuf, BAJI Operations Coordinator and Assistant to the Director


This photo has been imprinted in my mind for days…

Bree Newsome – a Black woman – scales up a pole to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s state grounds while quoting scripture.

I had to do a triple-take.

Her fearlessness and tenacity is palpable. In this chilling video, you can hear it in her calm yet firm voice. You can see it through her nonviolent actions and demeanor. Bree looks straight into the face of injustice and removes the deplorably symbolic flag as a courageous act of civil disobedience. In her words:

Now is the time for true courage.

I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015, including the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic. I did it in solidarity with the South African students who toppled a statue of the white supremacist, colonialist Cecil Rhodes. I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free.

It is no wonder she took the internet by storm quickly trending with hashtags #FreeBree and #BadassBree. She and friend, James Tyson, who helped her carry out the act were arrested and charged with defacing a monument. Released from jail on a $3,000 bond, the misdemeanor against them carries the penalty of up to 3 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. As of Tuesday morning, this Indiegogo campaign to “support bail and legal defense fees for Bree Newsome – as well as support for other courageous activists taking direct action in the movement for Black lives” has reached $119,681 – almost $100,000 over the initial goal.

Benjamin O’Keefe eloquently explains the historical significance of the flag in “The Confederate Flag is a Symbol of Hate”  in Black Voices, The Huffington Post:

In 1860, seven Southern states decided to secede from the Union and form the Confederate States of America. They would later be joined by four other states. They were fighting to defend their “right” to continue to own the more than 3.5 MILLION African slaves of the South, who performed unpaid and arduous labor for slave owners, many of whom owned large plantations. As Southerners fought and killed to defend slavery they did so under the battle flag of the Confederate Army, which we know today as the Confederate flag.

It’s time to #TakeDownTheFlag and remove this symbol of oppression and division from institutions meant to protect and serve the people. Take action and sign the petition here.

To Bree – I applaud your bravery and resilience. You are an agent of change that will to continue to inspire people fighting injustice everywhere – and we stand with you.

Rallies, Betrayal, and Safety Beyond Policing

Jun 23, 2015   //   Blog, Campaigns, mass criminalization, politics, racial justice  

Post by Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, BAJI NYC Organizer

On Monday June 22the political leadership of New York City added 1300 police officers to the NYPD. As many of you know BAJI anchored Safety Beyond Policing, a campaign that stood against the expansion of the NYPD and demanded a reinvestment into community resources. The current developments are particularly disheartening because we started by resisting the call for 1000 officers which was decreased to 450 officers to fight ISIS only to face an NYPD expansion of 1300 officers.

SP1In response, an Emergency #NoNewNYPD Rally was called. What community members expressed was a profound sense of betrayal. In many ways this relates to how the Safety Beyond Policing campaign progressed. In public it seemed that Mayor De Blasio was against NYPD expansion, Speaker Mark-Viverito was for it, and Commissioner Bratton was arguing for what he could get as the barrier between the Mayor and an oppositional police union. But in all likelihood the massive expansion of the NYPD required only a public display of disagreement to cover closed door deals and a unified front that did not have a single policy maker supporting #NoNewNYPD community demands outside of Councilmember Inez Barron.

It is increasingly clear that the proponents of policing are many, the arguments for NYPD expansion even more so, and for the community advocates are scarce. The justification for these officers did not start with Islamophobia and the manipulation of the very real threat of ISIS to communities in Iraq, Turkey and Syria. What we initially dealt with was the establishment of Broken Windows by Commissioner Bratton and Mayor De Blasio who was elected to reform a police department that operated under Stop & Frisk. We quickly proved that Broken Windows was an ineffective policing method and is fundamentally racist. What came next was a rebranding of Broken Windows and an emphasis on community relationships through “community policing.”SP2

Led by the story of David Felix, we supported a Haitian family in mourning and correctly labelled community policing as increased surveillance against the most vulnerable. So when Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and Mayor De Blasio shook hands over the budget deal there was really not much to support this expansion except vague references to overtime costs. This expansion will cost $170 million with the hope of saving $70 million in overtime. But when the Citizens Budget Commission analyzed the addition of 1000 officers last year they stated that “the NYPD has been consistently unable to curb overtime expenses.”  These measures are almost laughable since “the NYPD exceeded its overtime budget by an average of 41 percent over the last five years.”

But there is a sense of profound shock at the betrayal we are witnessing. Reflecting on the recent terrorist attack in Charleston, South Carolina, you get the sense that we are not stalked by vigilantes up north because antiblackness is professionalized. We have our own tragedy here in the lives and deaths of David Felix, Kalief Browder, Shontel Davis and many more. But what we took from the emergency rally was a commitment to “protracted struggle” as many speakers put it.

SP3Community members from every borough took up the Safety Beyond Policing narrative at the rally. We have already seen Safety Beyond Policing in Chicago, in Mariame Kaba’s Summer Heat, and in the broad range of voices at our rallies. Across the country communities are being destroyed by conservative and progressive politicians. What is left is movement building that imagines beyond the boundaries of the current political landscape that fixates on policing as an answer to structural violence.

Reflections from the Statewide Mobilization to Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, CA

Post by Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer

mvOn May 30th, 2015 approximately 150 people came together in a multi-racial “Free the People” Caravan of undocumented immigrants, faith leaders, and community members from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Central Valley to the private GeoGroup owned Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, CA. The caravan initially came together to highlight Kwesi Amuzu’s case. He is a Ghanaian asylum-seeker who was held in indefinite detention for over a year despite having an order of removal that could not be carried out. We came together to support Kwesi because we knew that his case spoke to the intentional effort of the private prison industry and elected beneficiaries to criminalize immigration in order to maintain social control over marginalized communities. This has a disproportionate impact on Black Bodies.

Furthermore, we knew it was important to resist the inhumane conditions at Mesa Verde Detention Facility, expose the underlying interests that profit from mass criminalization, and lift up local issues like Valley Fever that disproportionately impact incarcerated people of color. BAJI-Oakland’s Organizing Committee would not have been able to pull together this powerful mobilization without the help of several organizations and individuals that came together to fight for justice.

I would like to personally thank the following organizations that came together to organize the caravan and who continually organize to demand justice for our communities impacted by mass criminalization:

Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), California Immigration Policy Center (CIPC), ENLACE, Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC), California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights (ACUDIR), Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME), KERN Coalition for Citizenship, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON),  the Priority Africa Network (PAN), RAIZ, Faith in Action Kern County, and Communication Workers of America, .

Special Thanks to Culture-Strike and Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV) for the beautiful stencil designs and banners that were used throughout our campaign efforts.

Our work is not over. We showed that we are powerful when community comes together cross-culturally and when organizations come together and organize at the intersections. On May 30th we showed that Black Lives Matter within the Migrant Rights Movement and the importance of addressing all forms of anti-blackness. BAJI-Oakland’s Organizing Committee will continue to organize for Christopher, Anthony, and Mubashir’s release.  They are all Black Immigrants detained at Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield. We will not stop until we are all free!


Jun 9, 2015   //   Blog  

In late April 2015, the NYPD killed David Felix, a first generation Haitian immigrant. After his death media, presented David as a criminal deserving of the police brutality that ended his life. BAJI gathered with Streetwise and Safe to welcome his family from Haiti, and finally bring his friends and loved ones together so they could mourn and begin the journey to justice. This is how we want David Felix to be remembered: among family and in the stories of those who knew him best. Please donate to the families’ funeral costs and many needs.

#JistisPouDavidFelix: Nap sipòte moun nou pa ka bliye


Profiting from Black Pain: The Red Cross and the Big Business of Disaster Relief

Jun 9, 2015   //   Blog, haiti, immigration, politics  

Post by Tia Oso, National Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network and BAJI Arizona Organizer

haiti1 A scathing report published by ProPublica and NPR indicts the aid programs of Red Cross, which raised half a billion dollars in disaster relief aid for recovery efforts from the 2010 earthquake and has nearly nothing to show for it. The report details the Red Cross’ incompetence, lack of transparency, disrespect for the Haitian people and ongoing efforts to deny accountability and overstate its  accomplishments in the five years since the 2010 earthquake.

A Red Cross statement marking the fifth anniversary of the earthquake claims that “Millions of Haitians are safer, healthier, more resilient, and better prepared for future disasters thanks to generous donations to the American Red Cross.” However, the organization  has provided no details to support its claims. And given that Haiti’s population is around 10 million, with  many people still living in emergency relief tents, looking for work and otherwise still recovering 5 years later, there is mounting evidence that the Red Cross and used the disaster as a fundraising effort to fill its own coffers and lacked both preparation and experience to lead recovery efforts.

haiti3For example, as the report indicates, the Red Cross blames its poor efforts on complications and bureaucracy in Haiti. However, organizations that prioritized Haitian leadership, such as Global Communities are building thousands of homes, attributing their success to the fact that the majority of  staff and managers are Haitian.

“All this work that you are looking at now, the calculation was made by Haitian people, Haitian engineers, Haitian architects, Haitian foreman,” he says. “We know what to do.” says John Wildy Marcelin, a Haitian engineer and head of construction for one project.

Compare this attitude and success to internal memos and documents that reveal the Red Cross hiring foreign workers who could not speak French or Kreyol to run their efforts in Haiti and paying expatriates salaries and benefits several times that of local employees.

This hubris is indicative of non-profit organizations run by wealthy white elites that bring a paternalistic “savior” mentality to their relief work, especially in foreign countries. In addition to the reports of discrimination, high turnover rate of staff at all levels, government bureaucracy and other evidence of general dysfunction and you can see the way that non-profit agencies, foreign governments and the UN continued to destroy Haiti, long after the earthquake struck.

This latest scandal is one of many attacks on the sovereignty of Haiti. BAJI has lifted up the ongoing fight for independence and the corruption of U.S. Haiti relations for years, and we continue to stand in solidarity.  As the the only nation established as a result of a successful slave rebellion, and a fierce defender of freedom from colonial powers, the legacy of Haiti and its ongoing struggles continue to illustrate the pervasive role that capitalism, colonialism and antiblackness play, even in so called humanitarian relief efforts to the small but mighty country.

Policies such as the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program and others prioritize the human dignity and rights of affected people as a part of ongoing efforts for relief and recovery. Not because migration to the U.S. will solve all of Haiti’s problems, but because programs like HFRP provide for more just and equitable treatment of Haitians in U.S. immigration policy and strengthen Haitian-American families.

The details of this report should inspire a widespread movement to hold the Red Cross, the United Nations and others that claim to be leading recovery efforts accountable to the Haitian people, the damage these organizations have done and their unkept promises. No more profiting from the pain of the Haitian people.

Reflection in The Movement

Post by Juwaher Yusuf, BAJI Operations Coordinator and Executive Assistant to the Director

We are in the midst of a special historical moment in the fight for racial justice and civil rights. Black-led, grassroots movements are at the forefront leading concrete change. Although not an easy journey, our perseverance has shown that it has been and will continue to be a rewarding one. With events unfolding exceptionally quickly – and for us to continue to win – we must take the time to reflect and celebrate our accomplishments.

ftpOur team at BAJI has been working diligently towards real change. Most recently in the Bay Area, after a month of resistance, Kwesi Amuzu, a Ghanaian asylum-seeker, who was held in indefinite detention was released. Amuzu was held for over one year despite having a removal order that was unable to be carried out. The campaign was led by BAJI Bay Area Organizer, Devonté Jackson and a multi-racial network of undocumented youth, faith leaders, immigrant rights organizations, and community members. We thank everyone who mobilized with us in this campaign.

As a collective, we have made remarkable strides on the local, national and international level. We have prioritized time for reflection to heal, synthesize and strategize in order for our team to continue to propel the strong work that is being done. We are pleased to announce we are expanding BAJI with 2 new positions, and we hope you can help us find the right candidates for our team!

BAJI Southeast Regional Organizer: The BAJI Southeast Regional Organizer will be responsible for implementing BAJI’s strategic plan in consultation with staff and core partners in the Southeast. Southeast Regional Organizer will show leadership and commitment to BAJI guiding principles, framework, analysis and implementation methods.

Policy Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network: The Policy Coordinator work towards challenging the continued local enforcement of federal immigration laws as well as rules and regulations that undermine the welfare of immigrants. The Policy Advocate will work closely with BAJI local staff and BIN Coordinator to ensure policy research and campaign objectives are clear and achieved.

Please circulate the information among those with experience in organizing for social change in black communities. We need your help to find a dynamic organizer to continue to grow this movement. We appreciate your help!

In Solidarity and Celebration.

Our Movements are Linked

May 26, 2015   //   Blog, human rights, mass criminalization  

Post by Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, BAJI NYC Organizer

blog1The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) has pioneered amazing work because from our founding we understood that communities are intrinsically linked. BAJI began through an initial coalition between African-American and Black immigrant clergy and communities that has guided our work to this day. This organizing principle is not just a reflection of kinship but also an understanding of our political destinies.

One particular campaign that may give us insight on this is our Safety Beyond Policing campaign. The campaign uses the rallying cry #NoNewNYPD to resist attempts to add 1,000 police officers to the NYPD and funnel the $100 million in annual tax payer funds slated for this expansion into community visions of safety. Joe Catron of Mint Press, who recently examined the NYPD’s current overhaul found that the New York Police Foundation, “a private body funded by New York City’s largest finance, real estate, tourism and private prison interests,” is behind the NYPD transformation .

Understanding the NYPF’s role as the financing behind the push for 1000 officers and the re-establishment of Broken Windows policing, currently rebranded as community policing is critical to our organizing. What an examination of NYPF reveals is that the systems opposing justice are collectively organized. So if even our opposition is making links between policing, private prison, and gentrification at the very least we must do the same. Those of us demanding justice need to draw the necessary links between our various issues and campaigns because a full movement is in many ways the coalescing of individual issues through their relationships that have been explained logically in clear and creative ways.

#PrisonDivest & #NoNewNYPD

We are currently engaged in a national #PrisonDivest movement with partners at Enlace, Responsible Endowment Coalition, and locally in New York with Families for Freedom. #PrisonDivest targets major private prison like Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO group who are also part of the financing for the revamping of Broken Windows policing in NYC and the push to expand the largest police force in the country. CCA and GEO group power private prisons that warehouse immigrants in murky legal territory and simultaneously finance the expansion of the NYPD and divestment from local communities facing displacement. So from that basis #PrisonDivest work must connect with #NoNewNYPD efforts.

#SayHerName & #NoNewNYPD

blog2These realities mean our campaigns and issues must not only be critical of broader systems but explain clear links so that we can have a fuller movement. In New York the #SayHerName actions that commemorated the deaths of Black women were led by BYP 100 and Black Lives Matter chapter members who understood the relationship between their work and #NoNewNYPD policy demands. We were able to explain that resisting the addition of 1000 officers and pouring $100 million of annual funding into domestic violence victim support, jobs for youth, and education can make the world safer for Black women. These actions highlighted how #NoNewNYPD and #SayHerName are linked. We must continue this sort of thinking and organizing by revealing the connections between our many campaigns.

Free Kwesi! BAJI-OAK Leads Free the People Caravan May 30

Post by Devonte Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer

On Saturday, May 30th 2015 the Black Alliance for Just Immigration will be leading a multi-racial network of Undocumented Youth, Faith Leaders, Immigrant Rights Activists, and Community Members in Northern and Southern California on a “Free the People” caravan to Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield CA. This is where Kwesi Amuzu, a Ghanaian asylum-seeker, is being held in indefinite detention.

Kwesi was detained upon entry at the U.S./Mexico Border and transported to West County Detention Facility in Richmond, CA where he quickly gained support from the local community. ICE attempted to deport Kwesi to Ghana and Togo but was unsuccessful due to a lack of documentation and birth records in both countries. This was confirmed by the Ghanaian and Togo Embassies. ICE has chosen to hold Kwesi in detention despite their inability to deport him.


Immigrants should not be criminalized for seeking a better opportunity in the United States. Kwesi’s case illustrates the fact that ICE, in cooperation with Police and other Law Enforcement agencies, have made detention facilities into holding camps filled with asylum seekers and immigrants of color with low level offenses. Instead of releasing Kwesi to his support network in the Bay Area, ICE has chosen to hold him indefinitely with no foreseeable release in the future. This is unjust!

Kwesi’s case speaks to the overall issue with today’s prison-detention system which targets and criminalize African Americans, Immigrants of Color, and people of color more generally. The “Free the People” Caravan aims to pressure ICE to release Kwesi and draw attention to the larger issue of detention bed quotas and mass criminalization.

Mesa Verde, where Kwesi is being held indefinitely, is one of over 50 private prisons and detention centers operated in 16 states by Geo Group. Those of us who pay taxes are paying Geo and their competition at Corrections Corporation of America over $3 Billion each year to put hundreds of thousands of our community members, mostly black and brown people, behind bars.

Bringing a caravan to Mesa Verde is about bringing our outrage over how people of African descent and people of color are being reduced by these corporations to a vehicle for them and their shareholders to profit. It’s about bringing our outrage over how detention and incarceration are being used to control and inflict violence on our communities. We are shining a spotlight on the way the prison industry is responsible for driving mass detention.

BAJI and partners make art  for #BlackLivesMatter and  Migrant Families

We demand Kwesi’s immediate release. We demand an end to the bed quota. We demand divestment from the Prison Industrial Complex. And we demand an end to the Mass Criminalization of our communities.

We assert the declaration that Black Lives Matter and will continue to organize for Justice until we are all free!

[PRESS RELEASE] Immigrant Rights Organizations Condemn Killing of Terrence Kellom Sr. and Express Solidarity with Black Lives Matter Movement

May 5, 2015   //   Black Lives Matter, Blog, ice, Press, racial justice  

For Immediate Release
May 5, 2015

Immigrant Rights Organizations Condemn Killing of Terrence Kellom Sr. and Express Solidarity with Black Lives Matter Movement

A coalition of national immigrant rights organizations stands in solidarity with the people of Baltimore and Detroit by honoring the life of 20-year-old Terrence Kellom Sr. who was shot and killed on April 27th, 2015 in his family home by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent. ICE officer Mitchell Quinn was serving as part of the Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team (D-FAT) which includes members of the Detroit Police and the U.S. Marshals. The ICE agent was deputized by the U.S. Marshals’ office in order to serve Mr. Kellom with a warrant for his arrest and instead shot the unarmed man ten times. This killing is a tragedy and a violation of Terrence Kellom’s fundamental human rights. Sadly, this is just one of the most recent examples of the national epidemic of state violence and murder attacking Black communities.  We  demand an end to government-sanctioned violence in all  communities and to law enforcement practices that encourage and incentivize profiling and its deadly results with impunity.

Mr. Kellom’s killing clearly demonstrates that the systems criminalizing Black communities, people of color, and immigrants are integrally related. The expansion of ICE’s authority to collaborate with local law enforcement agencies is part of an increased emphasis on punitive enforcement measures. These arrangements terrorize communities, invading homes and workplaces, dividing families, and stealing precious lives.

We stand in solidarity with the family of Terrence Kellom and the people of Detroit in demanding justice for his death and the death of others at the hands of law enforcement. We demand a full and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Kellom’s killing. We call for an end to militarized policing of our communities and the collusion of power between federal and local authorities leading to the overt destabilizing of community safety.  We understand that the basis of anti-immigrant sentiment is rooted in anti Black racism and commit to the liberation of Black people as central to the liberation of all immigrants and communities of color. We support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Black Immigration Network
Border Action Network
Center for Popular Democracy
Detention Watch Network
Immigrant Defense Project
National Day Laborer Organizing Network
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigrant Law Center
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice
PICO National Network
Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project
United We Dream
We Belong Together


ESPAÑOL: #BlackLivesMatter ESTOY CON Baltimore

spanishNo tengan miedo. Un levantamiento está sucediendo en las comunidades negras en todo el país. Este momento es necesario y ha estado en camino por largo tiempo.

Hoy día nuestros corazones se llenan por la misma corriente de amor que corría por las venas de los que se enfrentaron a los garrotes y gases lacrimógenos en Selma, Alabama. La misma corriente de amor que exigió que los ciudadanos de Watts en 1965 fuesen tratados con dignidad y respeto. La misma corriente que alimento nuestros corazones jóvenes y enfurecidos cuando presenciamos un abuso policial incontrolado en abril de 1992. Esta corriente de amor se ha plantado ella misma en las calles donde Mike Brown fue asesinado en Ferguson, en Chicago con la muerte de Rekia Boyd, y ha comenzado a producir fruta que hoy madura.

Somos personas que aman. Nos negamos a permitir que la columna de nuestro hermano se rompa en la oscuridad sin que se escuche la canción de nuestro dolor. Hay quienes no reconocen que nuestra rabia es síntoma de nuestro dolor, y síntoma de una sociedad que ha hecho todo menos dejarnos por muertos. Su narrativa no pertenece a la historia y nos desconecta de nuestro legado de exigir justicia.

Nos solidarizamos con el pueblo de Baltimore y con las millones de personas negras de todo el país que están cansadas de la pobreza, el racismo y de los asesinatos sancionados por el estado.

Pueblo negro: merecemos plenamente el lugar y el espacio para expresar nuestra humanidad por completo. De esto se trata Black Lives Matter, La Vida Afro Tiene Valor. Apoyamos la expresión de todas nuestras emociones, de nuestra felicidad a nuestra indignación, a nuestro pesar. Cada expresión es bienvenida, ya que esto es lo que significa ser humano, el amar y el perder a los que amamos tanto. Reconocemos que nuestros levantamientos están siendo alimentados por el amor que tenemos por nosotros mismos y por los demás. Un amor que desafía el silencio, la represión y la muerte.

Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, Black Lives Matter

Originally posted here on Ebony Magazine Online.

Women on the Front Lines

Post by Tia Oso, National Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network and BAJI Arizona Organizer

Too often when discussing social issues, we don’t center women. We often show men as the face of mass incarceration and immigrant detention. We reflexively emphasize the fact that Black men and boys are suffering a crisis of police violence, completely erasing the fact that women, children and LGBTI people are subject to these same systems. We erase women, and in this erasure, we fail to see the full picture of how systems of oppression are built to destroy our communities, our families and our humanity. On the 5th anniversary of Arizona SB1070, the National Domestic Workers Alliance gathered BAJI along with Puente Human Rights and We Belong Together for the Women on the Front Lines Delegation. The delegation gathered primarily women of color, activists, scholars, organizers and community members from across the country to share an experience, deepen one another’s understanding of root causes and begin to vision a way forward that unites our movements.


The delegation visited Tent City, the Eloy immigrant detention center, Operation Streamline, where a Federal court charges, tries, convicts and sentences up to 70 people per day with criminal immigration-related charges.

Celeste Faison, Black Organizing Coordinator for NDWA said learning about the experiences immigrants face under the threat of deportation, helped her to understand how undocumented immigrants live in fear that is similar to what African Americans face in the U.S. with police.

“There are similar experiences of trauma in our every day lives that we have to deal with and that should be a uniting factor that brings us together,” Faison said.

Sumayya Coleman, Director of African American and Black Womens Cultural Alliance and leader of the Free Marissa Campaign also shared how powerful the delegation was for her understanding of how connected womens experiences are in relation to state violence.

“Women bear the brunt of systemic violence in so many ways. We don’t talk enough about how women experience sexual violence, as a common experience throughout the world. In wars, while incarcerated and detained. Black women who report sexual assault are very likely to not have that investigated, women crossing the Border are routinely violated. There are so many similarities to how women are subjected to state violence and expected to endure it, because we are women.”SB1070-600x400

Rosa Clemente, Afro-Puerto Rican activist said that the delegation made her think and feel a powerful change was necessary within the movement. “Witnessing Operation Streamline, we have got to connect the dots across our issues. Everyone needs to see this.” “In 2015 if you are not making the connections and working towards a holistic breakdown of this system then you yourself are replicating systems of oppressions.”

These reflections are important, because women are on the Front Lines, not just at the hands of systemic violence, but also in our communities. Women hold families together, women build social networks that help one another to cope with trauma and create support structures, building and organizing in ways that are not lifted up as resistance. Women on the Front Lines is important because it is critical that we see women. We must see the real impact of systemic oppression, but also our power, in order to understand how to affect change. Projects like Women on The Front Lines lift up a diversity of voices, experiences and perspectives and allow us to make deep connections. When we see another’s community, life, pain and powerful resistance, it creates the space to to build strong bonds that will then build strong movements. We can do it together.