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

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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!

#JistisPouDavidFelix

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.

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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
Enlace
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

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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.

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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.

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Dying to Live  

Apr 22, 2015   //   Blog, immigration, migrants, migration, refugee  

Post by Juwaher Yusuf, BAJI Program Associate

img6When my 17-year old cousin fled one year ago, he left with several friends embarking on a journey between countries. Their plan of action changed regularly – depending on where they were, how much money they had and what issues unexpectedly occurred. His group of travelling friends dwindled from checkpoint to checkpoint. A few months ago he reached Libya – what felt like a partial victory as the final destination before freedom. One week ago, he boarded a ship destined for Italy. He made it safely. I am thankful he is alive and well – but the majority of his friends did not make it.

900 people lost their lives from Sundays’ ship devastation in the Mediterranean Sea. The ship capsized Sunday with reportedly 950 people on board as it left Tripoli, Libya the morning of Saturday, April 18.

It took 6 hours for search-and-rescue operations to reach the area.

28 survivors have been identified and were taken to Catania, Sicily, on Monday.

900 lives.

900 families.

900 people faced with forced migration. But apparently, that’s not newsworthy.

img3I find what’s notably missing from the stories I’ve scoured online are the root causes of mass migration that has soared exponentially. Why are people moving in such large numbers? What issues are motivating such treacherous journeys? Immigrants migrate for a number of reasons, particularly those related to the impact of global economic policies on their place of origin and their daily lives. These issues have failed to be mentioned. The reporting is solely around the ‘now’ rather than the ‘why.’

The reality is – and has been – that people are fleeing their home countries for genuine fear of their lives. Reasons including – but not limited to – humanitarian crises, war, extreme poverty, climate change, fear of persecution, poor living conditions, etc. In some countries, 2,000 – 3,000 people are fleeing each month. We must dissect the root causes of migration.

We remember the 2013 devastation off of the coast of Lampedusa that killed 366 people, yet we are still in crisis mode two years later. We have been reactive to tragedies of this nature rather than thinking proactively to understand and solve the causes, preventing such devastation. Rapid response is only a short term solution for what is a long term problem.

imgWe know men, women and children are risking their lives by sea with as many as 25,000 men, 6,000 women and 10,000 minors from Syria and Eritrea in 2014 alone.

The smuggling industry – that trades human lives – has long capitalized on the misfortune of immigrants – exploiting people suffering severe prosecution in their home countries. People are suffering and we see the devaluation of their lives directly through the ignorance, manipulation and framing of stories widely circulated. We must stop vilifying migrants as a problem – a problem that no one wants to solve.

This shipwreck marks the deadliest month on record with 1300 deaths in April alone – and this could rise to 30,000 by the end of the year according the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

My cousin’s fate could have changed any number of times during his journey, and it crushes me just thinking about it. My heart is heavy for the families who cannot share in my relief. I pray for strength to the families during these difficult times.

We are committed to advocating and fighting for the rights of all lives and urge a global call to challenge the root causes of migration. There is an urgent need for us to act. We all deserve to live a life of dignity. A life of health, happiness, safety and opportunity.

A change.org petition to ask the European Union to restore a robust operation of search and rescue at sea has gathered more than 77,000 petitions since it was launched yesterday. Please sign on.
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The Next Stage of Movement

Post by Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, BAJI NYC Organizer

FMWhen I first heard of Fannie Lou Hamer I imagined an outsized political figure who was made more of iconic moments than blood and tissue. I imagined a Black woman from Mississippi standing next to Malcolm X at a Harlem Rally challenging the 1964 Congressional election results with the words, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

But before and behind the image of Fannie Lou Hamer was a broad movement and a history of organizing that stood out hazily in the background of her imposing figure. I recommend that everyone take a chance to review the Civil Rights Movement Veterans website. Part of what is detailed there is how Mississippi organizers had undergone a process that started with the securing of funding from the Voter Education Project which helped establish the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). The COFO was made up of now-famous organizations like SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and the SCLC.

Organizing in Mississippi came at a time of intense antiblack state and mob violence that featured regular lynchings of Black residents. It was in this stage of the movement that Fannie Lou Hamer was jailed and beaten almost to death in a Winona, Mississppi jail cell. This violence only intensified voter registration. With the backing of the COFO Black organizers began the Mississippi Freedom Summer that created a Freedom Ballot, voted on by 80,000 Black residents, which would ultimately challenge the all-white Mississippi Democratic delegates.

This is the background to Fannie Lou Hamer’s iconic image. What comes to the foreground is not just a movement but concrete stages that include: securing financial support, alliance building, civil disobedience, and action motivated by visions of alternative futures. This is what I am reflecting on in relation to the work that we are doing now that was authored in many ways by the actions of Ferguson, MO residents. We must prepare for the next stage of the movement. Movements have character, lifespans, and their own rhythms. Organizers must be able to understand the current stage their movement is in and work accordingly.

After the killing of Michael Brown on August 9th 2014 the movement entered a surprisingly intense period of fall and winter direct action. Stories across the country of police brutality, and increasingly the killings of Black women and LGBTQ members, began to be read into a national narrative. As we enter spring, which is the typical season for direct action I think it is important to reflect on what stage, our movement is in.

There will be an opportunity to reflect as a collective at #BAM2015 which will be a daylong conference Saturday, April 18th at The New School. One of the points of reflection will be the recent #NoNewNYPD campaign by the Safety Beyond Policing collective that will resist efforts to add 1,000 police officers to the NYPD. The Safety Beyond Policing collective behind #NoNewNYPD demands that the nearly $100 Million annual price tag for this addition be put into community investment areas of concern like education and youth employment.

As we saw in the story behind Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous speech in Harlem we know that she was supported by a broad coalition of organizations in the COFO. Donors and members who were willing to support organizations that would make courageous stances secured the COFO. There were not many organizations willing to keep fighting in mid-1960 Mississippi. That initial funding eventually led to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that would be the political home of Fannie Lou Hamer.

In this current moment SBP is the collective taking some of the boldest stances in New York. BAJI is a major anchor organization for this formation and our work moves with the level of support our members and donors give us. If we want to move boldly into the next stage of movement BAJI is the organization building the strong alliances that are willing to see this work through. With your help we can continue to make strong statements for transformative change. Our commitment is now 9 years strong, and as we walk through our anniversary we invite you to join the next stage of movement.

Transformational Solidarity In Practice: Building Intersectional Movements

Apr 7, 2015   //   Blog, Campaigns, civil rights, human rights, immigration, migrants  

Post by Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 2.43.04 PM“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single issue lives” is a simple quote of Audre Lorde’s with a powerful message that must continue to be reiterated in our communities so that it manifests in the movement-building work that we take part in. The reality is that it is hard to find mass movements today that embody intersectionality in analysis and practice. Lacking an intersectional frame is detrimental to movements because it can further marginalize and isolate people within our base, it limits opportunity to build with other existing movements, and it prevents our ability to build diverse and inclusive movements.

Audre Lorde, who was Black, Queer and Daughter of Immigrants from Barbados and Carriacou, produced groundbreaking work in the realm of theory, poetry, and contemporary feminist thought that would challenge individuals and movements far beyond her time. This blog will focus on the need to welcome Audre Lorde’s perspective by re-thinking the way we take on issues in movements with the vision of building an intersectional framework so as to combat the tendency to focus on “single-issues.”

My point of entry in this conversation is through my experience as Bay Area Organizer within the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. Oftentimes when telling the story of BAJI, we say that our organization is positioned at the intersection of race and immigration. With African American and Black Immigrants as our base, it has always been important for us to challenge global capitalism and global anti-black racism and its impact on the African Diaspora in all the places that we exist. This analysis brings our people together and positions us in a way that makes it possible to consolidate Black Power and foster Black Solidarity in our local and global communities. We knew that this analysis must be brought to the larger Migrant Rights Movement in order for us to have the impact that is necessary to improve conditions for all our people.

The experience of Black Immigrants have been largely erased or invisible within the Migrant Rights Movements. Furthermore, there has been large anti-black sentiment coupled with a lack of analysis on race within the movement. These were issues for Black people hoping to engage in Migrant Rights Work. BAJI was created to fill this void and we have a tradition of working in these areas through our education and advocacy priorities that brings an analysis of Race, Immigration, and Globalization to communities and movements. We work on local campaigns with the aim of ending Mass Criminalization of African American and Black Immigrant Communities which we know will bring large gains to everyone impacted by Mass Criminalization.

Recently, we developed a webinar and material on “Transformational Solidarity; Why the Migrant Rights Movement Must Show up for Black Lives”. This can be utilized by folks engaged in Migrant Rights work. BAJI’s Executive Director, Opal Tometi, is co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and our organizers in the Bay Area, Phoenix, and New York are all engaged in important #BlackLivesMatter work and provide unique perspective on the topic of #BlackLivesMatter and Migrant Rights. But we know that it is important to put our analysis to practice.

In the Bay Area, there is a diverse coalition forming to support a Ghanaian man by the name of Kwesi who has been unconstitutionally detained by ICE for over 11 months now. He was transferred from the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, CA and is now located at the Mesa Verde detention facility in Bakersfield, CA. Kwesi came into the U.S. like many others seeking better opportunity and was detained upon entry because of his lack of U.S. documentation. Kwesi also lacks documentation from Ghana, as is the case of many others born in African countries, which prevents ICE from being able to deport him. So instead of releasing him (there are no constitutional grounds for his detention) ICE has opted to hold him in detention against the law.

We believe Kwesi’s case provides us with an opportunity to put our analysis of Transformational Solidarity to practice and to show up in a real way for Kwesi and many others who are impacted by the U.S’s oppressive detention system that regularly targets and terrorize our communities. This is our time to take heed to Audre Lorde’s call to challenge ourselves to build critical movements that move beyond single issues. This is our time to center Blackness within the Migrant Rights Movement, follow Black Leadership, and bring an analysis of racial justice to the Movement. This is also an opportunity to consider alliance-building between #BlackLivesMatter and the Migrant Rights Movement. We know that we are stronger together.

Join us in this work.

 

The Power of the People – SB1445 is a Strategic Victory With Lessons for Alliance Building

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

t4Late Monday, in a much anticipated decision, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey vetoed Senate Bill 1445, dubbed the “Secret Police” bill. As the Movement for Black Lives shines the light of justice on the crisis of police brutality plaguing Black communities across the country, powerful Arizona police unions used their influence to introduce SB1445. The bill withheld the identity of officers that used deadly force or police brutality for 60 days, as well as redacting officer’s names from their disciplinary records.  BAJI played a key role in building a multiracial coalition of organizations and community leaders that successfully opposed the legislation through a people centered strategy. This coalition organized thousands to voice their opposition, ultimately urging Governor Ducey to veto the legislation. While we celebrate this triumphant effort, it is just as important to stay aware of maneuvers to impede progress as we fight to bend the arc of history towards justice, and seek more opportunities to build power.

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The crafters of this very dangerous measure described the mandatory hold as a cooling off period and common sense step to protect officers against the “court of public opinion”. Their divisive rhetoric ignored the reality of communities plagued by state violence at the hands police, at current count 14 deaths in Arizona alone during the first 12 weeks of 2015. The measure also did nothing to address the media vilification of victims of police violence, which can be just as incendiary to public tensions. Instead, lawmakers characterized hurting families and passionate protestors as “angry mobs”,”lunatics” and “political zealots” on a mythical rampage to terrorize police and their families. This narrative worked to distract from the fact that SB1445 is a fascist, draconian piece of legislation that would have further solidified the collusion of power which allows police to abuse and kill with impunity from the state.  It is telling that the letter accompanying the Governor’s veto reflected the tone of the police      , citing other law enforcement officials, the Police Chiefs Association, as the primary reason for the veto, not community concerns. Also, cited was the deeply disturbing subsection (B) which would have redacted officer’s names from records of disciplinary action. This would have allowed discriminatory, abusive individuals to hide, making it even harder to hold officers accountable and seek civil or legal recourse. Preemptive measures such as SB1445 are a critical sign that our movement has traction and is making important progress.  We must continue to address these important opportunities for intervention, and challenge ourselves to seek more ways we can work together and commit to transformational solidarity.

tia1While the Movement for Black Lives has succeeded in raising issues of abusive police in Black communities to the national consciousness, often unexamined is the crisis of state violence in other areas. Such as people killed by border patrol agents across the U.S./Mexico border. Same for the violence and abuse committed daily against those that are incarcerated and detained. Violence against trans people goes largely dismissed as routine, whether perpetrated by the state or private citizens. We must commit to connecting struggles and challenging the beliefs  that may keep us working in isolation.

Arizona is a testing ground for conservative legislation that targets and harms communities of color and sets precedent for other states to follow suit, as seen with SB1070. These attempts to roll back transparency and public accountability of law enforcement come at a time whenit is needed most. The resistance of determined and organized people is resulting in important progress such as the successful prosecution of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaiao for racial profiling, and the scathing Department of Justice report on the police practices in Ferguson, MO.  The victory against SB1445 is an example of what is possible when movements unite for a common purpose. As we affirm victory in a crucial battle, we must keep our eyes on the prize and continue to build and grow a movement that is inclusive, principled and ever focused on securing liberty by building multiracial alliances to advance a democracy that works for us all.

The LA Times Names Opal Tometi One Of 21 New Civil Rights Leaders

WeLA2 are pleased to share that the Los Angeles Times announced BAJI’s Executive Director, Opal Tometi, as one of the New Civil Rights Leaders. Meet the 21 Emerging Voices in the 21st Century here.

Some of the concerns are old — voting rights, police misconduct, racial profiling. Others — such as trans rights and access to technology — are more recent. Much in the spirit of activists who pushed for civil rights a half century ago, a new generation is fighting battles old and new. A sampling of these emerging leaders across the country; here is Opal’s feature:

Opal Tometi

DIRECTOR, BLACK ALLIANCE FOR JUST IMMIGRATION

AGE: 30

BROOKLYN, N.Y.

A first-generation Nigerian American, Tometi has been active in immigrant rights for much of the last decade. As director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, she became a vocal opponent of Arizona’s controversial SB-1070. At the time, she said the law was meant to “destroy communities.” Since the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Tometi co-founded Black Lives Matter which calls for policing reforms.

“This is a challenging moment, but we must maintain the integrity of our message and moral movement,” she wrote in a December Huffington Post piece. “We still have the moral high ground, and we cannot allow for it to be undermined.”

Read the original piece here written by Matt Pearce and Kurtis Lee for the Los Angeles Times.

One Thousand Officers, One Thousand Alternatives

Mar 18, 2015   //   Blog, Campaigns, mass criminalization, racial justice  

Post by Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, BAJI NYC Organizer

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In the last few years Stop and Frisk received heavy resistance from grassroots organizers and legal campaigns.  During his run for mayor, Bill De Blasio distinguished his platform from other candidates with his stance on police reform that aligned itself closer to reform advocates. The promise of a different approach to policing fueled De Blasio’s election leading to the eventual hiring of Bill Bratton to a second term as the head of the NYPD. As policy makers shift away from Stop and Frisk, does Broken Windows offer a real change?

 

Broken Theory

Bratton established Broken Windows as a new model of policing during his first term as NYPD commissioner in the 1990s. But by the early 1980s social scientist James Q. Wilson had already founded the Broken Windows theory of policing in academic circles. The idea was simple: if a vacant building in a neighborhood has a few broken windows leaving that building unattended and the windows unrepaired will attract crime. So if police targeted disorder instead of crime then community safety would be created and crime prevented. In this strange analogy that does not ask how the windows were broken in the first place Wilson argued that addressing low-level offenses, or broken windows, was the key to addressing crime. This meant that police had to have a zero-tolerance policy for misdemeanors and often things that were no longer crimes became criminal because disorder was now the target of policing. ‘Reefer Madness’ a review of Broken Windows policing found that in relation to marijuana arrests was no real evidence to believe Broken Windows actually deterred crime, but there was clear evidence of racially biased policing.[1] If Broken Windows failed with marijuana in particular and with crime generally how was it resurrected after the fight against Stop and Frisk? Commissioner Bratton was able to re-use what was essentially broken theory in his second term by putting Broken Windows as the opposite of Stop and Frisk and using different messaging. To this effort Bratton created a new office for Susan Herman as Deputy Commissioner of Collaborative Policing. From city council members to NYPD officials, “community policing” is the new branding for Broken Windows.

 

The Reality of “Community Policing”

The affects of community policing still traumatize Los Angeles the city that housed Bratton’s most recent policing position.  In the last few weeks our communities mourned the death of Cameroonian immigrant Charly Leundeu Keunang. But our reflection from the west to the east coast is not just on the triggers that were pulled in that moment but also on how community policing made it all possible. Brother Africa was killed in the Los Angeles downtown that was slated for gentrification and the removal of the homeless through the use of community policing. In many ways the death of ‘Brother Africa’ highlights the unique vulnerability of Black immigrants. After the creation of the Department of Homeland Security as part of the war on terror, federal databases were merged and collaboration between law enforcement and federal agencies increased. While the language and policy rhetoric focused on Middle Eastern, South Asians and the racialized “Muslim immigrant,” Caribbean and African immigrants made up some of the highest proportions of criminal alien deportations. Brother Africa’s story is a patchwork of deportation attempts, incarceration, and an all too common lack of adequate mental health support. Black immigrants lie at crossroads where immigration policies and laws meet policing, and where the pen proves to be just as devastating as the sword. The focus on low-level offenses through community policing increases the number of interactions with police, which can only lead to fatal or carceral consequences.

 

Safety Beyond Policing

Ferguson, MO is still the center of the conversation on policing. So there have been comments on the disturbing similarities between Ferguson policing methods that have been exposed in a recent Department of Justice report and NYPD community policy methods. What is ultimately clear is that Broken Windows has a proven track record as broken theory that doesn’t ask basic structural questions. Who determines what a broken window is and why do certain neighborhoods have more of them? What political and economic forces broke those windows? At Safety Beyond Policing we are asking the structural questions. We are redefining what safety means and making the argument that we don’t need one thousand new police but support for NYCHA resident associations, youth employment, and public transportation access. If you are ready to rethink safety please reach out to us to do a teach-in with your community, send us pictures and videos of what you would do with the $100 million slated to go to the NYPD. We don’t want a thousand new police when our communities can give us a thousand new alternatives. We want to get pictures of your alternatives at #NoNewNYPD. Finally review the city council schedule and go to every meeting: share your alternatives and testify that we do not need a thousand new police officers.

Transformational Solidarity: Why the Migrant Rights Movement Must Show Up for Black Lives

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“Brother Africa” was what people called a Cameroonian Black Man who was recently murdered by LAPD on Sunday, March 1st 2015 on Skid Row in Los Angeles, CA. Brother Africa had served a 15 year prison sentence followed by 6 months in detention because ICE had aims to deport him after he served time. Failing to provide the necessary documentation to proceed with deportation, ICE released Brother Africa from detention and required him to report regularly to immigration officials which was a practice he committed to once released.

Skid Row was where Brother Africa was killed by LAPD. Like many others who live in the tent community on Skid Row, he was homeless. Many folks here struggle with mental disability and drug abuse which can be traced to extreme poverty and lack of basic human necessities.

As an organization working at the intersections of racial justice and migrant rights, BAJI re-asserts that The Real Crime is the overpolicing of Black communities. Furthermore, other forms of state sanctioned violence; such as economic disenfranchisement of African American, Black Immigrant, and other marginalized communities, actively maintains the system of racial caste in the U.S and Western dominance globally. This is manifested within today’s Immigration System in the U.S.

Recently, a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction against Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration which aimed to provide Administrative Relief to 5 million undocumented people in the U.S. through the expansion of DACA and the creation of DAPA. Although this is a minor setback and will likely get overturned through an appeals process, it is clear that there is a concerted effort to stop any progress on the immigration issue. Years of organizing and resistance had taken place to get Obama to take this action, and still there is much more work to do to see the Administrative Relief through and to continue long term organizing for undocumented folks who were not included in the Relief. BAJI believes this long term struggle has to move beyond the question of citizenship.

Many African Americans in the U.S. understand that one can be treated as a second class citizen in this country, even if they are a U.S. born and raised citizen. For Black Immigrants this is doubly true, given their immigrant status as Black people in the U.S. We know that police brutality, gentrification, environmental racism, and other forms of state sanctioned violence must be considered in order to fully understand the extent to which Black Life is devalued in this country. Our movement challenges people and systems to end all forms of state violence. To do this, we must take on the work of societal transformation. We want to live in a society where all Black Life is valued. We know that the liberation of Black People in this country is vital to the collective liberation of all marginalized communities in the U.S. But we need power in order to transform U.S. society.

Millions across the country have taken action to affirm the humanity of Black Lives in this country where it is reality that every 28 hours a Black person is extrajudicially murdered by police officers, security guards, or vigilantes. As the movement for Black Lives strengthens across the nation and globe, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration calls on the Migrant Rights Movement to show up in the Movement for Black Lives. We believe that a frame of transformational solidarity could help facilitate genuine movement building in ways that allows us to strategically leverage our collective power to transform U.S. society in order to improve conditions for our local and global community.

Join BAJI’s Transformational Solidarity Webinar: Why the Migrant Rights Movement Must Show Up for Black Lives on Wednesday, March 11th at 11AM P.S.T/ 2PM E.S.T. to join migrant rights activists, organizers, and people of color across the U.S. to learn ways you can be in solidarity with the growing movement for Black Lives.

This webinar aims to:

    • Provide history and context of the Black Lives Matter movement
    • Share how migrant rights organizations and activists can and must show support and join in solidarity with the movement
    • Provide education about Black experience and racial justice in the 21st century
    • Framing about immigrant rights and racial justice priorities including criminalization and the Black immigrant experience
    • Combatting anti-Black racism in non-Black people of color spaces

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

BLACK IMMIGRANT AND AFRICAN AMERICAN LEADERS MOURN THE LOSS OF “BROTHER AFRICA”

BLACK IMMIGRANT AND AFRICAN AMERICAN LEADERS MOURN THE LOSS OF “BROTHER AFRICA” CONDEMN THE BRUTAL KILLING OF CAMEROONIAN IMMIGRANT AT THE  HANDS OF LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT

BROOKLYN, NY– The Black Alliance for Just Immigration – BAJI – expresses grief and outrage at the senseless killing  of Charley “Brother Africa” Leundeu Keunang, a 43 year old Cameroonian  immigrant living on Skid Row, an area of downtown Los Angeles, CA known for its large homeless population. On Sunday March 1, “Brother Africa” was unarmed when confronted by Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers, who tased him several times, then opened fire while physically restraining him, shooting him 5 times. This is reportedly the third such incident in Skid Row since the 2006 launch of the LAPD “Safer Cities” Initiative, a special police unit designed to reduce crime on Skid Row. This horrific brutality is just the latest example of the crisis of state violence in Black communities, resulting in the death of our brothers and sisters at a rate of every 28 hours. BAJI declares once again that ALL Black Lives Matter, immigrant, homeless, incarcerated and beyond. Our hearts go out to those mourning for Brother Africa.

Brother Africa’s death brings into focus the convergence of state violence in the lives of Black people, and particularly the implications for Black immigrants. Brother Africa was recently released from federal prison, where he was assigned to a mental health unit by medical staff that determined he was suffering from “a mental disease or defect” that required treatment in a psychiatric hospital, which he never received. Disenfranchised of his visa status, Brother Africa was then detained by ICE until he was ordered to be released, as he was not deportable. Without mental health treatment and undocumented, Brother Africa was forced to life on Skid Row, where the police initiatives purported to make his neighborhood safer, ultimately killed him.

As an organization working at the intersections of racial justice and migrant rights, BAJI re-asserts that The Real Crime is the overpolicing of Black communities and vows that we will honor Brother Africa by continuing to expose the violence of systemic racism, organize Black communities and build coalitions for resistance.

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Contact:
Tia Oso: 
Tia@blackalliance.org  602-385-3900

Transformational Solidarity: Why The Immigrant Rights Movement Must Show Up For Black Lives Webinar

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We invite you to join BAJI’s Transformational Solidarity: Why The Immigrant Rights Movement Must Show Up For Black Lives Webinar

Date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Time: 11AM P.S.T./ 2PM E.S.T

RSVP Here

At BAJI (The Black Alliance for Just Immigration), we organize at the intersection of race and immigration in our work to empower African American and Black Immigrant communities in the U.S. We have always considered Migrant Rights a Racial Justice issue which allows us to build vital connections between people and movements. As the Migrant Rights Movement faces a considerable setback given the recent order of a Federal Judge in Texas to halt Obama’s Administrative Relief and with the Black Lives Matter Movement facing considerable suppression for continued resistance, it is important for us to consider what transformational solidarity looks like given this political moment

The goals of this webinar are to:

  • Provide history and context of the Black Lives Matter movement
  • Share how migrant rights organizations and activists can and should show support and join in solidarity with the movement
  • Provide education about Black experience and racial justice in the 21st century
  • Framing about immigrant rights and racial justice priorities including criminalization and the Black immigrant experience
  • Combatting anti-Black racism in non-Black people of color spaces

You’re invited to join BAJI Executive Director and Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi and Black Immigration Network Coordinator Tia Oso who will provide key history, context, tools and strategy on this webinar. Plus, we’ll have space for thoughtful group discussion so that folks can imagine what this work looks like on the ground in your local community.

Please be sure to share this information with non-Black people of color who are looking for a way to learn and support the movement for Black lives.

We don’t want allies of our movement to miss this. Please RSVP and share today!

The Movement is Now, Support BAJI’s Work Today

Feb 25, 2015   //   Black Future Month, Blog, civil rights, racial justice  

BHMFinal2As Black History Month comes to a close, we not only celebrate our rich heritage, we also lift up the leadership and courage of those bending the arc of history towards justice today. Commemorating milestones of the Civil Rights movement reminds us how the fight for racial justice helped paved the way for migrant rights legislation as well. Today,  BAJI is dedicated to organizing at the intersections that connect our struggles. By strengthening the leadership of Black communities and building coalitions, we  advance progress toward social and economic justice for all. Donate today to support BAJI’s work as we make history by shaping the future.

We also lift up the immigrant backgrounds of our  Black history pioneers such as Shirley Chisholm and Kwame Ture, to remind us that Black immigrants and Black Americans have long fought side. BAJI continues this tradition, developing the leadership of Black immigrants and developing the shared kinship of African descended people through the Black Immigration Network(BIN). Your support helps make us better, bolder, and badder.

 

The Importance and Power of Unity With Black Lives From the African Diaspora

ICON MANN Awards Season Panel Discussion "The Evolution Of Character" State Of Black Men In Film

By: Nunu Kidane, Eritrean activist, writer and consultant based in Oakland California with Priority Africa Network
Originally posted on Huffington Post Black Voices 02/18/2015.

Names like David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor may be difficult to pronounce for the average American but their faces have become as familiar as any well-known Hollywood actor. Although Nigerian and Kenyan by birth, in the movies “Selma” and “Twelve Years a Slave,” they project images of the quintessential American-American — telling the history what it means to be Black in America.

The visibility of these actors is one indication of the fast-increasing population from Sub Saharan Africans in the US. For the most part, the new wave of Africans in the US remain invisible or ‘blend in’ with existing African American populations.

So what’s the problem you ask?

There are differences worth examining among native and immigrant Black communities, differences that are not always negative. It is when we fail to make necessary distinctions where needed that we can gloss over and make false assumptions in our exuberance to affirm our oneness and “unity.”

The old and new diaspora, have common heritage in Africa and a shared pigmentation where the word African is used as identity, but that is where the similarities end.

The profound history and continuing legacy of racism means that Black people in the US must first and foremost choose a racial category, ahead of ancestral lineage. The choice is simple and defined by skin color as in the US Census – it does not give room for narration but must choose Black, African American or Negro.

The average Africa-born person sees a vehement need to affirm an ancestral identity. Not doing so is tantamount to denying a deeper sense of oneself connected to several generations of a people and heritage.

The growing movement of “Black Lives Matter” has among its supports new members of the African diaspora. There are also others who remain on the periphery wondering why racial profiling and institutional racism is so deeply divisive in an age when America has a Black President.

Despite the current fast-paced information technology, the history and reality of racism in the US does not reach news media for millions in Africa. The mass US Pan Africanist solidarity movements common during the struggle against colonialism in Africa are virtually non-existent today. The US successfully promotes its brand as an open, fair and inclusive society where any person, regardless of the color of his/her skin, can be president: Obama is the living symbol of that.

For new Africans in the US, the challenges of navigating life are no different than what millions of migrants face daily: managing employment, school, housing, health care etc. What is special is the “double jeopardy” they face in being Black and immigrant, where few institutions understand the combined challenges let alone provide support and services when they are racially profiled by law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The immigrants’ rights movement perpetuates the narrative that the word “migrant” is synonymous with ‘Spanish-speaking.’ The demand to recognize the reality of diversity is largely lost on them. Or they often ‘play the numbers game’ insisting since nearly 60%+ immigrants in the US are Spanish-speaking, other Asian, Pacific Islander, Arab and African migrants simply need to take the lead from the dominant majority.

For African American institutions, the presence of growing number of Africans is met with mixed sense of apprehension. While the overall increase in black population is positive, the social and political tendencies of the new diaspora is less clear. There are differences worth examining in deeper dialogue; no amount of Kumbaya, let’s-hold-hands-and-sing-unity can deny the need for deeper transnational conversations on race, culture and identity.

The sad truth is that new Africans are affected by the legacy of race in many of the same ways as African Americans. Whether it is health disparity or rate of incarceration, being Black and immigrant means having to face multiple oppressions — historic and contemporary. For new diasporans from Africa, joining the Black Lives Matter movement is an absolute necessity to ensuring a better future for our children.

Actors like David Oyelowo who played the Rev. Dr. King in Selma make a difference in raising the need to bridge our histories. As I watched the movie, it occurred to me to consider what Dr. King would have made of the Nigerian man playing him. I suspect he would have chuckled with delight that the two continents of his identity — Africa and America — have connected in ways he would have never thought possible.

This post is part of the “Black Future Month” series produced by The Huffington Post and Black Lives Matter for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal-justice reform. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #BlackFutureMonth — and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.

Shared Past, Shared Future: Why Black Immigrants Are an Essential Part of the Movement

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Originally posted on Huffington Post: Black Voices 02/05/2015.
By: Tia Oso, Coordinator of the Black Immigration Network and the Arizona Organizer for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)

Immigration may seem an odd topic to discuss during Black History Month, I would challenge that there is no part of our history that is not shaped by migration, be it the forced migration of continental Africans to the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade or the Great Migration of free Blacks from the South after Reconstruction. Our lives, language, culture, traditions and identities are constantly being shaped and created in a Diaspora context. Whether we are the distant descendants of displaced people, first- and second-generation children of immigrants or recent arrivals, we are connected to one another and inextricably linked by our shared kinship as African descended peoples and standing in the legacy of Black liberation struggles. Recognizing and embracing this reality will bring unity and lead us to a vision that celebrates our diversity and complexity.

Immigration is a hotly contested topic, with rhetoric and media focus on Latino immigrants and conflict along the U.S.-Mexico border. Often ignored are the stories of over 3 million Black immigrants from countries in the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and Canada who live in the United States, comprising 10% of the U.S. foreign-born population. According to a recent Census report, the population of African immigrants is rapidly increasing, nearly doubling each decade. “Model minority” myths and exported stereotypes of African Americans would seek to divide Black immigrants from Black Americans when in fact, being Nigerian or Jamaican has not protected these communities from bearing the brunt of disproportionately high rates of deportation, unemployment, and economic exploitation, many living with the additional risk of undocumented status. The Black Immigration Network is dedicated to connecting these communities for action and raising our collective voices for social, political and economic justice.

As we celebrate Black History Month, I challenge us to dig deeper and recognize that some of our most honored and courageous trailblazers in the movement were immigrants:

  • Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to serve in the United States Congress and the both the first woman and the first Black American to seek the Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party was born in Brooklyn, NY to Caribbean parents.
  • Marcus Garvey, noted Pan Africanist and mass movement organizer and Founder of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was born in Jamaica, migrating to the U.S. in 1916.
  • Kwame Toure (formerly known asStokely Carmichael) political organizer and activist leader with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

I remind us of this, because it is the sacrifice and struggle for Black liberation, from Abolition to Civil Rights, that has paved the way for the opportunities and success enjoyed by thriving immigrant communities today.

Often we obscure our immigrant backgrounds as we fight for social justice, leading to an oversimplified idea of what it means to be Black and making it seem as if the interests of Black Americans and immigrants are not connected. This is far from true.

As Hannah Giorgis wrote for the Guardian, “Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo was not asked about his native language before officers emptied 41 bullets into his body. When Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was brutalized by NYPD officers, none of them paused to inquire if he was the ‘right’ kind of black to be torturing. Our international flavor of respectability politics will not save us from the sin of our skin.”

Giorgis is correct. From Dred Scott to Michael Brown, the fight for full citizenship in the U.S. continues for all people of African descent. So today on the frontlines of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we fight as brothers and sisters demanding human rights, dignity and respect for ALL Black Lives. We must challenge ourselves and one another to redefine what it means to be Black and proud, with the fullness of our identity. Let us not dismiss and minimize our various backgrounds, cultures and heritage, but uplift and strengthen our movement by building bridges that connect us.

This means that racial justice and migrant rights are not a tradeoff, but equally important fights. We can’t accept anti-immigrant rhetoric that lead to laws restricting Black American voter access. Nor should we accept immigration policies that ignore or penalize African and Carribbean migrants. As my organization, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) states, we demand social and economic justice for all. Working together at the intersections of our fights to create a just and equitable society that benefits us all is the only way to fulfill on the potential of a true democracy.

In order for us all to get free, we must embrace our shared origin, history and yes, future. Until we all win.

We’ll know black lives matter when we are unified through our Diaspora connections to achieve collective liberation.

This post is part of the “Black Future Month” series produced by The Huffington Post and Black Lives Matter for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal-justice reform. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #BlackFutureMonth — and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.

Black Future Month: Examining The Current State Of Black Lives And Envisioning Where We Go From Here

BLACK LIVES MATTER

Originally posted 01/02/15 on Huffington Post: Black Voices Matter

By: Opal Tometi, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter

Everyone knows that February in the U.S. is observed as Black History Month. This tradition began nearly 90 years ago when noted scholar and author Carter G.Woodson, himself the son of formerly enslaved Africans declared Negro History Week to highlight and celebrate the contributions of Black people to human history and combat racial prejudice. Though modern observances have become routine and even commercialized, this year we find ourselves in the context of incredible and undeniable Black resistance and resilience – and so there can be no Black History Month as usual.

As a community organizer who holds a degree in History, I understand the fascination with history. However, there is a tendency for many of us to get engrossed in the recounting of our history, which often amounts to purely intellectual activity without material action. In a day and age where every 28 hours a Black person is being killed with impunity, unemployment in Black communities is 12% and Blacks make up 40% of the imprisoned population, we can’t afford to solely commemorate the past. We must seize the opportunity to change the course of history by shaping our future.

Many thought that the abolition of slavery, the end of Jim Crow and the legislative progress of the Civil Rights Era, among other watershed moments, would have fundamentally done away with the racist structures that have long oppressed Black people. However, we know that has been far from the case. There’s been persistent and concerted effort to erode the gains of the Black liberation struggles throughout the years, hindering Black progress. These attacks seem subtle and rational to non-Black communities, as matters of simple policy or social norms. However, they are significant and together constitute structural attacks. Examples included the divestment from the public sector, to attack on labor unions, and laws that criminalize non-violent activity, which leads to obscene rates mass of incarceration.

Anti-Black racism operates at a society wide level and colludes in a seamless web of policies, practices and beliefs to oppress and disempower Black communities. Far from ending, systemic racism reinvents itself to conform to what is publically acceptable. Leaving the quality of Black life diminished and more permanently fixed with each passing decade. And any outcry or attempt to expose this cycle of oppression is often ignored or dismissed by broader US society, because it seems rational or insignificant.

At the same time there are full frontal attacks, and even if when caught on camera, there’s evidence of impunity, as in the murders of Mike Brown or Eric Garner. Sadly,as ColorOfChange has aptly pointed out, the state allows law enforcement to kill Black people at nearly the same rate as Jim Crow lynchings. In light of these egregious cases, and many others, the #Blacklivesmatter movement has been catalyzed across the nation and it is clear that this movement is not solely about extrajudicial killings. Our communities are concerned with their entire quality of life. We are concerned with the systemic attacks on our humanity at a societal level. The violence that says this society is colorblind and so we should remain silent.

The #Blacklivesmatter movement which really began in 2013, in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder, and George Zimmerman’s acquittal revealed that anti-black racism is a society wide persistent condition and series of laws and practices that negatively impact every sphere of Black life – and often leads to premature death. This movement has put an end to the myth of a post racial society.

Many are asking activists, where this is all headed. And time and time again media has pronounced this a leaderless movement, that is unclear about its agenda and demands. This is not true and is mainstream society’s way of erasing the courage of the scores of innovative young women and men that have taken up the charge to lay hold of liberation. As we can see, the challenge is widespread and requires a fundamental transformation of our society. And so this is why when we say #blacklivesmatter – we mean all Black lives matter – regardless of gender or sexual orientation, immigration status, physical disability, income level, criminal record, etc. In order to have a democracy that works for all of us we need the entire nation to challenge anti-Black racism and get involved in this movement for all Black lives.

The past is a great teacher, but true students and beneficiaries should always ask, ‘where do we go from here?’ It’s our duty to live up to the legacy of those that came before us and not let the sacrifice of our foremothers and forefathers have been in vain. We must envision our future and actively bend the arc towards justice.

Beginning this Sunday February 1st, Huffington Post Black Voices will kick off a month-long feature tackling 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives. We’ll hear from our leader-full movement and identify ways to take action on various issues that affect Black life, ranging from gentrification, to the transgender Black experience, to mental health and immigration.

Be sure to read all 28 articles as these visionary leaders tell us how we’ll know when all Black lives matter.

This post is part of the “Black Future Month” series produced by The Huffington Post and Black Lives Matter for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal-justice reform. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #BlackFutureMonth — and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.

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