- Administrative Relief for All immigrants - although 4 million is great, all 11 million is better. Many in our communities still won’t be protected by the immigration announcement.
- No more Racial and Religious Profiling in the name of immigration enforcement.
- No more removal proceedings for Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), many Black immigrants are LPRs and due to draconian laws from 1996 many get unduly targeted for removal.
- Address the visa backlog – many in people are waiting to be reunited with their family members, and this is easily one way the Administration could have taken additional action to support legal, already approved, migration
- No new enforcement programs nor increased border enforcement. This is flawed logic when there are many human rights violations and lack of due process that is already occurring with current programs and practices.
Post by Tia Oso, National Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network and BAJI Arizona Organizer
On Monday November 17, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a State of Emergency in a preemptive measure to mobilize state resources and suspend civil freedoms in anticipation of social unrest in response to the grand jury decision on indicting Officer Darren Wilson for the August 9th killing of Michael Brown. Protestors in Ferguson Missouri have stood for over 100 days calling for an indictment of Officer Wilson, the appointment of a special prosecutor in place of Bob McCullough, and accountability of the Ferguson Police Department for its corruption, abuse of power and violation of the human rights and civil rights of the residents of Ferguson. Simply put, justice for Mike Brown.
A state of emergency is defined as a situation of national danger or disaster in which a government suspends normal constitutional procedures in order to regain control. According to this definition, the true state of emergency is in Black communities. A black person is killed extrajudicially every 28 hours. Since Mike Brown’s killing, at least three other young Black people have been killed by members of law enforcement in St. Louis alone. At each turn, the demands of peaceful demonstrators have been met with militarized police response, disrespect and violence by some white citizens and demonization and outright lies from the mainstream mass media. If anyone is under threat, it is the Black community in Ferguson and allies. For weeks, law enforcement in St. Louis have been staging military vehicles and equipment into the Ferguson area, elected officials have issued inflammatory media statement, ramping up tensions and raising the specter of angry mobs of Black looters, causing many white residents to run to local gun stores, under the guise of self-defense. The terrorist organization Klu Klux Klan has issued public statement of their plans to use lethal force against protesters, with no reprimand from government officials. This is indeed an emergency. The right of Black people to live and defend the lives of those killed unjustly is under threat. This has grown bigger than Mike Brown. 100 days later, Ferguson is the center of the fight for racial justice and, with the eyes of the world watching; activists across the country prepare to respond.
Ferguson Speaks: A Communique From Ferguson is a short video that shows the complex perspectives from the Ferguson community and supporters on what the killing of Mike Brown means, and the fight for justice. Exposing antiblackness, injustice, the police state and systemic corruption, in the words of the people on the frontlines.
Watch the video and prepare to take action. There are Mike Brown’s in every community. This is not a Ferguson issue, this is a national issue and concerns the human rights of everyone in the United States. Allowing police to kill with impunity means that no one is safe. A new website- http://fergusonaction.com/ – includes actions planned in response to the grand jury decision in cities across the U.S. Get involved and take a stand in what has become this generation’s pivotal moment to affect change.
This is an emergency.
Post by Juwaher Yusuf, BAJI Program Associate
Courage to go into the unknown, with five children and one bag
Growing up, I knew that my story was different.
I knew that I had a complex reality compared to my blond-haired, blue-eyed classmates. I knew that my family had fled our home country in pursuit of a brighter, safer future. I knew that sacrifices were made beyond the depths of my understanding; it took the unfolding of several years to grasp the intricacies of the nuances I experienced as an immigrant. I am still learning about my family’s’ immigration experience and putting all the pieces together which leads me to this rare documentation of my family’s story that I recently uncovered.
“She arrived at the Port Authority in New York, took a bus to Buffalo. With her five children under the age of eight and one suitcase, she walked across the Peace Bridge and asked to be a refugee. She came with such courage, walked across a bridge to the unknown, to a country she had never seen. She knew nobody here and she walked across a bridge and she stands, for me, forever as an example of the courage to go into the unknown – with five children and one bag.”
My mother has never told us this story. Aware of our extensive journey, details were always omitted – likely in attempt to protect us from trauma. Culturally-speaking, downplaying experiences as a coping mechanism is common; partly in attempt to not have to re-live those horrifying experiences. However, there is incredible power in this story for me. There is incredible power in our stories and they need to be told.
Fleeing violence, torture, poverty, war, and discrimination through treacherous journeys is common in an immigrant’s’ experience. Our stories are nothing short of fascinating and can have a profound impact as our lived experiences make for powerful forms of communication.
It is important for us to share these stories.
Why? Because our stories matter. They matter because they showcase the injustices we’ve faced and continue to face. They matter because they create moments of connection with others. They matter because they give validation and acknowledgement of our experiences. They matter because they are therapeutic and unleash suppressed or otherwise deemed nonexistent emotions. They matter because stories have the ability to move people and expand their understanding. They matter to you. They matter to our community. They matter to us.
Channeling our experiences as immigrants through multiple art forms gives us the appreciation of our stories through open interpretation. The ability of paintings, poetry, theatre, music, actions and dance to captivate audiences through storytelling ceases to amaze me. Using art as a vehicle to create political action has encouraged young people in particular to be actively engaged in social justice issues they feel passionate towards.At BAJI, we are pleased to support the storytelling of Black immigrants in our community. Join us this Saturday, November 15, 2014, as Anthony “Tony” Polanco launches his first publication, Verses from the Diaspora at our office in Brooklyn, 660 Nostrand Ave.
Verses from the Diaspora is not one person’s story but a collection inspired by the many voices of the African diaspora in the Americas and throughout the world. It reveals the reality of African descendants from the favelas of Brazil to the streets of South Central Los Angeles with brutal honesty. The roots of the book’s origin traces back to the author’s time in Valladolid, Spain in 2008 in which Polanco noticed the discrimination of Africans, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Brazilians and even Afro-Indians. Literary inspiration includes the works of Nicolás Guillén, Blas R. Jiménez, Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, Federico García Lorca, John Keats, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Richard Wright, Carlos Guillermo, Julio de Burgos and Carlos Guillermo Wilson among others. Verses from the Diaspora embodies the various languages, cultures and backgrounds while exploring the similar struggles of the displaced children of Africa. The collection of original poetry pieces is expressed in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Enjoy a night of multilingual poetry performances and a discourse about the African Diaspora and the work done by The Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
Share your story with us. We’d love to hear from you…
Post by BAJI New York City Organizer Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye
In recent years Black migrants have shifted the common immigration narrative that traditionally begins with troubled journeys leading to eventual acceptance. Now, even the New York Times brought the fall season in with an article on how the ‘Influx of African Immigrants’ actually reveals mistaken beliefs that the U.S. is “the Mecca for Africans.” Even earlier, Christina Greer’s 2013 book on “Black Ethnics” was animated by the reality of Black immigrants and our political destiny. BAJI in particular has been at the forefront of transforming foregone conclusions about Black migrants into political questions. We have made it necessary for everyone to think of Black Immigrants socially and politically.
Demographic Advantage or Democrats Need Us
Considering the political landscape the first statement we must make is that the two major political parties are incapable of advocating on behalf of Black immigrants. Republicans have very harsh immigration policies and Democrats who were unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform are losing political power. This is particularly important considering how Black communities in general vote. The first signs of this reality should have been clear when Democrats were unable to propose universal healthcare when they controlled Congress. With the re-election of President Obama due in part because of an immigration-aided demographic advantage many assumed that Democrats were in control and would support broad immigration reform while the Republican Party would fail because they couldn’t connect with immigrants. But the national picture did not predict the local landscape. The political landscape has been complicated by ineffective advocacy on both sides of the aisle, a Republican resurgence in the House, and now a crumbling Democratic majority in the Senate. This trend was particularly pronounced in Florida where the local demographics made Obama the first Democrat to win Florida consecutively in recent memory. The margin of victory was thin and, despite the actual politics of the White House, given political campaigns we can be excited for our communities can still shift election outcomes. This is the same Florida that Democrats have now lost to Rick Scott the GOP candidate for governor. We have many options in our political toolkit but if we are going to use voting then we need to disregard the notion that we need the Democratic Party because of the Republican menace. We can’t count on either party to advocate for Black immigrants. The Democrats in particular are in trouble but we don’t need them; to be viable, they need us.
Don’t Just Assimilate Agitate
It is never acceptable to take crumbs when you write the recipe. When the Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program after Haitian-Americans had built campaigns spanning the length of country we should have known that our work had only began. Those of you who are familiar have seen the continuous effort to create a comprehensive parole program. So with a waitlist standing between 110,000 Haitians and their Haitian-American family members we were given a very limited program that was open to only 5,000 people. This offer is all the more reason to continue pushing for a much broader program because after announcing this limited program the Obama administration cannot undo that pledge without significant political consequences. We must press for more as the details of the program are being planned, we must press for more because it is our right. This was the conversation we established during the #ReuniteHaitianFams online discussion. Our plan can’t be to simply to bring our families here and try to assimilate culturally but to organize politically and agitate.
What is the (Black) Immigrant Agenda?
If the journey to Reunite Haitian American Families has taught us anything is that we must set our agenda internally. Gaining support from both sides of the aisle is no longer enough. In Minnesota the Freedom and Justice Party is building independently of the two parties with the Ebola crisis as its main agenda item. Black Immigration Network member, BYP100 is part of a major effort to present police brutality before the UN as systemic genocide. These are just a few ways we can begin to outline the beginnings of a national agenda for Black immigrants. Police brutality can even be expanded and stand within the context of other forms of state violence. The lack of adequate healthcare options that the Democrats were unable to address is one example. Even though we can’t set the agenda within the Democratic Party locally our communities are strongly represented in a range of service-delivery professions that we can politicize to meet our needs. In New York City, this is being done by nurses’ unions that are working to run a local hospital as a worker co-op that would offer address healthcare in a broader way. In so far as Republicans are uninterested and Democrats have abandoned universal healthcare, can we realize it outside the boundaries of their disregard? These are just a few examples of how we can begin to imagine our own political destiny.
Post by Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer
I grew up surrounded by strong black women. I was raised in a single-parent household with my mom and older sister but my dad had 6 kids altogether, 5 girls and one boy. Yes, I am the only guy amongst 5 sisters. Additionally, I am the only man amongst my immediate cousins who are also all women (there’s 6 cousins altogether as well). My experience having grown up in a single-parent household surrounded by strong matriarchs in the family and my experience having a semi-involved and mostly distant father, caused me to struggle finding positive mentors that were men. So I relied on women in my family to guide me into adulthood. My mom, sisters, grandmas, great-grandmas, and aunts have played a major role in helping me understand myself in connection to the world around me. I am forever grateful for your teachings. I have also found a new family of radical women of color who have also taught me valuable lessons in critical movement building.
I thank you. All the women in my family and the women of color in the movement who continuously hold it down for our communities. We wouldn’t be here without you. My intention is to start this blog by showing my deep love and gratitude for you because I recognize that myself, other men, and society in general have taken you for granted.
My mother raised my sister and I in poverty. I never knew we were in poverty because my mom worked her ass off to ensure that we never felt less than anyone else, regardless of our material realities. My mom taught me early on to stand in my dignity which helped me to believe that I could accomplish anything. So I navigated life as if I could. It has also been my great-grandmas, grandma, and aunts who have continued to bring the family together. Unfortunately health issues have caused early deaths of men in my family so it has really been the women who have resiliently held us together.
Much like your contributions in the family that often go unnoticed, I have also observed that women of color have consistently held it down for our communities in the movement, yet the work is often invisibilized. My own sexist conditioned tendencies mixed with societal gender norms have contributed to that process of silencing and erasing. While it has been fairly easy for me to articulate issues of race and class in society, my own cis-gender male privilege, has made it hard for me to address sexism in my own organizing and daily practices. This silencing has negatively impacted my relationships and my work in organizing spaces. More seriously, I fear that my silence on the issue has made me complicit in today’s war on women.
Sexist perceptions of what it is to be a man and what it is to be a leader has made it very hard for me to show up in the movement in a truly authentic manner. My whole life I have been taught by individuals and society at large that to be a man, is to be strong. Any sign of emotional vulnerability made you weak, less man and more woman. So I held things in. I continue to struggle in becoming emotionally vulnerable and my conditioned tendencies of “sucking it up” have impacted my life in negative ways. And now I realize that I need to heal.
This is what women have been saying for some time now..
My fellow men of color. Let’s be real. Let’s have a true conversation about our sexism. We have continued to de-prioritize this in our work. Unfortunately, we benefit materially from this silencing but I truly believe that we are hurting ourselves, our loved ones, and the organizing by not addressing this. Sexism and sexist perceptions of manhood and masculinity continue to directly harm those who do not identify as men, men ourselves, and our communities. It will take active resistance to truly heal and work towards a society that treats women and people of all gender identities with true respect and dignity. This work must be prioritized.
Haitian-Americans Receive Long Awaited Visa Program to Reunite Family Members After 5 Years of National Advocacy
NATIONAL COALITION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN AND BLACK IMMIGRANT LEADERS AFFIRM VICTORY FOR HAITIAN COMMUNITY
Haitian-Americans Receive Long Awaited Visa Program to Reunite Family Members After 5 Years of National Advocacy
[New York, NY – Friday October 17th, 2014] Advocates of the Reunite Haitian-American Families Campaign have achieved a significant victory in the October 17th Department of Homeland Security announcement of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRP). Prior to this federal announcement longstanding support for FRPP grew from key national efforts like the Reunite Haitian American Families Campaign that is sponsored by the national coalition Black Immigration Network, which includes organizations such as the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees and Haitian Women of Miami.
Co-Chair of the Reunite Haitian-American Families Campaign and Executive Director of BAJI, Opal Tometi explains, “Immigrant rights organizations launched the campaign as the domestic and international Haitian community dealt with the powerful earthquake that shook the Haitian capital of Port au-Prince. Living conditions began to worsen as communities displaced to tents began to number into the hundreds of thousands. This fragile situation degraded further with the onset of a cholera outbreak from unscreened UN troops.”
While Haitian visa recipients stayed on waiting lists, some for over a decade, a call went out for a Family Reunification Parole program that would expedite family reunification by allowing already approved visa recipients legal entrance into the U.S. to reunite with their family members.
The Department of Homeland Security has responded to the demands of immigrants groups and the Reunite Haitian-American Families campaign. Members of this campaign believe this is an important step that expedites the process for those beneficiaries whose visas are within two years of being current. However, advocates have shown that many of the 110,000 Haitians have been on the waiting list for as many as 12 years. Depending on the implementation approach and the way the program is structured it is estimated that the program will cover 5,000 individuals.
Opal Tometi the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration believes that, “It is clear that we are being heard, but it is important that we understand that this is just one step in our journey to get the needs of the Haitian-American community met. We will watch the Department of Homeland Security closely to see how they plan on implementing this program and call on them to proceed with a strategy to expedite the process for all Haitians who’ve already been approved.”
Advocates for the Haitian FRPP call for a broader program with the Cuban parole program as a model.
Support for a broad and comprehensive FRPP is resonating in a Haitian community that by 2009 reached 830,000 members across the country.
Marliene Bastien executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami/Haitian Women of Miami and Co-Chair of the Reunite Haitian-American Families Campaign told the Miami Herald, “we will continue to work for the rest of the group who are qualified, to get them the opportunity to be reunited with their family members because they have been waited for so long.”
For more information visit: www.reunitehaitianfamilies.com
Protestors Lead the Next Wave of Black Liberation Struggles into an International Movement
Post by Tia Oso, National Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network and BAJI Arizona Organizer
Shrouded in fog, hundreds of marchers walk across a bridge towards St. Louis University at 1am face down dozens of police, beating their batons in rhythm against riot shields; calling to mind images of Martin Luther King and others in Selma on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. It is hard to believe that this is 2014, not 1965 and that the right of civilians to peaceably assemble and petition one’s government for the redress of grievances is still at issue. Family related to both Michael Brown and VonDerrit Myers, their grievance the loss of sons gunned down by police, stood at the front of the crowd demanding that the march proceed. One of the young women in the crowd remarked, “this is why I didn’t tell my parents I was coming to protest. We are Igbo Nigerian and they are very traditional, they would be scared for me right now. But I had to be here for this moment…They [Ferguson protestors] faced this for 64 days, I can be here with them tonight.”
Every police killing sparks outrage, whether or not the news media takes notice. Families mourn every death and communities come together to mourn and cry out for justice. When Michael Brown was killed on August 9, instead of the usual period of mourning, outrage and organizing, the people of St. Louis, particularly the youth, young Black men and women of St. Louis, refused to let the flames of resistance die. For 65 days, against tanks, tear gas and tyranny, their passion, energy and determination have launched an international movement for racial justice and human rights that has compelled people around the world, across age, race and nationality to declare that “Black Lives Matter”. In a historic weekend of mobilization October 10-13, BAJI Organizer, Tia Oso and Black Immigration Network members joined thousands of supporters, marching the streets of St. Louis, occupying the campus of Saint Louis University, Wal-Mart, major intersections, the October 13 St. Louis Rams game and other sites (protests are ongoing and spontaneous) to engage in non-violent civil disobedience for the lost lives of Mike Brown, VonDerrit Myers, John Crawford and countless others demanding accountability and systemic policing reforms nationwide. For some, this is an act of solidarity, or allyship, but for those in the diaspora, Nigerian, Haitian, Liberian, Congolese, Jamaican and more that live in and traveled to Ferguson, the fight is personal. Racial profiling and criminalization affects all Black people, regardless of national origin, and from Dred Scott to Michael Brown, the fight for full citizenship in the U.S. continues for all people of African descent.
Contrary to depictions in the mainstream media, this is no rogue riot. Organizers operate with a clear analysis that recognizes the intersections of systemic racism, mass criminalization, state violence, capitalism, militarism and white supremacy. The St. Louis municipal government is not a “broken system” that must be corrected, indeed, the multiple municipalities, with lines determined and drawn by white landowners and regulated by largely white Councils and municipal employees, funded by taxes and fines extracted by overpolicing targeting Black citizens through moving violations and other petty offenses, criminalizing them with an average of 3 warrants per year in Ferguson is an apartheid state exposed. State sanctioned terrorism that daily harasses, tortures, and ultimately kills with impunity. As outlined in The State of Our Communities, BAJI’s paper on understanding mass incarceration, mass criminalization is a mechanism of social control, and this movement aims to dismantle it. With Black youth, uncompromising and unrelenting in the lead, it is officially “Not your grandparent’s Civil Rights Movement”. Organizers repeatedly emphasize that young Black women have been the primary organizers and strategists, with young Black men sharing responsibilities, resources and power, creating new models that are challenging patriarchy and repressive structures of traditional leadership.
Rallying solidarity in Palestine, Hong Kong, Brazil and South Africa, Ferguson has emerged into a global struggle. While drawing inspiration from the historic legacy of the Civil Rights movement is routine for progressive activists from immigration reform to climate change and marriage equality, current Black issues and voices are not on always included on their agenda. The escalation of the Ferguson Uprising expands the new era of Black resistance and leadership, shaking the cobwebs off of these pictures of stoic Black men and women in iconic black and white photographs that have framed and defined the fight for Black progress as over and done. With fearless passion, the youth are calling out the respectability politics and complacency of established Black leaders and organizations, the pacification and tokenism of Liberal moderates and the labeling of Black criminality and pathology Conservatives have used to paint the victims of police violence for their own deaths.
BAJI is committed to championing Black leadership in St. Louis and beyond, because it is Black liberation struggles that have led to a more just and equitable society. Cornell West stated at Sunday night’s Mass Meeting at St. Louis University that “every generation of African people in the U.S. has had to fight for justice” and by mounting an organized resistance to police violence in their community, the millennial generation at the forefront of the Ferguson movement has taken the lead in the fight for the human and civil rights of all people.
Opal Tometi, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, is featured in Essence Magazine’s November 2014 issue, The New Civil Rights Leaders.
By: Lisa Armstrong
BAJI & Black Lives Matter Discuss Confronting Anti-Blackness In Progressive Movements In Order To Build Multiracial Alliances
Confronting anti-black racism and building multiracial alliances that make us all #StrongerTogether
Join the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the Black Lives Matter community this Friday October 3rd at 12pm CST/ 1pm EST for an important twitter chat about structural racism and multiracial alliance building.
We’ll be using the hashtags #StrongerTogether and #FergusonFridays for this conversation. In the 8 weeks since Mike Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson, the Black community in Ferguson have been unrelenting in their fight for justice. Their struggle has inspired acts of solidarity from other progressive movements in the U.S. and abroad. The acts of solidarity have been tremendous, however there have also been many questions about Black-leadership and what it means to show up for Black communities in a sincere and powerful way. We know that our communities are #StrongerTogether so we are creating an open space to discuss the challenges and opportunities for cross-racial alliance building in the 21st century. The issues of our day such as mass criminalization, migration and economic inequities require we build deep and lasting relationships for our collective liberation.
Be sure to follow us, @BAJItweet and @Blklivesmatter on twitter and join us, Desis Rising Up and Moving, Families For Freedom and many others this Friday October 3 at 12pm CST/ 1pm EST. RSVP here and join the conversation.
Post by Tia Oso, National Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network and BAJI Arizona Organizer
President Obama’s recently announced delay in granting Administrative Relief to undocumented migrants in the U.S. has sent many in the migrant rights movement up in arms. His announcement comes just months after he promised “a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress” through Executive Action. After promising decisive action on immigration reform for 8 years, immigration policy reform has again been reduced to a political hot potato. A talking point. A litmus test for the liberal or conservative credentials of a political candidate, and little else.
This is not a new development, indeed, the very creation of the immigration “problem” through the vilification and categorizing of migrants as an underclass and “other” is a mechanism for conservative movement building. The roots of anti-immigrant activism, organized and funded by Jon Tanton and the Koch brothers and allied with White Nationalists to rally a grassroots conservative base, now catered to by the GOP and Tea Party that has deadlocked the House of Representatives from passing any type of immigration reform legislation. Fueled by hate-filled political fear mongering, the anti-immigrant movement galvanizes its base of supporters to staunchly oppose any humane immigration policy and to pass punitive laws such as SB1070 and launch conservative political careers. Indeed, in the Arizona Republican primary for Governor, candidates worked to outpace one another in their zeal to appear tough on “illegals” and appeal to the conservative base.
Progressives, in turn, have been slow to respond. In fact, as we see with President Obama’s record number of deportations and policies such as S-Comm emphasizing enforcement, politicians on the left are complicit in building a machinery that further militarized the border and created “crimmigration”, mounting no real opposition or alternative to the right wing maneuvering of public opinion and resources, and leaving families broken and devastated in the balance.
The grassroots migrant rights movement is fractured and vulnerable to these political games. Instead of a broad based, mult-ethnic coalition fighting for real reform to provide social and economic justice, groups organize in silos and play a game of exclusionary politics. In the negotiations for the bi-partisan Senate bill on immigration passed in 2013, for example “criminal immigrants” were quickly thrown under the bus as ineligible for a pathway to citizenship and the diversity visa that enables many African immigrants to migrate to the US was summarily eliminated. This is ironic, given that it was a multiracial coalition that successfully elected President Obama to the White House in his two historic elections and could wield this considerable power and influence with an inclusive, intersectional agenda.
In the waiting game for executive action, progressive groups should be looking for ways to broaden who is covered in Administrative Relief and push President Obama to truly “Go Big” by making a big ask that will benefit the maximum number of the 11 million undocumented migrants in the U.S. The Black Immigration Network has created a list of priorities for Administrative Relief for Black communities that outline what this looks like for black immigrants. Without decisive, broad action, there is the very real prospect that any relief from enforcement granted to certain segments of the population will further expose those outside of eligibility to increased scrutiny and aggressive enforcement measures.
This presents a very real problem, especially for immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. Families living in fear, in the shadows and margins of society, are subject to exploitation and oppression. Of particular concern for Black immigrants is the scrutiny of racial and religious profiling by the police, with many departments having the authority to work in cooperation with ICE to detain immigrants due to their non-Citizen status. This affects Black American communities as well; workers fearful of deportation won’t speak out about unpaid wages or unsafe workplaces, lowering wages and labor standards for everyone.
Only Congress can control the categories of immigration and funding of the agencies involved. However, the President may act to modify enforcement priorities, change certain regulations and create programs. President Obama could use his executive authority to create enforcement reform, affirmative relief from deportation, and modify immigration adjudications. By supporting an end to all deportations and adding program adjustments such as Family Reunification Parole for Haitian American Families to their lists of demands, migrant rights groups can signal to the President that relief is not just about garnering votes of one demographic over another, but about making real change that will bring relief to all migrant families. It is time for progressive groups to unite and make big asks in the fight for justice.
Post by Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration is working in coalition with communities across the Bay who’ve developed study/action circles on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Our Bay Area New Jim Crow Study/ Action Coalition is composed of Alameda and Contra Costa County residents primarily involved in activist and faith communities. All members of the coalition are deeply committed to addressing core issues that have created and bolstered today’s system of mass criminalization which has sustained and reinforced racial caste in the U.S., making our struggle one against the New Jim Crow.
Our coalition moves with the understanding that in order to dismantle the system of mass criminalization, we must first deeply understand the problem. This is why we have committed several months to studying and creating conversation around Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. She argues, “that mass incarceration is, metaphorically, the New Jim Crow and that all those who care about social justice should fully commit themselves to dismantling this new racial caste system” (pg 11). We understand that the White Supremacist-Patriarchal-Heterosexist U.S. establishment continues to dehumanize and commit egregious violence against people of color, queer and trans folks, women, and other marginalized communities within the U.S. and across the globe in systematic, and often militaristic ways. Our coalition is committed to not be bystanders in this struggle against the new system of mass criminalization.
Critical movement building is our approach in dismantling mass criminalization. We believe this requires; deep understanding of the problem, organizing in ways that are conducive to addressing foundational issues, learning from movements of the past, and moving towards societal change. We acknowledge that the solution to dismantling the system of mass criminalization is complex and requires a lot of work. We do not believe that there is one approach or answer to the issue of mass criminalization but our priority is to work towards solutions with community. With this approach, our coalition has come to a consensus in committing ourselves to the philosophy and practice of nonviolence. Additionally, we have organized a working group on non-violent direct action and other groups charged with developing local campaigns in Alameda and Contra Costa County that are designed to fit into the national struggle against mass criminalization.
Michelle Alexander argues, “that nothing short of a major social movement can successfully dismantle the new caste system. Meaningful reforms can be achieved without such a movement, but unless the public consensus supporting the current system is completely overturned, the basic structure of the new caste system will remain intact” (18). Our work is to movement build towards a society that values the humanity of all people, no matter race, gender, sexuality, class background, country of origin, etc. And our coalition aims to continue and to intensify the struggle to accomplish this vision.
Endorsed by New Jim Crow Study/Action Steering Committee:
Post by BAJI New York City Organizer Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye
It is important for people to understand that on a basic level the imagery of Ferguson does not reflect the reality of Ferguson. We are looking, from our varied distances, at a trick mirror positioned by a media complicit in the echoing violence of of Kajieme Powell’s murder. Media complicity is not just in conservative outlets like Fox News who rhetorically rehearse the violent sentiment that fired, at the very least, six shots into Michael Brown’s body but also in liberal and alternative media that cannot grapple with antiblackness that is as American as enslavement. Almost as if this violence is due to a new police militarization, or outdated training, as opposed to a much more mundane antiblackness. That is to say, what we have always known; that Black bodies cause anxiety that can only be released by violence. Despite reflecting this anxiety in their coverage news outlets cannot analyze this unique relationship Black people have with an antiblack world. So the distorted media narratives on public demonstrations in Ferguson even when framed in empathy are saturated with worries about lawlessness and disorder.
The varied responses Black communities or individuals have to brutality is not the concern of this writer. The need to defend certain actions misses James Baldwin’s perspective on looting, Martin Luther King Jr.’s on riots, or local voices on this present moment. What these words seek to highlight is the well-organized, highly disciplined work happening locally and nationally. Though leadership does not reflect past movements you are not seeing a leaderless movement. There is no disapproval of spontaneity here instead a call to focus on what you are actually seeing, a masterfully calculated strategy. BAJI staff along with dozens from across the country have just been welcomed into St. Louis by the spiritually affirming arms of Saint John’s United Church of Christ led by Pastor Starsky Wilson. The gathering in that building quickly led to an outlined agenda, programming, and the clear grounding framework around the valuing of all Black lives not just the outsized male figures that crowd out broader conversation and sadly, political imagination.
What has become a national call started as the simple phrasing of a disputed truth that #BlackLivesMatter. Answers came from across the country joining the US Human Rights Network, Crunk Feminist Collective, and National Organization for Women and many others all responding to a gesture into and against the chaos of genocidal policing attacking all Black bodies.
From the very beginning intentional links between the 1960s Freedom Rides and the #BlackLivesMatter Ride to St. Louis were evident in the national reach and the relationship building with frontline Ferguson organizers.
The messaging for this campaign was crafted precisely to create a banner, “under which Black people can unite to end state sanctioned violence both in St. Louis, but also across the United States of America.” But local endorsements from the Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) and Organizations for Black Struggle (OBS) firmly plant this work in Midwest soil. With international eyes now shifted to a city some say the Black Power Movement passed, what the past has forgotten the present names and where Ferguson goes so goes the post-civil rights nation.
#BlackLivesMatter is happening on multiple levels including several online locations with information about the direction of this work. We are now in an appropriate space to reflect on how a tech savvy generation born of and in the information age has matured into political work. Who will acknowledge their genius?
BLACK IMMIGRANTS AND AFRICAN AMERICANS DEMAND END TO POLICE BRUTALITY AND CRIMINALIZATION OF BLACK COMMUNITIES
BLACK IMMIGRANTS AND AFRICAN AMERICANS DEMAND END TO POLICE BRUTALITY AND CRIMINALIZATION OF BLACK COMMUNITIES
Calls for local and national effort to address racial justice and immigrant rights issues as they acutely impact all black communities
Current practices of institutional racism have historic roots in the enslavement of black Africans. Black communities in the U.S. whether foreign or native born, are subject to brutality and profiling under a system of “repressive enforcement structures” including the police, FBI, Homeland Security, and CIA resulting in mass criminalization. We have seen the extra-judicial killing of both African-American and black immigrant women and men at the hands of police, such as Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Mohamed Bey, Rekia Boyd, Amadou Diallo, Tarika Wilson and Kimani Grey. While all violence is devastating to our communities, the rampant abuse of state power that protects law enforcement from accountability and blame for the deaths of these men and women erases their very humanity. Our communities demand an end to the government sanctioned violence that is police brutality. And an end to law enforcement practices and policies that encourage and incentivize profiling, and its deadly results, with impunity.
We say enough. Communities across the nation can no longer sit idly by while black families suffer with little due process or recourse. We demand justice for Mike Brown and all families who’ve lost a family member at the hands of law enforcement, security personnel or vigilantes. We must, as a society, take responsibility for putting an end to this systemic abuse of power.
We know that our communities are not facing criminalization and brutalization within a vacuum. A review of the blatant racial inequity in the Ferguson community epitomizes the context that makes our communities incredibly vulnerable. At the Black Alliance for Just immigration we look at criminalization of our communities as being the main crime. A crime that leaves us impoverished, brutalized, separated and sadly, at times, dead.
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration issues the following 4 demands, for all black communities:
1. Stop the criminalization of black communities. We want an end to punitive measures of control as a means to improving social ills blamed on the myth of Black criminality. We call for an end to: the practice of incarceration, detention and deportation, the War on Drugs and other public initiatives that couple militarization and violent enforcement targeting black communities, racial and religious profiling and other policies and practices that disproportionately target our communities. All of which results in nearly half of the U.S. prison population being black.
2. Invest Public Resources into Economic Opportunities for Black immigrants and African-Americans. Address the root causes of unemployment and income inequality in the African-American community: attacks on labor unions, poor funding for education and discrimination on the job. Black immigrants, just like African Americans, have the highest unemployment, lowest wages and experience the most workplace discrimination of any foreign born community. A concrete solution would be to invest direct funds towards economic and educational infrastructures to create safe, thriving communities.
3. Reunite families. Many Black immigrant families are separated by deportation, unjust profiling in law enforcement practices and also by discriminatory immigration practices. Polices should emphasize family unity, such as a family reunification parole program for Haitian-American families: Reunite Haitian American Families. Expedite the reunification of 110,000 Haitian families who already have visas to be reunited with loved ones, but are on waiting lists, while similar programs exist for other nations of origin.
4. Legalization for all who reside in the U.S. including the 500,000 undocumented black immigrantsand re-enfranchise those who’ve been deemed unworthy and ineligible for legal status due to criminal convictions.
As a community who often dwell together, fellowship at similar houses of worship, and find ourselves residing in the same neighborhoods it is imperative that our solutions are reflective of our complex identities and lived experiences with a unifying strength for our kinship of humanity. We know that all black lives matter and that when one community is under attack we in fact all are. Immigrant rights are a racial justice issue and racial justice is an immigrant rights issue. Our lives are intertwined and our fights must be so as well. A multiracial democracy that works for all requires we bring our communities together – not just black immigrants and African-Americans, but all communities. However, we must be vigilant to ensure that the most acutely impacted among us are protected and that we measure our progress from the advancement of those most oppressed, until the most marginalized are uplifted.
Let’s fight together for the world we all deserve.
Immigrant rights are a matter of racial justice. Black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean make up approximately 10% of the foreign-born population in the U.S. Studies have shown that black immigrants are detained and deported at five times the rate of their presence in the undocumented immigrant community. While our broken immigration system continues to adversely impact all immigrant communities, black immigrants often remain overlooked and excluded from the immigration discourse.
The Black Immigration Network renews its call for a fair, just and inclusive immigration system, which ensures that black immigrants are treated humanely and fairly and can bring all their contributions and talents to strengthen our culture, economy and communities. The President has broad—although not absolute—executive authority to set enforcement priorities, stop unjust deportations and mitigate some of the harshest effects of our broken immigration system on black immigrant communities. We understand that any administrative relief via executive action is temporary and could be reversed by a subsequent administration. Only immigration legislation can provide a permanent solution and a path to legal status and deserved citizenship for the more than 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. including 500,000 of which are black immigrants. However, the Obama Administration has the legal and moral authority to prevent more immigrants from suffering the consequences of Congress’ political inaction.
BIN proposes several critical priorities for administrative reform. Under their existing authority, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) can implement several immediate steps to prevent discrimination and human rights violations, reduce family separation, and mitigate the destructive impact of mass deportations on our communities. The following proposals are not exhaustive and are not recommended as alternatives to one another, as each is required to ameliorate the harm caused by the current detention and deportation policies.
No Deportation: Deportation is a draconian practice the adversely impacts families. The impact is not only emotional, but causes sever economic hardships that impact entire communities. Moreover, nearly 70% of immigrants deported in fiscal year 2013 were deported through summary removal procedures, including expedited removal and reinstatement of removal, without the benefit of a fair hearing before an immigration judge. More than 65% of these removals were of individuals who were convicted of misdemeanors, such as traffic violations, or individuals with no criminal history. All immigrants deserve due process regardless of whether they have a criminal history. At minimum the Administration should: 1) require that all individuals facing removal be given in-person hearings before an immigration judge 2) eliminate the use of expedited removal, including expedited removal of people captured at a port of entry or while trying to enter, and 3) create an administrative appeal process for individuals to challenge an expedited or stipulated removal order, visa waiver removal order, or voluntary departure or any removal procedure.
End Profiling: Immigrants should never face incarceration, detention or deportation as a result of racial, ethnic, or national origin profiling. The Administration should revise the misguided 2003 Department of Justice Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, which contains massive exceptions that promote profiling in border communities and anywhere that a national security justification can be alleged.
End Biased State and Local Immigration Enforcement and Detention: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s collaboration with state and local law enforcement agencies for the enforcement of immigration law, via 287(g) agreements and Secure Communities, the use of detainers, and other ICE programs incentivize profiling, undermine community policing, violate civil rights and threaten public safety. Although, the Administration has taken preliminary steps to eliminate the use of 287(g) enforcement models, the 287(g) jail model still presents significant human rights concerns.
The widespread use of private, for-profit jails combined with mandatory detention laws contribute to system-wide human rights violations. To reduce the harm caused by detention, the Administration should support DHS Secretary Johnson’s interpretation that the “detention bed quota” in recent appropriations bills is not a mandate to indiscriminately fill those beds. Additionally, the Administration should require a bond hearing for anyone detained and shift resources from institutional detention to more humane less expensive alternatives to detention.
Stop Initiating Removal Proceedings against Legal Permanent Residents: The Administration should end the deportation of legal residents on the basis of offenses that occurred years ago, especially where the crime was not a deportable offense at the time that it was committed. Lawful permanent residents often face deportation based on conduct that occurred decades ago, sometimes for offenses that would not have made them subject to deportation at the time. There should be a statute of limitations of 1 year for initiating removal proceedings based on old conduct.
Grant Administrative Relief Policies to Every Immigrant: Administrative relief must be as broad as possible to ensure families can remain together and must be flexible enough to recognize their work and contributions, regardless of proof of employment or educational attainment requirements.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, should be improved to eliminate unnecessary cut-offs that deprive many deserving immigrants of relief. (For example, DACA currently excludes immigrants who have been in the U.S. since they were young but who were born before June 15, 1981 which has the unjust effect of excluding immigrants who have been in the country the longest. Further, less than 1.7% of all approved DACA applicants are from the Caribbean and less than 1.0% are from Africa.) Accordingly, DHS should also create additional administrative relief programs, more responsive to black immigrants, through which individuals could apply for protection from deportation on a case-by-case basis. Such a program would allow all those who have family, employment, community, business, and other ties to the U.S. to remain here without the threat of deportation. In order to be successful, such a program would have to be implemented as quickly and broadly as possible.
Improve Existing DHS Policies Governing Prosecutorial Discretion: The Administration should expand the option of prosecutorial discretion to all of DHS not just ICE and prosecutorial discretion should be presumptively granted to children, spouse and parents of U.S. citizens; lawful permanent residents; and those with temporary statuses including, but not limited to DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients; individuals who have resided in the U.S. for at least the last 1 years; and individuals for whom removal would cause significant personal or family hardship.
End Unjust Worksite Enforcement Policies: Immigration enforcement practices should never be used to silence or thwart immigrants’ ability to advocate for their labor or civil rights. The Administration should prohibit civil immigration or criminal arrests or detention of workers in the context of workplace enforcement actions and prevent employers from abusing I-9 or electronic verification procedures to violate workers’ rights.
Address the Mounting Backlogs in the Family Immigration System: The Administration should address the mounting backlog in the family immigration system by paroling into the U.S. family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who have had immigration applications filed on their behalf. Millions of individuals have applied to be reunited with their families and are needlessly ensnared in the family immigration backlog—many waiting as long as decadesfor visas to become available. Nearly 110,000 Haitians are beneficiaries of family-based immigrant visa petitions which the DHS has already approved but who remain on waitlists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti. The Administration should create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program. Paroling these individuals into the U.S. as they await the processing of their visas promotes family unity and stability.
tel:(347) 410- 5312 web: www.blackimmigration.net email: email@example.com
Post by Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, BAJI New York City Organizer
On Saturday, August 9th a police officer killed a black boy whose body was irreverently displayed for the world to see in the middle of the street. The police narrative of Michael Brown’s murder has framed national headlines but, locally, Lesley Mcspadden found out about the death of her child from the cell phone of a neighbor asking, “ain’t this your son?”. The violence of that moment is even worse because of how common it is. Already we hear echoes of Trayvon, Islan Nettles, or the breathless cries of Eric Garner in Staten Island muffled under untold pairs of police hands.
How often this violence visits African-Americans makes you wonder if Black citizenship is even possible. Yet second-class citizenship or immigrant identities are not adequate umbrellas for Black immigrants to stand in solidarity with African-Americans. It is blackness not legal status that is “magnetizing bullets” in Ferguson, Missouri. So coalition against antiblackness must follow a different path than traditional racial or immigrant discussions. If we are going to create a sustained movement between Black immigrants and African-Americans we must discuss why Black bodies inspire fear and violence from the rest of the world. This includes all Black bodies lest we forget “the death scenes of Black women labeled as criminal… Shantel Davis, Rekia Boyd, Shereese Francis, Sharmel Edwards, Alesia Thomas, and Robin Taneisha Williams”.
Meaningful Black coalitions must think through antiblackness in at least two ways. We must discuss on one level, the unique set of violent feelings that invariably led to the death of Renisha Mcbride. But we must see the links between violent sentiment or the libidinal economy and the material conditions we are dealing with. Policies frame material conditions of mass incarceration, pre-9/11 hyper-surveillance, and the use of public funds for private gain in local and international communities. Here at The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) we have drawn links between these different policies in our video The Real Crime.
Serious reflection on the material conditions and the libidinal economy of antiblackness must be paired with local and international organizing. Michael Brown’s community in Ferguson, Missouri is maintaining extremely well coordinated demonstrations. This is being done alongside the media’s fascination with “looters,” “riots,” and Black protestors. This coverage echoed by some Black commentators presents vague accusations of Black misconduct in the face of state violence as truths beyond critique. So how long can Ferguson, Mo maintain resistance under media scrutiny and a police siege ran by officers who consider African-American residents animals? St. Louis Ward 21 Alderman Antonio French has a thorough anatomy of this assault on an American city on his Twitter timeline. Also Sydette Harry’s (@Blackamazon) instruction to think about direct support, might lead us to raising funds for transportation, daycare, or care packages for extended protests.
We must think about historian Gerald Horne’s reminder that attempting to “lengthen the battlefield” or using international community in local struggles has always been a key aspect of Black organizing. So what will international Black movements look like in the 21st century? We live side by side in cities and neighborhoods across this country. Our children play together, we are mistaken for each other, and we are denied relation to each other. What are the key policy issues for African-American communities locally and how can Black immigrants support and pair them with their own demands? Considering police brutality and the range of policies motivated by antiblackness do we charge genocide again?
Recently African leaders met with President Obama in Washington, DC. for an African Leaders Summit. Immigrant solidarity can begin here by putting political pressure on foreign leaders, every time they visit the United States, to place Ferguson, Missouri before the international community. Presenting the genocidal relationship between African-Americans and the state might shame this country into justice. Historically this is how domestic freedoms were increased and this may benefit us internationally through the linked destinies of our communities. Our platform to launch this critique is founded on the history of mutual support our communities have shared. African-Americans created space in the U.S. for Black immigrants to make measured economic gains. These gains have lead to remittances that outstrip aid from Western governments. This same remittances give immigrants the ear of leaders from their countries of origin. Whether it is a pamphlet, an organized march, or even hazy cell phone footage the question must be asked, “ain’t this your son?”
Post by Juwaher Yusuf, BAJI Program Associate
Three weeks ago, Eric Garner, a black male in his early 40s lost his life in the hands of the police. Garner was being apprehended for selling loosies - unlicensed loose cigarettes, a minor crime, when he was swarmed by police and placed in the chokehold that ended his life.
His last words: “I can’t breathe…Get off of me.”
In the disturbing video, the usage of the banned chokehold by an officer is undeniable and absolutely unnecessary. This restraining maneuver cuts the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain typically leading to unconsciousness and eventually death. In 1993, the NYPD banned the chokehold as a result of the rising number of deaths in police custody. In 2014, this dangerous maneuver continues to take the lives of our brothers and sisters without those at the hands of the violence being reprimanded. The incident was captured by 22-year old passerby Ramsey Orta – who has been followed and harassed by the police since the footage went viral. With his recent charge of weapon possession, Orta claims he is being set up by the police and his bail has been set to $75,000.
Incidences of this nature happen far too often in the United States. What separates this among the others is that it was entirely caught on video – there is no misunderstanding, no change in the series of events; the injustices that people of color face on a daily basis is captured for the world to see. It’s heartbreaking that without the footage, there likely would not have been a national outcry demanding justice. However, with the basic access we have from our smartphones, tablets, and laptops, we are our own journalists. We can document our own stories and share the realities that we endure.
Police violence is real and this is nothing short of an example – sign this petition today to show your support against police brutality. It is also not a coincidence that the said precinct involved in Garner’s death has the highest number of sued cops across all of New York City and is notorious for “dumping violence-prone, problematic cops that create ongoing headaches for the NYPD’s top brass in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx.” Our communities are the dumping-ground for ineffective enforcement. How are we to trust the very people who are out to get us?
Garner’s death has been recently ruled a homicide.
What will come out of this horrific situation? Why raise concern now? Because a father lost his life? Because it was caught on tape? These practices occur daily – people of color are stigmatized and the lives of our black men have been reduced to continuous criminalization – this is why I worry about and pray for my brothers in the struggle everyday.
“[This isn't] even about the more than 1,000 civilian complaints of NYPD employing illegal chokeholds since 2009. This is about the disregard for black life and humanity that fuels policing. It’s about the amount of authority police have over our lives, deciding when and where we die. It’s about the daily harassment, the constant fear and the perpetual mourning. We can’t breathe.” - Mychael Denzel Smith, The Nation
Policies like the “Broken Windows Theory” enforce mass criminalization that plague our society and is “disruptive, racially motivated, and in turn our communities are being vastly diminished.” The need for us to stand together in these times of hardship and injustice to show that #BlackLivesMatter is crucial now more than ever.
We, too, are in solidarity and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Eric Garner.
May you rest in peace.
A speech delivered by BAJI Co-Director, Gerald Lenoir – July 27, 2014
Eight years after the founding of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, we are gathering here to witness the passing of the symbolic torch to a new leader from a younger generation of social justice activists. I, as BAJI’s founding Executive Director, am relinquishing my leadership role in favor of Opal Tometi, my colleague and friend for the past four years.
Since I announced that I was leaving BAJI, I have been asked a number of questions by a number of people: Why are you leaving? Are you retiring? What are you going to do after BAJI?
Let me first say what I have said repeatedly, I’m tired but I’m not retired! I am following in the footsteps of Rev. Phil Lawson, who I think was reported to have retired at least three times! And he’s still on the case! So, no, I’m not retiring.
Why am I leaving BAJI? First of all, I’m not leaving BAJI. I’m leaving as a staff member of BAJI. BAJI is not an organization that you leave. For me, it is a family of kinfolk and a home for a set of progressive values and politics that is nurturing and life affirming. So why would I leave that?
What I am doing is providing a space for a young and talented leader to exercise her skills and realize her potential. I am stepping back; Opal is stepping up. Or as my wife Karen put it, “Out with the old, and in with the new!”
Seriously, though, this leadership transition is a testimony to the commitment that the BAJI board, Opal and I have had to develop new leadership in black communities and to organize our communities across generations.
Eight years ago last month, I started as BAJI’s very part-time director. Two month prior to that, Rev. Phil Lawson and Rev. Kelvin Sauls brought a group of us together to discuss how we, as people of African descent, could bring the issue of immigrant rights to African American communities. Please stand if you were in the room that April evening in Walter Riley’s law office.
If you all remember, there was an easy consensus that we considered immigrant rights as one of the cutting edge issues in the historic and ongoing struggle against white supremacy and for racial, social and economic justice in this country. We decided at that very first meeting that we would form an organization to educate and organize and bring African American and immigrant communities together in struggle.
The immediate impetus for BAJI’s formation was the massive demonstrations that were occurring across the country in support of fair and just immigration reform. Indeed, they were the largest demonstrations in the history of this country and compelled us, as activists to act in solidarity. We understood that as Samora Machel, the first President of Mozambique, stated, “Solidarity is not an act of charity but mutual aid between forces fighting for the same objective.” We knew the truth that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
We believed that the true emancipation of black people born in the U.S. is bound together with the liberation of immigrants of African descent and with immigrants for Asia, the Pacific Islands, Latin America, the Middle East, and ultimately with the liberation of all humankind.
I have always said that BAJI is a small organization with a big agenda. Our agenda involves unmasking the hoax of white supremacy that dominates and permeates every aspect of our lives and relegates communities and countries to marginalization and poverty. It includes peeling back the layers of myths, lies and half-truths that we are spoon fed in our schools, at our work places and in the media. It requires that we reveal the root causes of poverty, displacement and migration that impact all of our communities as the inhumane policies of our U.S. government and corporations, policies deliberately designed to maximize profits and minimize people.
But we knew that exposing all of this was not enough. As legendary Civil Right organizer Ella Baker told us, “In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed…It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising a means by which you change that system…”
Heeding Ella Baker’s call, we set out to organize in our communities to address the evils that kept all of us from realizing our full human potential. In those early years of BAJI, I began to crisscross the country seeking out opportunities to gather people together, especially people of the African Diaspora, to craft solutions and to mobilize support for fundamental changes. L.A., New York, Newark, Chicago, Seattle, Washington, DC, Detroit, Jackson, MS, Atlanta, Phoenix, Tucson—I was a one-man traveling road show! Meanwhile, Phil Hutchings joined me on staff as the Bay Area Organizer during that second year and anchored the Bay Area work with our volunteer committees in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
BAJI, that small half-staff operation began to grow until today, we have five full-time and two part-time staff in the Bay Area, New York, Atlanta and Phoenix. Amazing! And after five years of pulling it together, the Black Immigration Network has become our flagship program, bringing together black immigrant-led and African American-led groups for mutual support and coordinated action. We are on the move! Moving forward with organizing for Haitian Family Reunification, advocating for and end to the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration and mass detention and deportation, and supporting workers’ rights campaigns.
I am leaving BAJI at a time when the organization is maturing and blossoming as a national leader in the social justice movement, a movement building organization with a long term vision that goes beyond the immediate struggles to change policies. As Rev. Sauls often says, “Legislation is not our destination. Our destination is true liberation.”
And as I leave, I must express my deepest appreciation to some of my kinfolk who have been with me on this journey. It is a long list, so bear with me.
Let me first thank my wife of 37 years, Karen Lenoir and my son of 34 years, Jamana Lenoir. They have been rock solid support for me personally and for BAJI as well. In fact, Jamana not only designed and laid out the flyer and program for this event, he is also our photographer and videographer. Thank you, Jamana. Thank you, Karen.
Let me thank my BAJI family. First, Rev. Phil Lawson, I want to be like you when I grow up! You have truly inspired our movement and have been a guiding force in BAJI’s formation and in our ongoing work. Your treasure trove of knowledge, compassion and spiritual wisdom has left a lasting impression on me and your words will remain in my heart and mind. We only met each other when BAJI was formed and we have become, as you often say, “the family members we never met.” Thank you, Phil.
Rev. Kelvin Sauls, thank you, thank you, thank you, my brother from another mother! The gospel of liberation that you preach and practice has been an important part of BAJI’s perspective.
To Nunu Kidane, my sister from another mister, I am so grateful to you for your deep, deep sense of justice and for the close bonds of friendship, kinship and camaraderie we have enjoyed over the past eleven years.
Phil number two, Phil Hutchings, you, my brother, are da bomb! Your journey from SNCC to BAJI has been seamless. Your political acumen and social graces are legendary. Thanks, Phil.
Leonard McNeil, Big Mac! I am in awe of not only your physical size but also the size of you commitment to social justice. You are a giant of justice. Thank you so much.
My sister Alona Clifton, You are so great! You have toiled along side of me for all these years. I appreciate you being unapologetically black and your frankness and forthrightness. As you relocate to Atlanta, please know that you will be missed. Please accept this small token of appreciation as a going way gift.
Walter Riley, you are a consistent warrior for justice since you teen-age years in North Carolina. Your work in support of Haitian liberation has contributed greatly to our work in support of Haitian immigrants. Thanks for your guidance and support.
Ronald Colthirst, our Ambassador to San Francisco. Brother, thank you believing in BAJI and for carrying the message across the bay.
Denise Gums, thanks for your songs and solidarity. You have enriched BAJI and have contributed to the movement for justice.
Amahra Hicks, our Contra Costa representative for so many years. You are much appreciated for you long term commitment to black liberation and to human rights.
To the newer members of BAJI in the Bay Area—Regine Neptune, Marcel Jones, Tatiana Chaterji, Zef Amen— and to the new BAJI board members—Janis Rousheuvel, Aimee Castenell, Thomas Assefa and Marybeth Onyeukwu—thank you for volunteer you time and talent to BAJI and to the movement.
And to the BAJI staff, I want to say, you rock! Tia Oso, our Black Immigration Network coordinator, you are so awesome! Stand up, Tia, and be recognized. I am in awe of your talent, political savvy and uncompromising stance for justice. I have so enjoyed working along side of you.
To Terence Courtney, our Southeast Regional Organizer in Atlanta; Juwaher Yusuf, our Program Associate in New York; and Ben Kabuye and Devonte Jackson, our organizers in New York and Oakland respectively, I appreciate your dedication to your communities and to BAJI. You make BAJI work!
To all of our BAJI allies nationally and locally, especially within the Black Immigration Network, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Detention Watch Network, Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights, the Bay Area Equal Voices Caucus, the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund and the Haiti Action Committee, it has been my honor to work along side of you and with you to rid our country and our world of injustice.
And last, but certainly not least, let me give my praises to the BAJI co-director and soon to be Executive Director Opal Tometi. Opal, will you come to the stage and join me, please?
Opal, when we met in Phoenix in 2010, we could not have foreseen the collaboration that we would forge. You, my sister, are so amazing! You have the talent, personal commitment and political perspective to take BAJI to the next level. Your vision for BAJI is, at the same time, expansive and focused. It has been one of my greatest pleasures to work with you and to walk along side of you on this journey to justice. Thank you, my sister! Today, I pass the torch of leadership to you. I am confident that you will keep the flame of freedom lit for all to see. Congratulations!
Post by Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer and Regine Neptune, BAJI Bay Area Organizing Committee Member
Nearly 697 Palestinian deaths have been recorded in Israel’s bombing campaign on Gaza, approximately 160 were children. Yesterday, the Israeli military bombed Gaza’s only power plant killing 6 people, wounding 20. This disastrous bombing campaign has been justified by right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who claims the bombing campaign is a response to terrorist attacks targeting Israeli citizens orchestrated by Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic organization that has represented the Gaza strip since 2006.
Prior to the Israeli bombing campaign on Gaza, 3 Israeli teenagers were abducted, murdered, and buried under a pile of rocks. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu places responsibility of the brutal abduction and killings on Hamas and have since strategically utilized the killings of the Israeli teenagers to justify the massive slaughter of Palestinians who Netanyahu claims are being used as shields for Hamas.
In addition to the bombing campaign orchestrated by Netanyahu, Israeli mobs terrorized Palestinian communities in search of those responsible for the killings of the 3 Israeli teens. During this search, Israeli extremists captured and lynched Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16 year old Palestinian. This caused widespread civil unrest in Palestinian communities.
Tariq, a Palestinian-American Florida resident and cousin of slain Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was brutally beaten by Israeli soldiers during his stay in Jerusalem because of his alleged participation in a protest against Israel. Tariq and his family denies participation in the protest and claims Tariq was observing the protest from a distance. After being beaten by the soldiers, Tariq was placed in an Israeli jail for 3 days, his family was forced to post $850 in bail, then he was placed on house arrest in Jerusalem. During this time, Tariq’s family requested support from Florida representative Kathy Castor (D) but she refused to offer substantive support during this difficult time.
We are not surprised at the unwillingness of Florida Representative Castor to represent Tariq. Florida’s legal system has proven to be racially biased. George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, a young black man, for walking home with candy and a drink and was protected by the Stand Your Ground Law, while Marissa Alexander was recently denied trial by Circuit Judge James H. Daniel for firing a warning shot towards her husband, Rico Gray, who has a history of domestic abuse and had threatened Alexander’s life prior to the warning shot. It is clear that the our legal systems do not protect and serve the interests of black people and people of color in Florida and the US more generally.
The Palestinian struggle has commonalities with the historic and contemporary struggles in the U.S. against mass criminalization, state organized violence and brutality, racist legal systems, and the legacy of extralegal violence against marginalized people. We share similar experiences as people living under the oppressive policies and practices of a hegemonic state and we must practice global solidarity in order to end the Israeli bombing campaign and illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories which have facilitated mass displacement of Palestinian people. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, approximately 5 million Palestinians are eligible for refugee relief efforts.
We must also shed light to the Anti-African Movement in Israel. Many African communities in Israel face daily discrimination and violence because of their race and ethnicity. Prime Minister Netanyahu has identified African migrants as a threat to Israel and has made it his priority to limit the migration of African people into Israel to protect the Jewish identity of the Israeli state.
We recognize Israel’s treatment towards its African population as part of a global phenomenon of anti-blackness and white supremacy which terrorizes, criminalizes, and subjugates black communities and communities of color across the globe. In order to put an end to this, we must recognize that our liberation is tied to the liberation of all people. For us to create social, economic, and racial justice in our communities, we must build a united and powerful global movement aimed at achieving collective liberation for all.
By Gerald Lenoir, BAJI Co-director
The day is fast approaching when I will pass the torch of leadership to BAJI Co-director Opal Tometi. It feels like it was just yesterday when Rev. Phil Lawson and Rev. Kelvin Sauls called together a group of African Americans and black immigrant Bay Area activists and BAJI was born. That was in 2006 and none of us knew where this experiment would lead us but we were willing to take the journey. We knew that immigrant rights were a racial justice issue and that African Americans and immigrants should be coming together to fight for racial, social and economic justice.
Since those initial days, BAJI has grown from one part-time Executive Director to now having local BAJI Organizing Committees in New York, Georgia, California and Arizona who are building coalitions and initiating campaigns among communities to push for racial justice. At the local and regional level, we’re providing training and technical assistance to partner organizations to develop leadership skills, working with faith communities to harness their prophetic voice, and initiating vibrant dialogues with African Americans and black immigrants to discover more about race, our diverse identities, racism, migration and globalization. Also, BAJI’s flagship initiative, the Black Immigration Network (BIN), is now a national alliance of nearly 30 black-led organizations that convenes them to advance just immigration policies and promote cultural shifts our communities need. And of late, BAJI and its allies have embarked upon a national agenda of taking on building the BIN Kinship around the issues of mass criminalization, Haitian family reunification and workers’ rights.
We’ve come a long way since the early days of organizing small group sessions in Bay Area African American churches. But we still have a long road ahead of us to peace, justice and equality. As I leave, I hope you will continue to support BAJI and join us thisSunday, July 27, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm at Everett and Jones BBQ, 126 Broadway in Oakland, where we are hosting “Passing the Torch: Celebrating the Leadership of Gerald Lenoir and Opal Tometi” where we will be honored and the work of BAJI will be uplifted.
I hope to see many of you at the BAJI “Passing the Torch” event this Sunday afternoon. And please know that I’m leaving the staff of BAJI, but I’m not leaving the movement. See you on the frontlines!
BAJI Co-director (until July 31)
By Opal Tometi and Gerald Lenoir, BAJI Co-directors
The humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border has precipitated a sometimes acrimonious debate about “border security” and the limits of U.S. responsibility for people seeking refugee status and asylum. The tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and adults with children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have waded across the Rio Grande and walked out of the Sonora desert into a firestorm of controversy about their right to be here and the appropriate response by the Obama Administration.
We at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) takes the position that the U.S. government has a moral and legal responsibility to accommodate refugees and asylum seekers and to reunite them with any family members they have in the U.S. U.S. law as well as international treaties and laws are unequivocal about the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, especially unaccompanied minors, and the obligations of receiving countries to provide safe haven.
Beyond the legal imperatives, the U.S. government has a moral responsibility to act humanely. According to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Honduras has the highest homicide rate outside of a war zone. Guatemala and El Salvador also have extremely high murder rates. Government repression, death squads and drug wars have made life unbearable for millions of families. If the United States is to live up to the moral precepts our leaders say they espouse, then it is a no-brainer that we should support those who are seeking refuge.
More than that, the United States has a moral responsibility to right the wrongs that it has had a major role in creating. For the past five years alone, the U.S, government has funneled tens of millions of dollars to corrupt militaries and police forces in Central America that has greatly contributed to human rights crises in the region. And historically, U.S. government and corporate support for repressive regimes in Central America has severely weakened democratic institutions and has hampered the social and economic development throughout the region.
In addition, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have helped to undermine local economies in Mexico and Central America and has forced the flow of children and families across borders and into the U.S. Subsidized U.S. crops have flooded Latin American markets, for example, and have resulted in the loss of livelihood for millions of farm families who now seek work in the U.S., including the tens of thousands of Afro-latinos who are often forgotten in this discourse.
It is a travesty that there are some with a narrow view of the crisis and of structural racism, like Keli Goff, who in her online opinion piece at theroot.com, has given into the tired “divide and conquer” framing that pits African Americans against immigrants. Her piece promoted a false divide. She makes invisible the fact that our communities have much in common in terms of values, traditions and interests, and her argument suggests that we argue over scraps. The fact is, that the U.S. government has a responsibility to all its residents – whether citizen or not. Arguments such as Goff’s do a disservice to the cause of African Americans to suggest that the money slated to go support refugees should be used to meet the employment and education support due to African Americans. While it is true that the U.S. government has misplaced priorities, it does no one any good to point the finger at other groups who have been victimized. Instead, all of us should champion the cause of the current refugees and asylum seekers and begin to coalesce an inclusive human rights movement that fights for racial, social and economic justice for all people who are left out.
Please check out additional great pieces about this issue from people we support and collaborate with here:
Post by Terence Courtney, BAJI Southeast Regional Organizer
A very dangerous pattern, reminiscent of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, is steadily moving across the country. In the south, the Midwest and the northeast, school closings are sending shockwaves throughout Black and Immigrant communities. These shocks are later followed by a form of public school privatization called charter schools.
In Louisiana, the state controllers of the New Orleans School system –called the Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD)- will close what remains of the Big Easy’s public schools, making it the first 100% percent charter school district in the country. It’s a process began in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when anti public school advocates took advantage of the chaos caused by death and destruction to remake the city, starting with one of its key institutions –the public schools. The majority of the public schools were subsequently closed, and reopened as tax-payer funded but privately controlled charters.
Nearly 7,000 of New Orleans’ unionized teachers were subsequently fired without a democratic process or a voice. School closings, firings of experienced teachers with union protections, and privatization on such a scale would appear to many people as a clear detriment to the education of students living in a city recovering from the disaster that happened 9 years ago. But not to those who subscribe to a neoliberal agenda. Their aim is to dismantle public education as a human right, and it’s a bi-partisan affair. In the opinion of Democratic Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans”.
Last week the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) issued a report called, “Twelve Months Later: The Impact of School Closings in Chicago”, which analyzes the closing of 50 schools in Chicago last year. Unsurprisingly, it found that 90% percent of the schools that were closed had a majority black student body and/or majority black teachers, many whom were unionized workers. For schools with Black students as the minority, only 2% percent were closed.
Chicagoans are finding out what Atlantans learned in 2012; that despite the hype by school administrators and school boards, closing schools doesn’t make education better. Reports on closings indicate that instances of violence tend to increase, children are forced to travel farther to get to school – which affects study habits, students get pushed into equal or lower performing schools, class sizes swell to overcrowded levels, and homeless children are hurt disproportionately. Adding insult to injury, the Chicago Public School system is now using the resources it “saved” from closing majority Black public schools to fund tax-payer funded and privately operated charter schools.
Given this trend, it’s no wonder why a Philadelphia coalition of Teachers, Students and Community activists have risen up to resist the Republican Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Corbett’s, efforts. Corbett has cut school funding and pushed for privatization. In response, protesters staged a demonstration on June 9th, which was followed by a Student led walkout on June 11th. The students have demanded that resources be put back into the public schools system, and they don’t want to be coerced into charter schools.
Clearly the Charter school movement is an attack on the education of Black and Brown youth, and it gets worse if the student is an Immigrant. For though US law states that School districts cannot, “deny admission to immigrant children, treat a student differently, engage in practices that “chill” the right of access, make inquiries about status or require social security numbers”, according to Aljazeera, charter schools do just that:
“In early 2013, Reuters released an in-depth report showing that charter schools across the United States have adopted complex screening practices that include requiring detailed applications available only in English, tight scheduling that allows for application only during an annual two- or three-hour window and Social Security card or birth-certificate checks (which are illegal requirements).”
These are terrible practices, and it seems well publicized myths about charter schools protect them from scrutiny. One such myth is that charter schools are better alternatives to public schools, but serious study shatters those myths. A recent article on charter schools by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) cites two studies by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) –one from 2009 and another from 2013- which make it clear that charters don’t do better than public schools. In fact, CREDO found in 2009, “Averaged across all schools, the impact of attending a charter school was a slight—but statistically significant—negative impact for both math and reading gains (CREDO 2009, 3, 22).” And when CREDO updated its study in 2013, it found that charters had made only a small amount of improvement, and that “public schools still had superior math performance..” Furthermore, in October of 2010, the NAACP passed a resolution that stated that Charter schools create “separate and unequal conditions” for educational success.
We should applaud and replicate the efforts of the teachers, students and community who have come together to fight back against the attack on public education in Philadelphia. Cuts in funding, a lack of democracy, school closings and charter schools have to be vigorously resisted to protect our human right to education. We have to stand with teachers against the neoliberal plan to de-professionalize their career. Those who would dismantle public education favor replacing good teachers with less experienced, less committed, non-unionized workers. This creates a high turnover rate that can’t be a positive step forward for our children. In this situation, Black and Brown youth – US and Foreign born – are hurt the most. Let’s go forward together to not just stop this Shock Doctrine on education, but we must also advance the cause of real democracy in public education.
On July 31, Gerald Lenoir will step down as Co-Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and BAJI Co-Director Opal Tometi will become the Executive Director. Gerald is the founding Executive Director of BAJI and led the organization for eight years. His leadership has inspired the social justice movement and has brought BAJI to a new level of influence. Opal is a new generation of leadership. She has invigorated the work of BAJI and has brought novel ideas, new energy and new ways of organizing. Join for an afternoon of food, friendship and fun cosponsored by Everett and Jones Barbeque. See full event details here.
Tickets are $35 (general) & $15 (student/low income) and are available here.
All proceeds will benefit BAJI’s work to stop mass incarceration and mass detention, to fight for the reunification of Haitian families and to support economic justice and workers’ rights.
For more information, contact us at (510) 663-2254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.