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: Thursday, 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.

Nancy O’Malley Twitter Storm Today & Tomorrow to Drop Charges Against #BlackFriday14

Jan 29, 2015   //   Blog, Campaigns, civil rights, Media, social movements  
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Let’s unite our voices to call out the criminalization of black leadership in the Movement for Black Lives in this Twitter Storm. Today and tomorrow, we are rallying via Twitter to campaign for Nancy O’Malley, the Alameda County District Attorney, to #DropTheCharges  and restitution against the #BlackFriday14. The Twitter Storm’s goal is to:
  1. Position Nancy O’Malley into responding to her complicity in the war on black communities. She has poorly prosecuted the end of Oscar Grant’s Case and has refused to prosecute officers like Miguel Masso who murdered unarmed Alan Blueford.
  2. We want to highlight the unaccountable relationship between law enforcement and the justice system and connect that to the national struggle for Black Lives.
  3. We want to show the injustice of prosecuting our whole group which is a group of all black folks while not prosecuting other protest groups. We want to show that this is a precedent of criminalizing black leadership in the Movement for Black Lives.
Show your support for the #BlackFriday14 with your tweets! Here are a few sample tweets you can use:

Why prosecute #BlackFriday14  4peaceful protest but not Officer Masso 4 Alan Blueford murder @NancyOMalley ? #WeWantAnswers #DroptheCharges

Prosecuting #BlackFriday14 4 inconveniencing BART Riders but wheres justice for Oscar Grant, Kayla Moore? @NancyOMalley#WeWantAnswers

Prosecuting #BlackFriday14 4 inconveniencing BART Riders but wheres justice for Alan Blueford? @NancyOMalley #DroptheCharges#WeWantAnswers

Prosecuting #BlackFriday14 4 inconveniencing BART Riders but wheres justice for Derrick Jones & Raheim Brown? @NancyOMalley#DroptheCharges

Why does @NancyOMalley choose to prosecute the #BlackFriday14 but not other protest groups? Is it because they’re all black? #WeWantAnswers #DroptheCharges

In addition to participatingin the Twitter storm, you can continue to support by signing and sharing our petition and for more details, check out our Facebook event page.

BAJI Posting: Policy & Research Intern

Jan 29, 2015   //   Blog, intern, job announcement, jobs  

Policy & Research
Intern Announcement

Job Title:       Policy & Research Intern
Reports To:   Executive Director
Hours:            8 hours unpaid, credit hours available

Position Summary

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) is a racial justice and migrant rights organization which engages in education, advocacy, and cross-cultural alliance-building in order to strengthen a national movement to end racism, criminalization, and economic disenfranchisement in African American and Black Immigrant communities. BAJI’s headquarters are in Brooklyn, NY with additional offices in Oakland, CA, and Phoenix, AZ. BAJI is the coordinating body of the Black Immigration Network (BIN), a national kinship of nearly 30 Black-led organizations that are connecting, training, and building towards policy and cultural shifts for a racial justice and migrant rights agenda.

The Policy and Research intern will work closely with BAJI staff to ensure policy research and campaign objectives are clear and achieved. Primary responsibilities of the BAJI Policy Coordinator include:

  •    Support BIN’s policy agenda at the local, regional and national level, including providing a racial justice framework for immigration policy, challenging rules and regulations that threaten the rights of Black immigrants in the context of the enforcement of immigration laws; and providing the context of African American experience
  •    Analyze public policies on the local, state and federal levels to determine their impact on black communities
  •    Incorporate processes for tracking and measuring advocacy efforts
  •    Develop creative and innovative advocacy tactics in coordination with other appropriate members of the statewide coalition or working groups
  •    Research, compile, analyze and present relevant data as it pertains to black immigrant communities

Education Qualifications

  •    Post-graduate completed, or in pursuit of, in political science, government and/or social change
  •    Background and/or activism  in the areas of immigration, civil rights and racial justice

If interested, please email resume and cover letter to juwaher@blackalliance.org. If you have questions, please call 347-410-5312.

 

BAJI Posting: Communications Intern

Jan 29, 2015   //   Blog, intern, job announcement, jobs  

Communications
Intern Announcement

Job Title:      Communications Intern
Reports To:  Executive Director
Hours:           8 hours unpaid, credit hours available

Position Summary

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) is a racial justice and migrant rights organization which engages in education, advocacy, and cross-cultural alliance-building in order to strengthen a national movement to end racism, criminalization, and economic disenfranchisement in African American and Black Immigrant communities. BAJI’s headquarters are in Brooklyn, NY with additional offices in Oakland, CA, and Phoenix, AZ. BAJI is the coordinating body of the Black Immigration Network (BIN), a national kinship of nearly 30 Black-led organizations that are connecting, training, and building towards policy and cultural shifts for a racial justice and migrant rights agenda.

The Communications intern will work closely with BAJI staff to ensure policy research and campaign objectives are clear and achieved.

  •    Understanding of the basic principles of public relations and communications in a non-profit context
  •    Posses excellent written and oral communication and interpersonal skills
  •    Interest in multifaceted communications approaches that involves racial justice and migrant rights
  •    Provide hands-support for all the external communications activities for the organization
  •    Firm grasp of available tools and platforms in the social media space
  •    Professional communication skills with press outlets and community members
  •    Thorough understanding of BAJI’s political analysis framework
  •    Excellent writing and communication skills
  •    Ability to work independently and meet deadlines
  •    Technologically advanced with working knowledge of Microsoft Office, proficiency in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop highly desired

Education Qualifications

  •    Undergraduate in communications, public relations, and/or journalism

If interested, please email resume and cover letter to juwaher@blackalliance.org. If you have questions, please call 347-410-5312.

 

Celebrating MLK Day: Reclaiming Our Movement Legacy

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Originally published by the Huffinton Post, Black Voices: http://huff.to/1AIgTyv

By: Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors-Brignac

Today, people across the country pause and remember the legacy of civil rights leader, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For many, the birthday of Dr. King is a time to reflect on peace and non-violence, to remember the dream, to perform service in your community, and for others, it is a much needed three-day weekend, a respite after returning to work from a busy holiday season.

Yet this year, King’s legacy is being thought of in the context of the #BlackLivesMatter movement which has spread like wildfire throughout the United States and around the world. Ignited by the killings of Islan Nettles, Mike Brown, Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Aiyana Jones, Jordan Davis and too many more by police and vigilantes, Dr. King’s legacy and his work take on a different meaning in today’s world.

What we know about the legacy of Dr. King has been largely sanitized, re-configured, and appropriated to obscure his radical vision. Dr. King nurtured visions of a movement that could restore a deep and abiding love for all of humanity; a world where the restoration of democracy and full citizenship, of an economic system that could provide for everyone, and an end to war and militarization. Dr. King’s dream tackled poverty and systemic inequality. Ultimately his vision was a society with human rights for all.

Indeed, Dr. King’s dream was radical for his political and material context. And there were many in his time that challenged him and worked alongside him to ensure the collective vision would come to fruition. The contributions of leaders such as King’s senior advisor, Bayard Rustin, a gay man, was the visionary behind the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, an early initiator of the 1947 Freedom Rides. Other friends of Dr. King such as Ella Baker, who worked with many organizations including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, challenged him and others in the ’50s and ’60s to engage in more democratic leadership styles and noted the importance of local community organizing campaigns. These relationships and challenges to political thinking shaped Dr. King. And this attention to political analysis and practice was important then and is important for us today.

When we founded #BlackLivesMatter in 2013, we wanted to create a political space within and amongst our communities for activism that could stand firmly on the shoulders of movements that have come before us, such as the civil rights movement, while innovating on its strategies, practices and approaches to finally centralize the leadership of those existing at the margins of our economy and our society.

#BlackLivesMatter, a project started by three black women, two of whom are queer women and one who is a Nigerian-American, has opened up the political space for that new leadership, and as a result, a new movement to emerge. Black trans people, Black queer people, Black immigrants, Black incarcerated people and formerly incarcerated people, Black millennials, Black women, low income Black people, and Black people with disabilities are at the front, exercising a new leadership that is bold, innovative, and radical.

There are important implications for the possibilities that this new layer of leadership can offer the movement as a whole. We create much more room for collaboration, for expansion, for building power when we nurture movements that are full of leaders, and allow for all of our identities to inform our work and how we organize. This then allows for leadership to emerge from our intersecting identities, rather than to be organized around one notion of Blackness. Because of this, we resist the urge to consolidate our power and efforts behind one charismatic leader.

When we center the leadership of the many who exist at the margins, we learn new things about the ways in which state sanctioned violence impacts us all. Dr. King once said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” And what we have learned from Dr. King’s words and our current practice is that when a movement full of leaders from the margins gets underway, it makes the connections between social ills, it rejects the compromise and respectability politics of the past, and it opens up new political space for radical visions of what this nation can truly become.

And the best part is — we’re just getting started.

Let this be the year that we expand the #BlackLivesMatter movement through the experiences of Black immigrants — more than 500,000 in this country alone who are fighting criminalization and the separation of our families through a broken immigration system.

Let this be the year that we expand the #BlackLivesMatter movement through the experiences of Black transgender people, who currently have a life expectancy of 35 years because we are denied the basic respect and dignity of affordable and accessible health care, and because we are more often the victims of violence then we are the survivors.

Let this be the year that we expand the #BlackLivesMatter movement through the experiences of Black women in the economy, who make 64 cents to every dollar that a white man makes.

This year, the #BlackLivesMatter network joins Ferguson Action and thousands of others in a joint effort to #ReclaimMLK. For the last four days, people around the world have reclaimed the legacy of MLK by engaging in radical acts of civil disobedience, by bringing our vision and our dreams and the needs of our communities to the halls of power across the country, by doing teach-ins about the social and economic issues that, when resolved through social and legislative action, and by connecting climate change, gentrification, poverty and economic inequality — thereby further illuminating the dream of #BlackLivesMatter.

A simple utterance that touched our hearts so deeply when we breathed life into it has also touched the hearts and energized the actions of thousands across the world who are fighting to reclaim our nation’s humanity.

We are the ones that we have been waiting for.

Opal Tometi is the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter. BAJI is a national organization that educates and advocates for immigrant rights and racial justice with African-American, Afro-Latino, African and Caribbean immigrant communities.

Alicia Garza is the Special Projects Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance and a co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter. She organizes Black domestic workers across the diaspora in NDWA’s We Dream In Black project, and serves as trusted counsel for organizations across the country looking to build their capacity to lead and win organizing campaigns.

Patrisse Cullors-Brignac is an artist, organizer and freedom fighter living and working in Los Angeles. As founder of Dignity and Power Now and co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, she has worked tirelessly promoting law enforcement accountability across the nation.

 

 

BlackFriday14 Support – PETITION

Jan 8, 2015   //   Blog, Campaigns, civil rights, human rights, racial justice  

Join people across the country as we bring in the New Year in our commitment to fight like hell for Black lives. Support the BlackFriday14!

BART

“On Black Friday, November 28, 2014, in response to a call to action from the Black community of Ferguson, Missouri, a team of 14 members of the #BlackLivesMatter network, dubbed the Black Friday 14, joined hundred of thousands of others nationwide using civil disobedience to protest a discriminatory pattern of police and vigilante violence that has taken too many Black lives – including, most recently, the lives of Michael Brown, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Antonio Martin, O’Shaine Evans, and Eric Garner.(1)

Instead of citing and releasing protesters, or charging them with the same minor infraction applied to the thousands of multiracial allies that have blocked busses, trains, and traffic — the Alameda County Deputy District Attorney has capitulated to aggressive pressure from the BART Board of Directors to apply a harsher penalty, that of misdemeanor criminal trespass, which requires these 14 protesters to pay tens of thousands of dollars — up to $70,000 — in “restitution” to BART.”

We need your support in defense of our right to take action to end the war on Black people.

Here’s how you and/or your organization can be in solidarity with today’s Black liberation struggle:

  1. Sign the petition of support by CLICKING HERE and forward it to your networks.

  2. Take a selfie with the following message and post on Facebook and Instagram:  (printable templates are attached to this email.
    “I Stand with the #BlackFriday14…#WhichSideAreYouOn”

  1. Tweet your selfie @SFBART.

  2. Get your organization and/or community to take a group photo with the same message.

Where Do We Go From Here?: Essay by Patrisse Cullors

Jan 5, 2015   //   Black Lives Matter, Blog, Press, racial justice  

blm1Originally posted on ESSENCE 01/05/15.

After the acquittal of George Zimmerman in July 2013, my close friend Alicia Garza and I were on Facebook together and she wrote the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and I made it a hashtag. Not long after that, my colleague Opal Tometi realized the power of the hashtag and set up the entire social media infrastructure and presence for #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

But the hashtag itself arose out of a place of grief and sorrow, and as a declaration for all Black lives, all Black people. We weren’t seeking sympathy or approval from White people. We were wanting us to look at each other as a whole community and say, “We Matter.” And it wasn’t only the killings. It was also the constant harassment and terror. It was the levels of unemployment and homelessness, and that of all the people on the planet, we are incarcerated at the highest rate. We said, there is a war on Black bodies and enough is enough! We are here to declare our humanity. Because although we were brought here only to work in service of others, and although we were never meant to survive, the fact is that we did. #BlackLivesMatter is about Black Pride and Black Power and standing up against a world that tries to annihilate us.

This contribution, along with others exploring the new civil rights movement, appears in ESSENCE’s special #BlackLivesMatter issue. This historic collector’s edition is available on stands January 9.

 

Dare to Imagine: Past the Familiar Circus

Dec 23, 2014   //   Blog, immigration, politics  

Post by Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, BAJI New York City Organizer

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Federal politics has become a circus of the familiar ever since 2008. Advocates will push for progressive and transformative legislation, Democrats will ignore or water down the policy to compromise with Republicans then the right wing will reject their efforts any ways. Federal politics all of it has not changed much since President Obama took office.

Healthcare is one field that I have discussed before but bears mentioning because of how well it shows this process. Advocates like Physicians for a National Health Plan (PHNP) called for a healthcare model that was universal. PHNP had put a detailed solution forward with immense national support from physicians as early as 2003. Their Physicians’ Proposal for National Health Insurance gained the endorsement of 8,000 physicians.

In an effort to reach across the aisle and compromise with Tea Party infused Republicans, Democrats never seriously engaged the idea of a real public option.[1] Seeing this immediate move to compromise Republicans made the strategic decision to close ranks and treat this watered down bill as if it was the most extreme violation of the Constitution. Defeating Obamacare became a central part of Republican politics and this effort has continued with a recent lawsuit by House Speaker John Boehner.[2] These were the tactics of the right when Democrats had control of Congress.

Now Republicans control both houses of Congress and President Obama has just put forward an executive action on immigration. With newly won control of Congress the Republicans did not their strategy in fact they only increased their efforts. Like clockwork the Republicans are shouting that this proposal is unconstitutional, with some policy makers planning on shutting down the government in protest.[3] To date seventeen states have sued President Obama over his immigration measures.[4] This isn’t just a top-down strategy on the federal level. Local officials in Arizona have also launched a lawsuit against executive action on immigration as well.[5] So what is it left for immigration advocates to do? The first thing we need to do is to take advantage of the advancements within executive action while understanding the flaws of the measure. BAJI Executive Director Opal Tometi led with a statement saying as much on executive action.

As I argued in “We Are The Conversation” advocates for just immigration must agitate for transformative policy like BAJI is doing with our effort to Reunite Haitian Families. Our goals must go beyond the political framework we are forced into and imagine what a world would look like if our communities were safe, healthy, and thriving. Ironically enough this non-compromising stance is a strategy used by advocates of policies that are very harmful to our communities.

In episode 15 of Brooklyn Deep’s Third Rail podcast I argued that Republicans are the most effective political party precisely because they do not marginalize and are often led by the grassroots and extremist elements in their political party. This conversation with Brooklyn Movement Center highlighted how despite losing the presidency Republicans have effectively shifted political conversations to the right. They may be advocating for harmful policies but they are imagining a world they want. They did this sort of vision work even when they did not have power in Congress and regardless of the political reality. Our advocates must do the same. We must push for policy that reflects justice regardless of the political reality, because those who dare to imagine ultimately shape political reality.

 

Staying Focused in the Movement for Racial Justice

Dec 22, 2014   //   Black Lives Matter, Blog, civil rights, Press, racial justice  

Thousands march through Manhattan to protest police violence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted on Huffington Post: Black Voices 12/22/2014

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

In this 24-hour news cycle — we continue to be concerned about how #BlackLivesMatter is covered and we challenge the ways in which a senseless tragedy, an isolated incident, is being used to send a chilling message to protesters and to shape a dangerous narrative primarily by the Patrolmen Benevolent Association’s Patrick Lynch. Mayor de Blasio and Chief Bratton have not pushed back on the newly shaping narrative. Our hearts go out to the families of officers Liu and Ramos. We ask the media not to erase from these tragic events that the shooting of Shaneka Nicole Thompson in Baltimore, is where these unfortunate events began, ending with the alleged shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsleyn, taking his own life. According to his own family we know he had a history of mental illness and instability that was not properly addressed. Our hearts go out to all of the families that have suffered violence and loss connected to these events. In light of all we know, and with respect to all who hurt most now, we must not let misconceptions prevail.

This is a challenging moment, but we must maintain the integrity of our message and moral movement. We still have the moral high ground, and we cannot allow for it to be undermined. In 2011 when I was still in Arizona, I saw a similar dynamic play out with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. While human rights activists were clear and backed by evidence of racial profiling inherent in the “Show Me Your Papers” law, Sheriff Arpaio was intent on mocking and villainizing protesters and the communities that were suffering the most. He helped to set up a false dichotomy about how he was protecting “law and order” and the community was lawless. He stoked racial hatred and used his power and platform that helped build a base of extremists and positioned them to speak, in effect positioning politicians, lukewarm reformers, as having a moral center with “common sense” and “practical” solutions and proposals. We cannot allow that to happen. We do not have time for the platforms of people who stoke hatred or confuse the debate, and we cannot be satisfied with politicians telling us what is or is not possible.

The energy on the street is about justice and accountability — the system of policing is what is making us unsafe. With months of protests and organizing, we are finally at a moment where more people are newly open to understanding the institutional and systemic problems with policing that hurt communities of color and disproportionately black people. Policemen and young people who are considering joining the police should understand this too — it’s the system. Despite claims that there are good and bad cops — we know that the system is failing everyone, including the police. That’s why Lynch’s inflammatory rhetoric is alarming. For one, it continues to pit the police against the communities they serve in, fueling distrust further on both ends. Secondly it derails an important conversation. Thirdly — it serves to consolidate a base of people like those wearing “I can breathe” shirts and the teachers wearing NYPD shirts to school — and our energy is sucked into addressing their defensiveness and derailing difficult and courageous conversations about race. Conversations on how this is not about interpersonal racism — and police, even good-hearted ones, can unintentionally hold up a racially biased system that has damaging and dangerous life-changing outcomes for communities of color. According to the Stolen Lives Project, at least 265 people have been killed by the NYPD since Amadou Diallo, 133 since Sean Bell. The does not even get into the incidences of unnecessary use of force and police brutality and mistreatment on the street.

In addition to that, it is the everyday interactions and overwhelming police presence in our neighborhoods that also wear people down. Due to broken windows policing, the following interactions can lead to tickets, arrests and summonses, warrants if tickets go unpaid and in some cases, violence: jaywalking, sleeping on a park bench, spitting, putting your feet up on the subway and more.

The following data is from a November 2014 report from the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) — Over $410 Million A Year: The Human and Economic Cost of Broken Windows Policing.

*For the first 8 months of 2014, at great expense in city dollars, de Blasio/Bratton’s NYPD has continued the same focus as the Bloomberg/Kelly administration on arrests for misdemeanors and other low-level infractions. From January through August, 2013, the NYPD made 155,831 misdemeanor arrests – nearly 20,000 per month. During 2014’s same 8-month period, the NYPD made 156,572 misdemeanor arrests, also nearly 20,000 per month.

*A stark racial bias marks the NYPD’s petty arrest practices. In 2013, 87 percent of the individuals charged with misdemeanors were people of color; in 2014, the figure has been 86.3 percent.

*At the conservative estimate of $1,750 per arrest, NYC will spend over $410 million in 2014 on arresting people, mostly low-income individuals of color, for misdemeanors and other minor infractions. For the 5-year period from 2009 to 2013, an annual average of 90 percent of the people arrested for misdemeanors walked out of the courtroom.

What Mayor De Blasio does remains to be seen, but he already brought back Chief Bratton, the architect and first person to implement broken windows/zero tolerance policing. In a piece paying tribute to Ella Baker, Marian Wright Edelman said something that I often recall these days when thinking of policing in New York: “Policies are no better than the people who are implementing them and their commitment to just treatment of the children and the poor.” How can we dismantle broken windows with Bratton, its chief proponent still at the helm? De Blasio must change that. Some of us have held the hands of friends or brothers as they struggled with military and police academy recruiters and though many of them never dreamed of being policemen, a lack of opportunities led them to those positions. That is a reality in our communities. We have to start imagining a new reality — this will mean fewer police and more social workers and teachers. This will mean creating more economic possibilities and investment that preserves and does not displace our communities. This will mean confronting decades of disinvestment in our communities.

It will be challenging to make changes at the core of what policing looks like today, but its clear that what we have today does not work and that the solutions must come from the community. In New York City, as the Coalition to End Broken Windows has made clear — we don’t need 1,000 new policemen in the new year, and we must ensure that does not happen. Rinku Sen, the President of Race Forward, has written about how police departments will need tailored, holistic, evidence-based change that gets to the heart of not just systemic racial bias, but a “race and …” approach to get at the totality of what may be causing harms which is only possible with evidence-based interventions. In Los Angeles, my Black Lives Matter sister Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac has helped lead an effort with Dignity and Power Now and The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence to establish a civilian review board for independent oversight of sheriffs — it’s a major victory.

We already have the energy and people’s attention in a way that we have not had it in a long time — but most importantly we have one another — the time is now for real, deep, substantive change.

Black Lives Matter on International Migrants Day, Too

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Originally posted on New America Media 12/18/2014.

By: Opal Tometi, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration

Today is International Migrants Day. It takes place each year on December 18th and is promoted by the United Nations as a day to recognize the millions of people who migrate across the globe – many of whom are forced to move due to famine, violence or economic hardships. As one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, I can’t help but wonder when the world will begin to address the way racism affects Black migrants.

Just over a month ago, the U.S. media got wrapped up in a frenzy over Ebola. Misinformation and myths about the disease have led to discrimination and even physical violence against African immigrants in the United States.

Hysteria over Ebola has led to acts of violence against those who are perceived to be African, denial of services and verbal assaults. The word “Ebola” has even come to be used as a derogatory term or insult.

A family in Connecticut is suing the school district for banning their daughter from class after she got back from Nigeria. In the Bronx, two middle school boys originally from Senegal, Africa, said students have been harassing them with Ebola taunts. And CBS reports that a college in Corsicana, Texas has stopped accepting applications from African students.

Today, there are an estimated 4 million Black immigrants in the United States. About 1.8 million of them are from the Caribbean and 1.6 million are from Africa. Within the Black immigrant population, African immigrants are growing at the most rapid rate. In fact, between the year 2000 and 2009, the African immigrant population increased by 92 percent. This is important as these communities are navigating stigmatization and racism as part of life in the States. Although African migrants hold many high degrees and educational certificates, they still suffer from the lowest wages, highest unemployment and experience the most discrimination in the workplace in comparison to any other foreign born population.

African American communities have faced a similar racialized stigmatization from public health issues before. In recent history the HIV/AIDS pandemic left the Black community reeling not only from the actual disease, but also from stigmatization, racism in public discourse and institutional policies. These lessons must not go unaccounted for as Black communities, both African American and immigrant, begin to articulate what they know from past experiences, that racism has psychological and material impacts — and it must be stopped.

The devaluation of the lives of African Americans and African immigrants also extends to the way we think about the continent of Africa, where restrictive aid policies have diminished health systems, leaving nations impoverished and ill-equipped to address public health concerns like Ebola.

To counteract these attitudes, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the national network it coordinates, Black Immigration Network, are working to combat racist attacks against African migrant communities. We encourage people of conscience to support groups like African Communities Together and Priority Africa Network as they document and fight stigma and abuse.

This International Migrants Day, we are committed to fight for the rights and dignity of all Black communities – including Black immigrants. We’ll continue to be part of this global movement for Black lives until we are truly certain that all Black lives matter.

Opal Tometi is the executive director of the
Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), an education and advocacy organization comprised of African Americans and Black Immigrants working at the intersection of racial justice and migrant rights.

#MillionsMarchNYC Reflections

Post by Juwaher Yusuf, BAJI Program Associate
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“But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” – Malcolm X
On December 13, 2014, tens of thousands of people unified in the name of justice in the streets of New York City. We made history.It was a sight to see, one that will never escape my memory. Streets flooded with people of all ages and races chanting Black Lives MatterNo Justice No PeaceHands Up Don’t Shoot

These words. These raw words harboring truth, pain and passion in our eyes, resonating so deeply to the core of our being. We did this for Sean Bell, Mohammed Bey, Rumaine Brisbon, Michael Brown, John Crawford, Amadou Diallo, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, Oscar Grant, Akai Gurley, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, and Tamir Rice among others. We did this for our people – across generations – continuously afflicted with injustice. Every 28 hours, a black person is killed by someone protected by the US government. The racial bias in policing and the justice system is killing Black people. We are tired. Tired of burying our brothers and sisters persecuted for the color of their skin. Tired of the demonization and mass criminalization of our communities. Tired of the protection of police officers who kill us.

This is our progressive movement and we took to the streets peacefully demanding to be heard.

 We must acknowledge the significance of black leadership in our movements. #MillionsMarchNYC was organized by two black women – Synead Nichols and Umaara Elliot – and led in partnership with several black organizers.#BlackLivesMatter was co-founded by three black women – Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi – and continues to maintain black leadership. Black people aren’t just standing around. We are challenging our structurally racist and oppressive systems. We are actively and strategically organizing against injustice. We are leading the political and social transformation that we are in dire need of.

We refuse to be left out of the conversation. On the contrary, we are intentional about shaping that dialogue, building multiracial alliances, and organizing to bring about a change.

Our communities demand an end to the government sanctioned violence that is police brutality. This stops today.

We will get justice.

I can hear my brother saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’ Now I’m in the struggle singing, ‘I can’t leave.’”

In Solidarity,

Juwaher

Ferguson Toolkit

Dec 3, 2014   //   Blog, education, Media, Press, racial justice  

Organizing against state violence in Ferguson, MO and across the country has produced a range of analytical and educational media. Below you will find a general overview highlighting BAJI efforts and relevant work from a range of organizations.


BAJI Bay Area Organizer, Devonté Jackson, in West Oakland BART Demonstration

Anti-Blackness in Progressive Movements #FergusonFridays
This is a storify of a #FergusonFriday discussion discussing Anti-Blackness in Progressive Movements. BAJI with the support of @so_treu @bad_dominicana @familiesfreedom @DesisRisingUp led the conversation and you can get some of the highlights here.

#BlackLivesMatter Enough to Organize
This article details major themes in the Black Lives Matter work in Ferguson and some of the critical organizing tactics of the campaign.

Black Immigrants & African-Americans Demand End to Police Brutality
It is important to make the connections between the demands of Black immigrants and the needs of African-Americans. This is a detailed overview of this narrative in the context of national movements currently moving forward and place immigration currently has in the popular discussion.

Ain’t This Your Son?
This article details the unique role Black immigrants have to the police brutality they face along with African-Americans. Along with this description, Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, BAJI New York City Organizer, makes suggestions of how Black immigrants can leverage international relations to address domestic concerns.

BYP 100 Agenda To Keep Us Safe
The Black Youth Project 100 created a position statement that pointed to focus areas that policy makers and organizers must consider in regards to the criminalization of Black youth. This document represents a step towards inserting the voice of youth in imagining what organizing and policy making on law enforcement should look like.

Cop Watch
This site is the home of the NYC Cop Watch organization. As a site it offers community responses and walks through a particular method that Cop Watch can operate.

Every 28 Hours – Operation Ghetto Storm
In 2012, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement wrote “Operation Ghetto Storm” to grasp the quantitative nature of the violence Black communities face from “extra-judicial killing.” This report is central to current national organizing efforts particularly with the initial revelation that a person is killed every 36 hours. This was eventually updated to every 28 hours.

Ferguson National Response Network and Ferguson Action
This site holds the collective efforts of local Ferguson organizers. National demonstrations are listed on this site and significant coordination from local organizers help orient the national movement.

Ferguson October
The argument central to this article is is how protesters are “leading the next wave of Black liberation struggles into an international movement.”

Know Your Rights
The ACLU is a major force for addressing the legal impact of law enforcement encounters. This site is particularly useful because it also warehouses information on the rights of immigrants with support for multiple languages.

Organizing manual: Let Your Motto Be Resistance
This manual is from MXGM the same organization that created the “Operation Ghetto Storm” report that detailed a Black person is killed every 28 hours by law enforcement. Their manual outlines concrete steps towards organizing around police brutality along with broad educational information.

The Real Crime Paper
On the page hosting our Real Crime video you can find a link to download the accompanying “Real Crime” paper on the right hand side. This paper gives reader further information on the analysis presented in the Real Crimes video.

The Real Crime Video
This media piece makes the central BAJI argument around immigration policy and mass criminalization. Along with a systemic description this video points viewers to important themes BAJI emphasizes for collective action.

State of Emergency
BAJI National Coordinator for the Black Immigration Network and BAJI Arizona Organizer, Tia Oso, explains, “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.”

Sexism in the Movement
This article uses personal history to critique the patriarchy embedded in the history of Black social history. This article explains that resisting sexism within our communities must be a central concern as our national movements begin to gain momentum.

 

Shut it Down for Mike Brown

Post by Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer

DevBARTThis past Black Friday I participated in an all black nonviolent civil disobedience at West Oakland BART Station with 13 comrades which caused a transbay shutdown of BART service for approximately 2 hours. Two teams locked down and formed a blockade on both platforms preventing doors from closing and the trains from moving. While we were shutting down West Oakland BART, hundreds of black folks joined us in a healing ceremony down stairs. We set out to hold the blockade for 4.5 hours in acknowledgement of the 4 hours Mike Brown’s body lay in the street after being murdered by Police Officer Darren Wilson. The 28 minutes represented the reality that “every 28 hours a black person is killed by a police officer, security guard, or vigilante in the U.S.”

My role in the action was an anchor position for one of the blockades. I was the connector to the BART train which was accomplished by locking my body to a bar with a chain around my waist and U-Lock around my neck. The symbolism in the act was powerful. Locking myself down with chain and U-Lock reminded me of the bondage black people had to endure in the times of slavery and the oppression we face today with the prison industrial complex and mass criminalization. I did not want to take this act. I worried about my physical safety and the repercussions of taking such action but I felt it was an act that I had to take in order to call attention to the state-sanctioned violence black people face in the U.S. Our #BlackoutBlackFriday Action called for an immediate end to the war on black people. It was important for us to show solidarity with those organizing for justice in Ferguson and that we lift up the multiple ways state sanctioned violence impacts the bay area black community.

This movement was led by black women. The overwhelming majority of those arrested in our Black Friday BART action were black women; only 2 out of the 14 arrested were male identifying. Folks set out to ensure that our message was for all black people. We acknowledged racism and transphobia within law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Additionally, we identified gentrification, criminalization of black immigrants, de-prioritization of black queer youth issues, the miseducation of our youth, the school to prison pipeline, environmental racism, etc. as forms of state sanctioned violence that were being actively deployed as tactics of violence towards our community in the bay area. We wanted to ensure people knew that the violence our people face goes beyond police terror and mass incarceration.

I am reminded that the 2 hours that I spent in jail for this action is 2 hours more than the time Darren Wilson will spend for murdering Mike Brown. Many folks were inconvenienced and angered by our act of civil disobedience but we did this in order to disrupt business as usual to highlight the fundamental injustice in the criminal justice system; we faced more punishment for a nonviolent BART disruption than Darren Wilson will for his act of murder. Folks in Ferguson has called for communities across the country to disrupt business as usual until we get the justice we deserve. Black folks in the Bay Area will continue to escalate our actions until all our people are free!

OPAL TOMETI, BLACK ALLIANCE FOR JUST IMMIGRATION’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CONDEMNS GRAND JURY DECISION IN FERGUSON

Statement from Opal Tometi, the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration condemning grand jury decision in Ferguson

“A grand jury has declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed teen Michael Brown on August 9th in Ferguson, MO. Unfortunately, this decision was expected. The months since Brown’s shooting revealed a system of structural racism in Ferguson and throughout St. Louis that has led to racialized inequity and this decision has further solidified a culture of disregard for Black residents. We at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) condemn this miscarriage of justice.

The completion of the grand jury process does not equate to justice for our communities. Michael Brown’s death is just one of the far too numerous instances of what amounts to an American epidemic. Every 28 hours someone inside the United States, employed or protected by the U.S. government kills a Black child, woman or man. 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 reaffirm our commitment to 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.

Furthermore we call on all black communities and our allies to organize because our future depends on it. . BAJI is committed to continue equipping African American and black immigrant communities to stand up against mass criminalization, systemic racism and social injustice. Victims of police killings are disproportionally young people of color. It is young women and men that lead the movement to defiantly declare that Black Lives Matter in the face of a system that says otherwise.

At the Black Alliance for Just immigration we look at criminalization of our communities as being a crime. We cannot sit idly by while black families suffer with little due process or recourse. We must continue to organize, as the courageous Ferguson community has fought vigilantly for over 100 days, and put an end to the systemic abuse of power that is tearing apart our communities and taking precious lives.”

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For press inquiries please contact Tia Oso, tia@blackalliance.org 917-310-3785

BAJI Executive Director Opal Tometi Statement on Executive Action

Statement from Opal Tometi, the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration regarding President Obama’s executive action on immigration and deportation
 
As a national organization comprised of Black Immigrants and African Americans we’ve been championing immigrant rights as a part of our larger fight for racial justice. We are heartened that President Obama has finally listened to our courageous communities and taken action. Undocumented immigrants from the Asian, Latino and Black communities are the leaders who’ve created this moment. They have created this shift in administrative procedures in the immigration system. 
 
In recent years we’ve seen courage of multiethnic Black communities to advocate for fair, inclusive and just immigration policies because our communities and destinies are intertwined. We will continue to push because we know that even in this moment it is flawed. Flawed by transnational policies that force people to migrate. Flawed by a system that displaces entire communities in the U.S. and abroad, while simultaneously criminalizing them. Flawed by creating a class of people who are highly exploitable, disposable — ultimately, deportable. 
 
We demand not one more disposable person in our community. Not one more immigrant left vulnerable to deportation.  Due to racial and religious profiling, Black immigrant communities are among those who are most acutely impacted by enforcement measures. African Americans and Black immigrants suffer when there is increased immigration policing and profiling in their communities. 
 
Furthermore, we won’t stand for a system that criminalizes us, and then pits family against people who may have a criminal record. We know that we all matter, and that the real crime is that we are subject to criminalization. 
 
As a community we needed the Administration to have included key provisions that would have been beneficial for Black immigrant communities:
 
  • 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. 
 
We will continue to fight for racial justice and immigrant rights, “until we all win.”
 
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State of Emergency: The urgent need for organizing

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.

communiquevideo
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.

soe

 

Courage to Go Into the Unknown

Nov 13, 2014   //   African immigrants, Blog, immigration, migrants, politics, race  

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.

VFTDAt 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…

In Solidarity,

 

We Are the Conversation

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.

Online rally

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.

Sexism in the Movement

Oct 28, 2014   //   Blog, Board & Staff, social movements  

Post by Devonté Jackson, BAJI Bay Area Organizer 

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 7.52.06 PMI 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

Oct 21, 2014   //   Black Migration News, Blog, caribbean, haiti, Opal Tometi  

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

haitireu

 

Ferguson October: From a Moment to Movement

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 

IMG_20141011_210029326Shrouded 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.

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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.

IMG_20141011_102647665The 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.

 

 

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