February 28, 2011

Teleconference II Recording Available - The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

On Thursday February 24th we held our 2nd national teleconference. On this call we listened to a pre-recorded interview with Isabel Wilkerson and held a live discussion. Unfortunately, Isabel was unable to join us due to a scheduling conflict, however we had a very engaging teleconference. In case you missed it you can listen to it here -

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson who wrote the epic book, "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration". We will then have a discussion about the impact of The Great Migration on the African American community and on the United States as a whole. We will also talk about parallels with immigration to the United States, a comparison that Ms. Wilkerson alludes to in her interview.

In her review of the book, Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote, "Ms. Wilkerson works on a grand, panoramic scale but also on a very intimate one, since this work of living history boils down to the tenderly told stories of three rural Southerners who immigrated to big cities from their hometowns."

Be sure to join us again on March 31st and April 28th.

Teleconference III – Thursday, March 31: New African Immigrants—Grappling with Concepts of Race and Identity

Speaker: Jackie Copeland Carson, PhD, President Copeland-Carson and Associates and author of “Creating Africa in America: Translocal Identity in an Emerging World City”.

Teleconference IV – Thursday, April 28: The Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latino Migrations to the U.S.

Speaker: Janvieve Williams Comrie, Executive Director, Latin American and Caribbean Community Center

All briefings are at Noon Pacific, 1PM Mountain, 2PM Central & 3PM Eastern

Toll-free Dial-in (US/Canada): 1-866-931-7845
International Dial-in: 1-310-374-4949
Conference Code: 707591

Please RSVP by calling (510) 663-2254 or sending an email to teleconference@blackalliance.org

February 21, 2011

HB 2191: The Arizona Syndrome Or another Arizona anti-immigrant law of white privilege

By Arnoldo Garcia

This blog post has been re-blogged. The original post appeared here.

The Arizona legislature, dominated by white supremacists and anti-immigrant haters, continues leading the way to undermine if not gut the 14th Amendment. And everyone's rights are in danger.

The Arizona House just approved a bill that would not allow undocumented persons their day in court.

The East Valley Tribune in Arizona reported:
A House panel on Wednesday approved legislation designed to benefit one man: Cochise rancher Roger Barnett.

The measure would spell out that anyone who is in this country [SIC] illegally cannot collect punitive damages even after winning a lawsuit.

Voters already approved a constitutional amendment doing precisely that in 2006. But that came nearly two years too late for Barnett who was sued following a 2004 incident when 16 [SIC] illegal immigrants said the rancher illegally imprisoned them.

HB 2191 makes that ballot measure retroactive to the beginning of 2004.
Guilty by immigration status.

Arizona is not alone in its zealot anti-migrant, anti-Mexican, anti-human notoriety. From Prop. 200, approved in 2004 and that prohibits state public services to persons who can't prove their status in the U.S., to SB-1070, the anti-immigrant racial profiling law approved last year, at least 20 states are pursuing similar initiatives. Now, across the U.S., a person's rights are being trumped by their immigration status, race, color, class and gender. This is the new double standard: "guilty by immigration status." (NNIRR's HURRICANE initiative, working with community groups, documents the human rights abuses being committed by ICE, police and other government officials and private citizens, issued the report "Guilty by Immigration Status.")

While HB 2191 represents another low blow to our rights, it's is not just another law. The fact that a measure of this nature -- protecting Roger Barnett a rancher with a hate reputation that's a staple of the anti-migrant violence on the border -- would get this far is testament to the depth of the human rights crisis in Arizona. How far can the Arizona hate legislators drive a stake into the heart of the U.S. Constitution? HB 2191 is more evidence of the the new normal defined by a deepening anti-immigrant hate and vigilante vitriol.

Tit for tat: Even so, Arizona is the offspring of a big plan, Operation Endgame, fueling the national anti-immigrant pandemic. ICE operations against workers; the extension of federal immigration-police collaboration to every nook and cranny of the U.S. and the anti-immigrant hate are not passing fancies. And Arizona's Prop 200 was the offspring of California's Prop. 187. SB-1070 is the culmination of federal immigration-police collaboration programs and the militarization of immigration control and border communities. The U.S. will enlist the police force in every county by 2012 to take part in immigration control. Every county that abuts the border and every county in Texas and Arizona and about two-thirds of all counties in California are already part of the Department of Homeland Security's "Secure Communities, which allows police to share the fingerprints of everyone arrested with the DHS database....

These are not just flawed policies and laws. We are witnessing an emerging immigration policing regime that is criminalizing immigrants beyond recognition and using the shameless excuse of going after "criminals" to destroy everyone's rights -- citizens and non-citizens, immigrants and non-immigrants, working people and communities of color.

The Rise of the U.S. Immigration Policing Regime

HB 2191 may be just a shamefaced attempt to change the rules for a white rancher who was convicted of imprisoning migrants at gunpoint. While the legislator behind HB 2191 is ratcheting white privilege up a notch, HB 2191 whittles away our basic rights.

The recent conviction of Shawna Forde for the cold-blooded murder of Raul Flores and Brisenia Flores, his nine-year old daughter, is a small measure of long-overdue justice. Stopping HB 2191 would be a tiny sign of sanity in the Arizona legislature. But don't hold your breath waiting for the Arizona Senate to stop HB 2191. The cold-hearted Arizona Senate got cold feet and yanked yet another one of its worst case scenario bills, which would have allowed hospitals to ask persons for their immigration papers before helping them; they didn't have the votes to pass it.

The revolution is civil rights?

What are we going to do? How do you stop them from legislating hate, from continuing to build a policing regime with its own criminal justice and prison system exclusively for persons with immigration status? It's easy to say: we need push back on all the criminalization, which drives the hate movement, and demand that the 14th Amendment be defended and expanded, say with policies and measures that ensure that:
  • A person is innocent till proven guilty;
  • A person has the right to her day in court;
  • Racial, ethnic/national and religious profiling -- i.e. all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religious and political creed and belief, gender and class -- are illegal.
That would be revolutionary.

Come to think of it, this is the law of the land right now; but not in Arizona and dozens of others states and counties if we don't push back hard.

* Arnoldo Garcia works for the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. For more information visit: www.nnirr.org

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February 18, 2011

Videos about African Migration from the World Social Forum

Post by Opal Tometi, BAJI National Organizer

Our final days at the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal were a blur. With several meetings, workshops and other impromptu activities we just didn’t have time to capture it all on our blog. However, now that we’re back in the United States we are beginning to reflect on some of the highlights and have some videos we’d like to share with you.

The first is a short video with Mamadou Goita, the Director of IRPAD (Institut de Recherche et de Promotion des Alternatives en Développement), based in Mali. In this clip he briefly discusses the connections of environmental justice and immigration. An issue we are sure to blog about more in the future.

Our 2nd video is with Mary Tal, a courageous migrant justice organizer in South Africa. In this video she tells her personal story of migration and talks about how she’s helping women and their families in South Africa through support groups, advocacy and by providing other social services. Mary’s story is powerful and compelling as she explains how she cast off the shame of being a refugee, empowered herself and found her voice.

Whole World Women Association - South Africa from opal ayo on Vimeo.

2nd Teleconference next Thursday - Black Intersections on Migration

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Priority Africa Network

Invite you to:

Black Intersections on Migration

National Conversations on African, African American,
Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latino Migrations to and in the U.S.

A four-part series of teleconference briefings
on timely and critical analyses of migration, race, and identity.

The United Nations has declared 2011 as the “International Year for Peoples of African Descent”. Ten years ago, landmark recommendations were made at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban South Africa. In a four-part series of teleconferences that looks at the span of Black presence in the U.S. over the centuries, we will examine the unique migration experiences of the African Diaspora within the context of U.S. history and the current debate over immigration. The series brings provocative frameworks and analyses into the discussion about race and immigration that are seldom considered.

Teleconference II
African American Migrations--The Exodus from the U.S. South
Thursday, February 24, Noon Pacific, 1PM Mountain, 2PM Central ; 3PM Eastern

See event on Facbook -  http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=165679993481901

Speaker: Walter Turner, Professor, Social Science & Contemporary African Affairs, College of Marin, Kentfield, CA

Walter Turner will present his views on and analysis of the book, "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson. Ms. Wilkerson was invited to speak but was unable to participate due to scheduling conflicts.

In her review of the book, Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote, "Ms. Wilkerson works on a grand, panoramic scale but also on a very intimate one, since this work of living history boils down to the tenderly told stories of three rural Southerners who immigrated to big cities from their hometowns."

Walter Turner is himself an author of "Oil for Nothing, Multinational Corporations, Environmental Destruction, Death and Impunity in the Niger Delta.” His commentaries have appeared in the Black Scholar and on Pacifica National News, Pambazuka News, Pacifica Radio and National Public Radio. He is also one of the authors of the book “No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000.” (Africa World Press 2007).

Toll-free Dial-in (US/Canada): 1-866-931-7845
International Dial-in: 1-310-374-4949
Conference Code: 707591

Please RSVP by calling (510) 663-2254 or sending an email to teleconference@blackalliance.org

Teleconference III – Thursday, March 31: New African Immigrants—Grappling with Concepts of Race and Identity

Speaker: Jackie Copeland Carson, PhD, President Copeland-Carson and Associates and author of “Creating Africa in America: Translocal Identity in an Emerging World City”.

Teleconference IV – Thursday, April 28: The Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latino Migrations to the U.S.

Speaker: Janvieve Williams Comrie, Executive Director, Latin American and Caribbean Community Center

All briefings are at Noon Pacific, 1PM Mountain, 2PM Central & ; 3PM Eastern

February 9, 2011

Women from the Niger Delta at the World Social Forum

Post by Opal Tometi, BAJI National Organizer

During my time at the World Social Forum in Dakar I've had the the most profound pleasure of meeting a delegation of women from the Niger Delta. For those who know me you know my family is from Nigeria and so social issues within the country are of particular importance to me. The delegation of Nigerian women from the oil rich region have been through a lot. From the pollution of their land, to lack of job opportunities, perpetual poverty, violence, sexual assault and the list goes on. The things that they have experienced are unimaginable yet they have the courage to speak out against them, assert their human rights and organize for justice. The delegation is a vibrant group, comprised of the most eloquent and inspiring women I have ever met. I'm constantly in awe of them as they share story after story of what they've been through and how they've taken their circumstances into their own hands.

I hope to be able to post more videos from their presentation online, but in the meantime I will share the following video clip that I shot with the Emem Okon the Executive Director of an Kebetkache Women Resource & Development Center.

In the video Emem explains the grassroots work that the women have been doing around environmental justice, women's rights, social and economic issues and alternatives in the oil rich region of the Niger Delta.

Please read the Detroit to Dakar blog for information about other workshops we attended during our 2nd day in Dakar.

February 7, 2011

The World Social Forum Workshops Begin

Post contributions by Gerald Lenoir, BAJI Director, Nunu Kidane, Priority Africa Network Director & Opal Tometi, BAJI National Organizer

Today marked the first day of sessions of the World Social Forum in Dakar Senegal. The theme for the day was Africa and the Diaspora and featured a myriad of sessions highlighting issues of relevance to peoples of African decent. And although there was some confusion about locations for certain workshops we managed to find our way to 2 insightful sessions.

One session we attended was a workshop on Intra-Africa Migration that featured a panel of academics, migrants and activists from West Africa that exposed the complicity of West African and North African governments in violating the rights of migrants. The North African countries--Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Libya have signed undisclosed bilateral agreements with European countries--Italy, Spain, Malta, Portugal and France to act as their border control agents.  North African countries routinely deport Senegalese migrants to their home countries, with many violations of their human rights. Migrants from all over West Africa are deported to Mali without regard to their nationality.  The migrants are often brutalized, robbed and dumped at the borders.  In exchange for their services, the North African countries receive development aid and military aid from European countries.

Senegal has also signed agreements with some European countries to accept deported Senegalese migrants and to provide Frontex, the European Union border control agency, complete and free access to its territory. In exchange, Senegal receives an undisclosed amount of aid.  Mali has refused to sign these types of agreements.

In addition, most member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not abide by a protocol on circulation signed by all 16 countries in the 1980s.  The protocol calls for freedom of movement throughout the countries.  But migrants are regularly harassed, jailed and deported. And only seven countries honor the ECOWAS passport.

Ntamag Francois Romero, the director of the Association des Refoulés d’Afrique Centrale au Mail, or ARACEM (Association of Deported Central Africans in Mali), spoke about his work in aiding migrants expelled from North Africa.  Over 100 migrants a month come to the ARACEM center for food and temporary shelter after being deported.  They can stay for two weeks at a time until the next wave of deported migrants arrive.  And the numbers are growing.

Another session we attended was on “Strategies for International Year for People of African Descent.”  Doudou Diene, the former U.N Special Rapporteur on Racism on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance -  was one of the key speakers. He spoke extensively on the process that led to the Durban Conference Against Racism in 2001 and the challenges related to the declaration and subsequent attempts towards the full implementation.  
Also on the panel were Mareille Fanon-Mendes from France, daughter of Frantz Fanon and President of the Franz Fanon Foundation. She spoke passionately about the need to continue building on the foundations set in Durban, South African.   She urged participants the world over to join the mobilization for the next gathering towards this that will take place in New York in September of this year.  Following her was Jan Lonn, Secretary of the World Against Racism Network and Coura Mbaye Swedish Committee for the International Year for People of African Descent.

The day was truly rich and included several formal and informal conversations and meetings along the way. Every moment at the World Social Forum is an opportunity to learn. You never knows whom you are sitting next to until you take the time to introduce yourself and learn about their struggles and victories.

Here are some additional pictures from our day which concluded with a dinner reception hosted by Priority Africa Network for the Detroit to Dakar Delegation.

February 6, 2011

The World Social Forum Kicks Off with Historic March

Posted by Opal Tometi, BAJI National Organizer
February 6, 2011

The World Social Forum has officially begun! With a whirlwind of smaller events, meetings and orientations leading up to today’s (Sunday February 6, 2011) opening ceremony in Dakar, Senegal everyone seems to be energized for this week's historic gathering. 

Today, we marched through the streets of Dakar for about 3 hours, not including the time where people were able to listen to speeches. One of which was delivered by Bolivia’s celebrated President Evo Morales. There were people as far as the eye could see, and thousands of Senegalese participated throughout the day,  including those who served as volunteers helping to answer questions, and who worked as security to ensure that the day went smoothly.  It is estimated that well over 100,000 people participated in today’s march.
Along with our companer@s from Priority Africa Network, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, and several other organizations we marched through the streets of Dakar chanting in solidarity and with much enthusiasm.

People waved banners and held signs representing movements from throughout the world and highlighting issues such as violence against women, police brutality, environmental justice and migrant rights, while other banners called into question the occupation of various lands, neocolonialism, economic exploitation, militarism and so much more. We saw and even befriended people from throughout the world - from Brazil to Palestine, Rwanda, Nigeria, Egypt and Japan! What seems most evident is that social movements around the globe are vibrant and people are working tirelessly toward social justice in every part of the world.

The march was just the beginning and we are hopeful that the sentiment of joy and justice, that permeated the air, will be one that carries us through the complex discussions, networking and strategizing that are sure to fill the week.

You can see some pictures from our day at the march on the our Flickr page.

Check out the program here to see the range of plenaries and workshops that will take place this week.

February 4, 2011

World Assembly of Migrants Concludes

Posted by Gerald Lenoir, BAJI Executive Director
February 4, 2011

 The World Assembly of Migrants wrapped up today but, from my point of view, left much to be desired.  It is a complete misnomer to call it a "world assembly."  First of all, the attendance was poor with only about 100 people.  The overwhelming majority of migrants who were there were either from France or the French-speaking countries of West and North Africa.  The rest of the world was left out of the process.

The "Charter of Migrants" that emerged from the process was so general as to be rendered useless.  Although the initial draft was more progressive, after much tortuous debate and the consideration of amendments, the charter does not include any references to racism, the impact of economic globalization, the rights of indigenous people, and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and health access for people with HIV/AIDS and people with disabilities.

One participant argued that references to racism should not be included because we're all part of the human race.  This was an especially blatant omission, since the conference was held on Goree Island, one of the main sites where the brutal, forced migration called the Transatlantic Slave Trade was launched.  The same speaker also swayed many of the people present that the discrimination against LGBT people should not be included because this is a matter of "personal preference."

I was disappointed in the process and the outcome.  I am not hopeful that the "Charter of Migrants" will be at all useful or usable.

On Sunday the World Social Forum will begin with a mass march.  The workshops and plenaries begin on Monday.  I will continue blogging about WSF until February 11.

February 2, 2011

World Assembly of Migrants

Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Goree Island, Senegal 

Posted by Gerald Lenoir, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration

Nunu Kidane of Priority Africa Network, Colin Rajah of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and I traveled from Oakland, California to Dakar Senegal to attend the World Assembly of Migrants (WAM) on Goree Island and the World Social Forum (WSF) at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar.

A statue of freed slaves on
Goree Island donated by the
government of Guadeloupe.
Today, we took the 20-minute ferry ride to the infamous Goree Island where enslaved Africans were imprisoned, brutalized, led shackled through the "Door of No Return" and shipped en masse to the New World.  We were there to attend the opening session of the World Assembly of Migrants.  The Assembly was initiated by a migrant rights organization in France, Sans Papier (Without Papers) to provide the opportunity for migrants from all over the world to give input into the draft of the World Charter of Migrants.  The opening session, attended by over 100 migrants, started with a panel that included the Mayor of Goree Island, a representative from WAM and a member of the leadership of the WSF leadership group.

The Mayor reminded us that the event was taking place on the spot where the first brutal forced migration of Africans took place.  The WSF representative spoke about the importance of migrant rights as a central theme of the Social Forum scheduled to take place February 6-11.

Migrants from all over the world listen
to the opening panel presentations at
the World Assembly of Migrants.
The WAM speaker spoke to the need of the rights of migrant to be recognized.  The draft charter, he said, builds upon the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People.  As an Austrian, he talked about the "wave of xenophobia sweeping across Europe."  He indicated that process of input into the charter will make sure that it's ratified by the people and that it is a people's document.  The aim is to get the charter ratified by United Nations.

The 2-page draft charter reads, in part:

"We Migrants declare to the world that:  MIGRATION WILL BE A FREE AND WORTHY CHOICE FOR ALL AND IN EVERY CORNER OF THE PLANET..." (emphasis in the original document)

"...We are entitled to the same rights, recognized under exactly the same conditions as everyone else.
Denying this basic principle is a serious blow to humanity, a negation of Humanity. Laws, regulations and practices that do not respect this principle will disappear over time, a ghostly memory of less humanitarian times in the past.
Unequal access to development and well-being within countries and between countries can and should be avoided and are in fact a crime against Humanity. We must prevail over such disparities."

(To read the entire draft of the World charter of Migrants, go to www.cmmigrants.org

Tomorrow, the day will be spent pouring over the draft document.  There will opportunities for the migrants assembled to give their input.  By the end of the day, the charter will be adopted by those assembled.  On Friday, migrants, along with their allies, will consider the future of the charter.  for many, the future for migrants is depending upon migrants themselves articulating their rights and, together with their allies, fighting for them.

My colleagues and I will continue to blog from the WAM and the WSF until February 11.  For photos of today and throughout the week, go to Priority Africa Network's D2D - World Social Forum web page at http://d2dworldsocialforumdakar2011.blogspot.com/