October 27, 2011

BAJI heads to Georgia!

Post by Opal Tometi, BAJI National Organizer
This summer was tumultuous for the migrant justice movement. As BAJI and allies across the nation took note and organized against a myriad of anti-immigrant legislation, policies and other attacks to racial justice and gains of the civil rights struggle – we realized that states in the south were under specific attack.

Georgia – historically important city for many reasons including its prominence in the civil rights movement and contemporary politics was a glaring flag for BAJI staff and members.  We knew instinctively that when HB 87 passed in Georgia that we must respond.

And so we did – sending 2 of our staff members to Georgia. BAJI Senior Organizer, Phil Hutchings, a veteran of the civil rights movement, SNCC and actively involved in several cutting edge human rights movements and me, Opal Tometi, a Nigerian born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona who has been active in the migrant rights struggle and stop-violence against women movement for years.

We are grateful to have connected with several phenomenal individuals and organizations that are doing tremendous work in Georgia. Some who have been established for decades and others more recently formed. We know that we didn’t know everything, but found that there are several who are working diligently to find solutions to Georgia’s most pressing human rights infractions and social ills.

Of note we found people organizing for justice for immigrants, people who were concerned about re-districting which if done incorrectly/immorally will further disenfranchise communities of color. This is of grave importance to note because Georgia is en route to becoming a majority ‘people of color’ state. The demographics are shifting and there are those in power who have taken note and are working to ensure their power.

The migrant justice groups we met with were recently working on fighting the deportation of a South African man who if deported may face death from opposition forces in South Africa, others had been fighting a federal program called “Secure Communities” which is in fact a misnomer and essentially encourages racial profiling and makes local police share fingerprints with national immigration irrespective of the reason someone Is incarcerated. Other elected officials and civil rights groups were grappling with the fact that some state officials were calling for parolees to take the unfilled jobs in fields that that were usually held by migrant day laborers.

We plan to go back to Georgia and continue to learn, build relationships, and assist in racial justice and immigrant rights organizing efforts. We’ll be sure to keep our friends and allies posted as we continue to build in the South.