December 29, 2011



African-American Leaders Respond to Findings Showing Pattern or Practice of Wide-ranging Discrimination Against Latinos and Retaliatory Actions Against Individuals Who Criticized MCSO Activities

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963

PHOENIX, AZ – After reading the Press Release of the Department of Justice titled, “DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE RELEASES INVESTIGATIVE FINDINGS ON THE MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE,” dated December 15, 2011 and reading the letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez dated December 15, 2011 to Mr. Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, African-American leaders unite with other justice-loving citizens and organizations calling for the resignation of Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio.

During a meeting with Assistant Attorney General Perez, as he briefed a diverse group of community leaders on the afternoon of December 15, 2011, Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr., Senior Pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church, Phoenix, Arizona, made the following remarks, “This Department of Justice Press Release is like déjà vu.  Fifty years ago this was happening to African-Americans all over the country and especially in the Deep South.  All we have to do is to substitute African-Americans for Latinos in this document and it reminds us of how Blacks were treated during the Civil Rights Movement era (and often continue to be prejudged because of skin color even today). . . . Those of us who believe in justice and the Constitution of the United States of America will not be silent.  We must call for the Sheriff’s resignation.  We must speak to the powers that be, the Maricopa County Supervisors, and put pressure on them that the Sheriff needs to go.  This document is proof that we have become the Alabama of the 21st century.  It’s like Sheriff Bull Connor has come to Arizona.”

According to the findings of the Department of Justice, Assistant Attorney General Perez remarked, “ . . . this is the worst case of racial profiling seen in the U.S. in the last 40 years.” Therefore, we call for the resignation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. We will not be silent! Although the Department of Justice plans to work with the MCSO to fix the unjust practices and problems existing in that office, we do not feel that the problems noted in the findings of discriminatory policing, unlawful retaliation and discriminatory jail practices can be corrected with Sheriff Arpaio remaining at the helm of the MCSO. He has been the unapologetic, “in-your-face” perpetrator of mean-spirited actions and attacks on members of the Latino community far too long.  He has become a malignant cancer that must be removed if the body politic of the MCSO is to ever become healthy and properly functioning again.

Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted as a direct consequence of Sheriff Arpaio’s unfair, vindictive, arrogant attitudes and actions violating human and civil rights. Moreover, Arpaio’s victims have been fellow human beings created in the image and likeness of God, regardless of their skin color, language of preference and national origin.

Consequently, we, African-American leaders, in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, join our Latino brothers and sisters, and persons of every race, ethnicity, creed, color, class and political persuasion who believe that we are “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” in calling for Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio to resign.

Community Leaders Support List
Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr., Senior Pastor, First Institutional Baptist Church
Wilbert Nelson, State President, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
The Reverend Oscar Tillman, President, Maricopa County Branch of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Phoenix City Councilman Michael Johnson
Henry M. Wade, Arizona Association of Real Estate Brokers
George Dean, Executive Director, Greater Phoenix Urban League
Pastor James N. Harris, Jr., Moderator, Central District Missionary Baptist Association
Cloves C. Campbell, Jr., Arizona Informant Newspaper, Former State Legislator
Michael Berry, National Association of Minority Contractors
Former Phoenix City Councilman Calvin C. Goode
Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, Arizona State Legislature
Gene Blue, Arizona Opportunities Industrialization Center
Mel Hannah, Chairman, African American Legislative and Leadership Council
Bishop Henry L. Barnwell, Full Gospel International Fellowship
Bishop Harvey T. Young, Arizona Churches of God in Christ
Pastor James N. Preston, Bethesda Community Baptist Church
Superintendent Felton King, Emmanuel Church of God in Christ
Pastor Aubrey L. Barnwell, Senior Pastor, First New Life Missionary Baptist Church
Bob Boyd, Chairman, Combined Fraternal Organization of South Phoenix
Opal Tometi, National Organizer, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Dr. George Brooks, Jr.
Tonya Norwood, Community Leader
Gail G. Knight, Community Leader
Michael Williams, Educator

December 16, 2011

This week's Drop the I-Word Friday Friend is BAJI,

Original post from

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) is an education and advocacy group comprised of African Americans and black immigrants from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. BAJI's analysis emphasizes the impact of racism and economic globalization on African American and immigrant communities as a basis for forging alliances across these communities. BAJI is an endorser and great supporter of the Drop the I-Word Campaign. 

Read Along with BAJI and Drop the I-Word
From December through February, Drop the I-Word will partner with BAJI and invite members of
our communities to read Isabel Wilkerson's monumental book, The Warmth of Other Suns. The book, newly available in paperback, chronicles the Great Migration, in which some six million black people migrated to cities in the north and west from the south's Jim Crow caste system between 1915 and 1970. Ms. Wilkerson told

"This book is not just about black people leaving the South, it's about the yearning of anybody who wants to make a life-altering change for something better, for which there's no guarantee of the outcome. I'm hoping that if nothing else, people take that from this book--that they will see that we're all, in this case, Americans seeking the American dream, and African Americans are no different from that. They all shared the desire, when they were participants in the Great Migration, of the immigrant heart--of someone leaving the only place they've ever known, for a place they've never seen, with no guarantees."

Current anti-immigrant rhetoric hinges upon dividing communities of color and explicitly pitting African Americans with roots in the south, against migrants today. It's important that we build bridges and continue to foster respect and knowledge about one another's experiences.

This is an exciting way to get involved in Drop the I-Word. Start now by buying The Warmth of Other Suns on Amazon or Indiebound for yourself and as a gift for loved ones. Then in January and February join Drop the I-Word and BAJI in the conversation on immigration. We will be offering opportunities on our website, blog, Facebook and Twitter to discuss. 

We are looking forward to this project and are grateful to our Friday Friend BAJI for supporting Drop the I-Word and elevating the conversation about migration.

A New Day in Alabama

Post by Opal Tometi, BAJI National Organizer

Last month I went to Alabama twice. As an organizer born and raised in Arizona – watching hateful SB 1070 copycat legislation spread throughout the US has been painful. Myself and many other community members and allies throughout the nation organized tirelessly to repeal SB 1070. And our work is still far from over. Now with copycat legislation such as Alabama’s HB 56 and Georgia’s HB 87 I know that we must be more vigilant than ever. And that’s why when NDLON invited me to join them and 50 other organizers for a grassroots movement building training – the folks of BAJI said, “YES!” – because we’ve always known that when the fight for immigrant rights came to the south – African Americans would not only be strategic allies for immigrants, but it also means that we too would be facing a nuanced threat to civil rights gains (such as voter suppression) – and would need allies to fight with us as well.

This was my first time visiting Alabama and so I packed my scheduled tight not knowing that I'd be invited to return 10 days later.  My week and was filled with lots of activities including meeting with community groups, activists, leaders, and giving a presentation to Greater Birmingham Ministries and facilitating a workshop on Cross-Racial alliance building with new and seasoned community organizers, from Alabama, Tennessee, New Orleans, Florida and Georgia. This convening which  the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) hosted was incredible and I’m certain those who were there are those will change the course of history. The courage I witnessed, especially by those who don't have "documents" and have decided to fight for their right to remain in Alabama, and fight for their children’s future and their own dignity – left me forever humbled.

As a child of immigrants from Nigeria I know the kind of uncertainty and questions that parents must grapple with when making life changing decisions that may impact one’s family. However, I also know that there is a lot of joy and laughter that still can be found in these moments. And this was the case at the NDLON convening.
BAJI training with NAACP in Athens, Alabama
As a student of civil rights history I  knew going to Alabama would have a profound impact on me. A place with rich history and a legacy of resisting injustice – I just knew that there was much that African American community members would have to say about the kind of repression we are seeing at the hands of laws like HB 56. And they did. Many of the African Americans I met shared their personal accounts of civil rights struggle as well as family members migration to the North. This story of African migration (i.e. the Great Migration) resonated with so many I spoke with that I shared a film at the NDLON convening called Up South African-American Migration in the Era of the Great War so that Spanish speaking migrants could have a better idea of the themes of history that they may find themselves in. As well as find a new sense of empathy and connection with African Americans.

My second trip about a week later was focused around trainings for African American communities. I participated in a Leadership Summit as a session facilitator at convened by Alabama New South Coalition, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama Arise, Alabama AFL-CIO, Alabama NAACP, and many others. The following day at the invitation of the NAACP I facilitated a 3-hour workshop about race, immigration ad globalization with over 20  NAACP branch leaders. It was phenomenal. Everyone truly understood the urgency of the time and current crisis and were certain that ‘the did not want history to repeat itself’. Many of the participants were at the launch of Repeal HB 56 campaign – the following day. The launch of Repeal HB 56 campaign – which was held at the Historic 16th Baptist Church, but preceded by congressional testimonies and smaller gatherings.
Launch of Repeal HB 56 Campaign - 16th Street Baptist Church

Black communities throughout the U.S. are taking note and joining the fight against anti-immigrant laws that legitimize hate and promote racial profiling. The AFL-CIO even sent a black labor delegation to hear testimonies in Alabama. And even while I was there I met many emerging student leaders and institutional advocates such as NAACP who’re committed to fighting for justice and repealing HB 56.

We at BAJI plan to return with more of our members in February. We’ll help with the legislative push as well as with trainings to continue building a movement.  

December 2, 2011

Lessons Learned from the Recall of Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce

Post by Ahamad Daniels, BAJI Phoenix Committee, Transformation Facilitator and Life Coach 

In the event you might have been living on another planet over the last year or so and the name Russell Pearce fails to resonate, suffice it to say Arizona’s State Senator Russell Pearce is the chief architect of SB1070, legislation that requires law enforcement to determine the immigration status of anyone pulled over, detained or arrested if there is “reasonable suspicion” that person is the country illegally. Many aspects of the law are on hold as the Obama administration fights it in court. As the election results now stand, Republican Jerry Lewis will represent District 18. As for Pearce, he will shoulder the dubious distinction of being the first sitting Senate president and the first Arizona legislator to lose a recall election.

Anti-immigrant extremism
“Anti-immigrant extremism is a political loser,” according to Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “It mobilizes Latino voters who want acceptance and respect, and it angers sensible Republicans, independents and Democrats who want their leaders to focus on bread-and-butter issues, not hot-button cultural issues.” And if Arizona is known for anything (with the possible exception of being the state that doggedly fought the Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. holiday) it is known for its stringent approach to immigration. It has been Arizona’s approach to immigration that gave rise to The Real Arizona Coalition. A group of organizations and individuals determined to return Arizona “to the state they all love.”  The Coalition’s approach was to facilitate a series of what came to be called, Arizona Immigration Solutions Conference.

Solutions conferences
"The goal of the conferences is to encourage policymakers to work from a solid base of facts and begin a serious community-wide discussion about the best ways to address this important issue,” said Todd Landfried, spokesman for Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform. “These conferences are not about whether employer sanctions or SB1070 are good or bad laws, it’s about whether they’re working. Making sure that our tax dollars are spent wisely and effectively is a fair expectation for citizens to demand of their government.”  Well attended conferences were held in Phoenix, Prescott, Tucson, Mesa, and Yuma. Panel participants ran the gamut from farmers who have felt the negative economic impact of SB1070 to a VP of the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce. For more information on these conferences visit the Coalition’s website at .

Blacks are absent
The fact that few African Americans attended these conferences is indicative of the glacial pace taken by many Blacks to identify with the immigration movement. It is not unheard of to hear Blacks moaning, “They are taking our jobs!” “They,” of course are those coming across the southern border from Mexico.

It was not all that long ago Blacks were the “immigrants” accused of taking jobs from whites. Migratory routes that led to Detroit, Chicago, and New York found Blacks competing for jobs traditionally enjoyed by whites. A willingness to work for less pay made Black labor more appealing to employers; all to the chagrin of white workers who found ways to let newly arriving Blacks know they were not welcome; a far cry from the welcoming mat that was rolled out during the Maafa (enslavement).

Mexico to the rescue
Among the many provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was the law that required Blacks, who had escaped from their place of enslavement and found themselves in free states, to be returned to their captives; making it virtually impossible for any enslaved Black man or woman to feel safe knowing that at any moment a bounty hunter could capture and re-enslave them. A little know fact is that the Mexican government opened its borders to all escaped Blacks who were fortunate enough to find their way to Mexico.

Lessons learned
It has been said freedom is a constant struggle. Once attained, one can ill-afford to sit back and enjoy its fruits without maintaining constant vigilance. The rights achieved by Blacks during Reconstruction were quickly diminished with the arrival of the Rutherford B. Hayes Compromise of 1877, federal troops were pulled out of the South and the protection Blacks had become accustomed to was no more. The Plessy v Ferguson Supreme Court decision of 1896 made “separate but equal” law and further contributed to the eviscerating of civil and human rights; de facto rights that would not be fully attained again until the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.

The recalling of Senator Russell Pearce provides an opportunity for Blacks, Chicanos, and others who profess to love justice to sit down together and further assess what the individual and collective implications are. Such a discussion should include a review of what our common interests are and what it will take to realize them. It was the great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass who admonished, “Talking doesn’t solve all problems, but no problems can be solved unless there is first some talking.”