November 13, 2012

InSolidarity: Delegation Journal

Haiti Delegation Journal

The earthquake of 2012 was devastating in Haiti.
·  3.5 million people were displaced
·  300,000+ people died
·  1.5 million people became homeless
·  Aid response brought Cholera, which has killed over 6,000 people
·  On top of this Hurricane Sandy, has impacted more than 1.5 million of the country’s people.  
The world mourned and gave in support of the Haitian people.  We gave $4.5 billion dollars on donations to Haiti.  Two years later, only half the aid has been spent and Haitians are stilling living in tent cities without access to medical care.  

Sadly, this neglect, is not unfamiliar to Haitians.  Since its independence Haiti has struggled to achieve true independence from the United States, Canada and France.  The United States,  since the 1900’s has taken imperialist and racist policies which have affected Haitians socially and economically.  The earthquake relief efforts and aid, from USAID (US Agency for International Development) prove these imperialist policies have taken the form of charity.   

African Americans can identify with such policies!  The disaster that was FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina is one example.  Police repression and the shutting down of schools felt in Black and Haitian communities are other examples.   It is vital for people of the African Diaspora to connect.  We share parallel struggles!

To create the change needed to impact our lives, individually, socially and globally, we need to engage in dialogue, education and action together.  InSolidarity, The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Haiti Action Committee and Haiti Emergency Relief Fund are partnering to send a delegation of African American women to Haiti in 2013.  Creating an alternative relief network, that encourages sustainable, direct and concrete aid.  In this delegation we will engage with Haitians and learn first-hand how we can work together, through aid and advocacy.  

As a part of the project we will keep Delegation Journals discussing our experiences preparing for this experience.  We will discuss the trainings, forums and events we attend.  We will also discuss our various fundraising efforts,  one of which is the BAJI Holiday Auction, “Buy Black, Benefit BAJI”, hosted by Ebay.  In this auction BAJI, InSolidarity and community members and partners will sell art and handicrafts by people of the African Diaspora.  Items for the Haiti Delegation will be marked, and we received 80% of the revenue from that sell!  

The auction begins November 23, 2012 and ends December 18, 2012, International Migrants Day.  Please help up go to Haiti and donate art or buy art in the Auction!  

To learn more about InSolidarity continue to follow our Delegation Journals or check out our Facebook page,

April 17, 2012

Join BAJI and Stand with Haiti

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration and groups all across the U.S. are calling upon the Department of Homeland Security to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program – like the still-ongoing Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program it created in 2007 and immediately grant visas to the 105,000 Haitians already approved

Before the January 20120 earthquake, Haitian democracy was and is still being subverted by the actions of the United States, France and other Western nations. As a result, Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. The earthquake was a devastating blow to the country. Like Katrina in New Orleans, the disaster in Haiti uncovered the underlying racism and economic exploitation that the people of Haiti have been suffering for centuries.

And like New Orleans, where black people were being demonized, criminalized and marginalized by the police, U.S. government, U.N. authorities, rightwing pundits and the U.S. media. There is much talk in the media about the endemic corruption in Haiti. Yet, there is no discussion about U.S. complicity in condoning and supporting dictators, US backing of the 2004 overthrow and kidnapping of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the democratically elected president of Haiti. Nothing is said about the long history of U.S. corporations exploiting Haitian workers in the foreign-owned sweatshops and factories. Despite billions of dollars in donations, 80% of the Haitian people are still living in poverty. Millions of unemployed and impoverished Haitians resided in and around the capital city of Port-au-Prince in substandard, earthquake-prone housing

Prior to the earthquake, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had approved the immigrant visa petitions of 105,000 Haitians. They must wait years longer in Haiti due to the visa backlog. This needs to happen immediately. And it can happen!

On May 15, 2012 the Petitions for Haitian Family Reunification will be given to the Oakland City Council. Desley Brooks will put forward for Council approval a Resolution in favor of processing Haitians immediately. We are calling on Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa County residents to sign this petition in support of the resolution.



San Francisco:

Alameda County:

Contra Costa County:

Richmond City Council:

April 2, 2012

BAJI Book Club

Last Thursday the BAJI Book Club met for the second time at "The Fat Lady" in Jack London square. Over drinks, books and kindles we discussed Part Two of "The Warmth of Other Suns". Exodus. Topics of discussion included being a "Nerd of Color", "Mississippi Masala", What is means to be an ally, Travyon Martin, privilege and parallel struggles.

The beauty of the book, and its portrayal of African American migration, is its ability to draw upon shared experiences of people of color across the world. The Book Club, so far, has been a mixed bag, nationally, racially and ethnically speaking. But this novel has been able to touch everyone, personally.

Conversation started on Trayvon Martin, Florida and it's unqiuely harsh history/legacy of oppression of African Americans. "Lake County and the rest of Florida were far from the lights of Miami and the palm-tree version of paradise that tourists came for. This was the Florida that had eneterd the Union as a slave state, where a Florida slaveholder could report without apology, in 1839, that he worked his slaves "in a hurrying time till 11 or 12 o'clock at night, and have them up by four in the morning." Florida went farther that some other slave state in the creativety of its repression: Slaves could not gather together to pray. They couldn't leave their plantations, even for a walk, without permission from their owner. If they were accused of wrongdoing, "their hands were burned with a heated iron, their ears nailed to posts," or their backs stripped raw with seventy-five lashed from a buckshin whip"pg 58.

This story brought back to memory, Harry Moore, a Florida organizer murdered in Florida. To learn more listen to Sweet Honey and the Rock: The Ballad of Harry T Moore,

This book also made us question, what it means to be an "ally" and how to address "privilege". And films like Soul Man, White Man's Burden, Guess Who, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Mississippi Masala, as well as the book Black Like Me, popped into the discussion. Check these out!

What ultimately comes out of our book discussions and is BAJI's mission, is the shared struggle of African Americans and immigrants of color. This no more evident than when Isabel Wilkerson discusses the impact of African Americans leaving the South has on the plantation economy. "...planters awoke to empty fields". As one newspaper put it, "If you thought you might be lynched by mistake, would you remain in South Carolina?" This is no different than what is happening right now in the South!

The parallels are so easy to draw, once the information is shared!

March 7, 2012

A Reflection on Our Journeys to Justice

Post by Tia Oso, BAJI Arizona Organizer
As February just ended I reflect on Black History Month and conclude that it is always an awesome opportunity to talk about the often untold stories and contributions of African-Americans in the U.S.  One such story is that of the Great Migration.

BAJI Phoenix was invited to present at the Phoenix College NAACP/Black Student Union weekly meeting and chose to educate the students and staff  on this little known but very influential period of Black History.  Faced with life as 2nd class citizens that daily faced the threat of violence and dehumanizing treatment in the South, not to mention a decimating boll weevil attack on King Cotton, millions of Blacks packed up and left the South in search of greater freedoms and booming economic industry in the North, the Midwest and West.  The lively followup discussion featured varied insights. Especially strong opinions were shared around the idea that recent immigrants to America, particularly Latino, are facing similar persecution under  “Jaun Crow” legislation and social norms today . I was not surprised to hear young black people say things such as “why do we have to hear about this?” and “illegal is illegal”. There is a disconnect and gap in our historical knowledge as a culture.  The U.S. school system and society at large allows for a limited and very narrowly defined outlook on the history of Black people in America.  Many of the students did express appreciation for the presentation and commented that it had opened their eyes to the similarities in which White Supremacy and discrimination has effected and continues to affect people of color.

A little over a week later, I presented an abbreviated version of the material to a crowd of black, African and Caribbean students and alumni.  It was amazing to see the nods of recognition coming from people that have migrated thousands of miles. Recent immigrants from places such as Senegal, Haiti, Nigeria and Eritrea identified with the plight of African-Americans at the turn of the century fleeing the south for opportunity, for asylum, for refuge, for freedom, for opportunity, for education.  People move for a myriad of reasons and it takes courage, hope and faith to make the journey and succeed once you arrive.

Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns” details the stories of three such brave souls during the Great Migration. This historical narrative is riveting in its depth of feeling and illuminating in detailing the harrowing physical, mental and social terror and injustice Blacks experienced as a matter of law in the U.S. and their use of migration as resistance and fight for progress.  As it has been for centuries and, as is conveniently left out of public discourse on the immigration, the very basis for the founding of the United States, migration is a natural human tendency. People migrate for survival, to sustain and improve their lives and will continue to. The use of discriminatory practices to limit the rights, freedom and safety of people that are in search of a better life is a disgrace. Maybe we can all take a lesson from history to inform how we can create a just and equitable world today.

February 16, 2012

Black Migration and Immigration—Two Sides of the Same Coin

Post by Gerald Lenoir, BAJI Executive Director

Isabelle Wilkerson’s best-selling book, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” is a remarkable chronicle of the historical and inspirational movement of millions of African Americans over many decades.   Reading it reconnected me to my own family’s migration story and reminded me of the parallels between The Great African American Migration from the U.S. South and the current immigration of peoples from the Global South.

The migration story of my grandmother, Augustine (Tina) Green, began when she boarded a train in New Orleans in 1945.  She got off the train in East L.A.  and sent for here nine children, a few at a time as she could afford to.  Six days a week, she took the long cross-town bus ride from East L.A. to West L.A. to work in a white family’s home to cook, clean and raise their children.

Mama Tina left the South for the same reasons that Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling and Robert Pershing, the migrants in Wilkerson’s saga, left—to escape the legal and extralegal oppression and terror and in search of a better economic future.  While she and her children found a better life in L.A., there were still subjected to racism and de facto forms of racial segregation prevalent in their new home. My mother, the oldest of the nine kids, and her siblings grew up in South Central L.A. and faced white vigilante youth gangs and racist police officers as well as discrimination in housing, employment, education and in every sphere of their lives.  Wilkerson describes how the individual decisions made by black families like mine created a mass human flow that produced a sea change in the culture, sociology and politics of the nation.

Throughout the book, Wilkerson consistently draws out the parallels between the migration experience of African Americans and the immigration of migrants from Mexico, Haiti, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and many other countries of the Global South with histories of European colonialism and neocolonialism.  Many of them have left their home countries to escape grinding poverty and/or civil strife.  And in many cases, the U.S. government and U.S. corporations are implicated in their forced migration. 

In the case of Mexico, the U.S. Congress ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994.  U.S. agribusiness corporations then began to flood the Mexican market with cheap agricultural products, undercutting Mexican farmers and forcing over 6 million people to abandon the land and make the dangerous trek across the desert to the U.S. 

In the case of Haiti, the U.S. government supported dictator after dictator who made it safe for U.S. corporate investments and twice collaborated to overthrow Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide.  Desperate Haitians have time and time again risked their lives in rickety, overcrowded boats on the high seas to get to the U.S. to escape political repression and economic deprivation. 

So U.S. firms legally cross borders, exploit workers and markets, and bring profits and products back across the border to the U.S.  But when people cross borders without papers because of economic hardships and for their own safety, they are labeled as “illegals” and “criminals.”  In many ways, they are being treated the same way that African Americans who came from the South were treated when white workers complained that “they’re taking our jobs.”

Like The Great African American Migration, immigration is altering our nation—our culture, our neighborhoods, our political landscape.  As a result, we are witnessing a resurgence in white supremacist ideology and organizing that threatens the lives and livelihood immigrants of color.   What gets very little discussion is how the rise of racism against immigrants also threatens African Americans.

We need only to look at what is happening in Arizona.  The infamous SB1070 law, ostensibly directed toward Latino immigrants, legitimizes and legalizes racial profiling, a practice that has historically been directed towards African Americans.   In addition, anti-immigrant activists and lawmakers have been successful in enacting Arizona laws that make it illegal to teach ethnic studies in the public schools and ban affirmative action. Now anti-immigrant racial profiling laws have been passed in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina—deep in the heart of Dixie.

And states across the country are passing laws mandating that voters have government-issued identification in order to vote because of the unsubstantiated “threat” of non-citizens voting in U.S. elections.  Researchers tell us that these laws can potentially disenfranchise over a million African Americans who do not have ID and cannot prove where they were born.  All of these Jim Crow/Juan Crow laws impact all people of color, including African Americans, and threaten to severely erode the gains of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.

“The Warmth of Other Suns” serves to enlighten and remind African Americans of our migration history and our escape from the maliciousness of Southern-style racial oppression and economic exploitation.  It also makes it clear to both African Americans and immigrants that our migration stories are two sides of the same coin.   And our struggles against racism and economic inequality are inextricably linked.