Linking Black Struggles on International Migrants Day

marcha ofranehThe Black Immigration Network continues to engage in the US to raise awareness of the plight of migrants and refugees globally and advocate to uphold the human rights of all. As the United Nations reports, displacement is at an all time high, with a record 59.5 million people forcibly displaced by conflict. Today one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. Add to this number the millions forced to leave their home countries to seek work because global capitalism has decimated their economies. The numbers are staggering and the testimonies are heartbreaking. In 1990, the United Nations a resolution on International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. A decade later, the UN declared December 18th as the Day of International Migrants.

 

It was asked then and remains a question now, what does this day mean to migrants and refugees of African descent?

 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention, and the struggle to recognize the human rights of all migrants globally continues. We do not celebrate International Migrants’ Day, as our communities face a serious crisis, but we do commemorate it. The 2015  BIN Kinship Action Call will bring to focus the challenges of Black communities across the globe fighting displacement, human rights violations, economic exploitation, xenophobia and attacks on birth right citizenship. In this call, moderated by Opal Tometi, Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter and internationally recognized human rights activist Nunu Kidane, Founder of Priority Africa Network, we will hear reports from courageous leaders organizing to defend the human dignity and rights in these communities:

 

  • South Africa – Sibusiso Innocent Zikode, Founder and Chair, Abahlali baseMjondolo (South African shack dwellers’ movement)
  • Dominican Republic/Haiti – Altagracia Jean-Joseph, law student and human rights activist
  • Honduras – Carla Garcia, International Coordinator, Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH)
  • Germany -Bino Byansi Byakuleka, refugee from Uganda, African Refugee Union and author of We Are Born Free 
  • United States – Carl Lipscombe, Policy and Legal Manager, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
  • Moderators – Opal Tometi, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Nunu Kidane, Founder, Priority Africa Network

Register here to join this dynamic call.

 

 

A call and movement focused on the state of Black immigrants is of great significance. In the past three years, there have been more deaths of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean  Sea. In South Africa, fellow African migrants were brutally attacked in riots involving jobs, land and housing. In the Dominican Republic, people of Haitian origin are forced out from the only home they know. In Israel, Australia and Italy, refugees of African descent are treated with brutality and distain, in overt racism and total disregard for human rights. Migration has become a most contested issue globally. In the US, it is the most frequently raised topic in the lead up to the presidential elections. In France, the right wing the National Front, an openly anti-immigrant party scored a major victory of late. Immigrants of African descent are particularly viewed as threats in Europe with proposed policy measures for mass deportations to forcibly return them to their countries of origin without due screening.

 

The present state of fear, xenophobia and Islamophobia gripping nations over the rise of immigrants leaves little room for level headed dialogue on root causes of increased migration. The continued expansion of corporate powers and profit at the expense of human lives, the plundering of our environment and dispassion of land from farmers, increasing conflict and wealth gap are all factors that contribute to increased mobility.

 

As the United States is a leading force in creating these deplorable conditions, the Black Immigration Network is committed to strengthening allyship in the United States and building relationships globally throughout the Diaspora in order to grow a strong movement to defend the human rights of all. This International Migrants Day is an opportunity to do just that.


Connecting the Diaspora on International Migrants Day

IMD15-SaveDate
International Migrants Day is held annually on December 18 to recognise the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide. The Black Immigration Network (BIN) will gather in recognition of International Migrants Day  to hear from leaders in the U.S., Europe, Africa and the Caribbean via teleconference.

 

As Black people around the globe experience structural racism, xenophobia, religous intolerance and the adverse impacts of globalization, connecting across the diaspora to build a movement that protects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, is key to our liberation.

 

 

 


BAJI Blog: The Global Rooms We Gather In

From BAJI-NYC Organzer Ben Ndugga-Kabuye, reflections on the impact of globalization on Black communities. 

“The world is not any smaller now than it ever was. Our lives may just be larger now, stretched, fuller some how. That is one way to explain a process that has many names, one being globalization. At the tail end of the Civil Rights movement, and at the beginning of the Black Power movement foreign-born Black immigrants were less than 1% of the U.S. population. Now a few of us can can gather in a small room and from our personal stories connect local events to realities hidden behind the bend of the globe. Black communities and this strange process we call globalization lie at the center of what we do at BAJI. “READ THE FULL BLOG POST HERE

 

Join BAJI and the entire BIN Kinship for an International Migrants Day Kinship Action Call on December 18. Register Today. 


Black Lives Matter Visits Cuba

A group of Black Lives Matter activists reflect on the lessons they learned during a recent solidarity trip to Cuba

 

By Anita, Chapter Coordinator and Community Organizer with Black Lives Matter,
Amity, the BYP100 NYC Communications Co-chair,
Shannon, organizer with NYC Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Outreach Director for 2013 documentary film Black and Cuba

 

“Venceremos, my favorite word in Spanish, crossed my mind. Ten million people had stood up to the monster. Ten million people only ninety miles away. We were here together in their land, my small little family, holding each other after so long. There was no doubt about it, our people would one day be free. The cowboys and bandits didn’t own the world.” – Assata Shakur

 

Ninety miles south of the United States is a truly different world. As Black Lives Matter activists, from various groups in the movement, who have been calling for massive structural, political and social changes in our country, we decided to see just what change can actually look like. So in late July we came together with 45 strangers to embark on a life-changing journey to visit and learn about Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade.

 

In 1969, a coalition of young people formed the Venceremos, “We Shall Overcome”, Brigade, in order to show solidarity with the Cuban revolution and challenge U.S. policies towards Cuba, including the economic blockade and our government’s ban on travel to the island. Our trip, like those that came before us, consisted of work, educational activities, and travel.

 

We were introduced to a highly educated, politically conscious and diverse society that our government has tried to keep us from for more than 50 years. We met resilient, inspirational, loving people who taught us about generosity, community, humility, and the one simple truth of socialism: that people are consistently prioritized over profit. We found that even within socialism, racial justice is a struggle that must be fought for and encouraged. While we cannot claim to be Cuban experts after one or two weeks, we did learn a great deal about ourselves and what it will mean to continue to build and win a revolutionary movement in our own country.

 

The three of us — Anita, Chapter Coordinator and Community Organizer with Black Lives Matter; Amity, the BYP100 NYC Communications Co-chair and Shannon, organizer with NYC Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Outreach Director for 2013 documentary film Black and Cuba– came with different perspectives, met and bonded over our questions and analysis of the experiences we had during the trip.

 

We found that In Cuba, people do not like to talk about race.

 

For Cuba, racial discrimination is a curse that both fled the country with the Cuban exiles and stayed behind with the revolution.

 

To be fair to the Cuban revolution, many of the Black Lives Matter movement’s “radical” demands to alleviate the effects of structural racism have been fulfilled in Cuba: all education (including higher education) is free, healthcare is free, housing is subsidized, healthy food is subsidized, and more. In 1962 the Cuban government declared the end of racial discrimination through the implementation of these egalitarian policies. In the U.S., racism is aggressive and deadly, systemic and carefully calculated. Although not fully eradicated, we found it true that Cuba’s socialist model diminishes the presence of structural racism and Cubans rightfully take pride in being more socially advanced than the U.S. in their “pursuit” for racial equality.

 

But, more than 50 years into the ongoing revolutionary project in Cuba, racial equality has still not been fully achieved and is often not addressed directly. While Cuba is an amazing example of how socialism can work to benefit the good of all people, Cuba is also proof that socialism or any tactic other than deliberately and intentionally working towards eradicating institutional and structural racism will not yield total racial equality.

 

Read the full blog HERE.


Capitalizing on Ignorance – Racism, Xenophobia, and Media Coverage of the Ebola Virus

Racism, Xenophobia, and Media Coverage of the Ebola Virus

 

By Nana Brantuo, BIN Member – DC

In 1976, the first recorded outbreaks of the Ebola Virus Disease were identified in South Sudan (formerly a region of Sudan) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire), resulting in the deaths of over 400 people. Outbreaks would continue over time in several African countries, controlled only by the combined efforts of various communities, health care professionals, governmental and nongovernmental organizations. All the while, the U.S. remained silent. The deaths of thousands of Africans across the continent were insignificant, only to be exploited by the news media in hopes of increased readership and capital gain. Fast-forward to December 2013, Ebola claims the lives of a 2-year old Guinean boy and his family – marking the beginning of the West African outbreak of Ebola that has gone on to claim the lives of an estimated 3,439 people. Once again, the U.S. remained silent…until the diagnosis of Ebola in two white American missionaries disrupted the “othering” of Africa and Africans that is typical within U.S. society. Suddenly, the lives of two white Americans outweighed the thousands of people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone fighting the disease, the thousands that had succumbed to the disease.  Suddenly, this disease, unknown to the majority of the United States population, made way to its borders and violated the contract of privilege that guaranteed U.S. citizens immunity from all things foreign and unpleasant.

Ebola - Andre Carrillo

Ebola – Andre Carrillo

Thus began an inundation of ignorance, misinformation, racism, poverty porn, and xenophobia via the right-wing news media machine – continuing in its legacy of associating immigration with disease, exacerbating anti-immigrant sentiments, and dehumanizing Africa and Africans. While the media rushed to portray the missionaries in the most esteemed manner, Thomas Eric Duncan – a Liberian national who was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, Texas on the 30th of September and died on the 8th of October – was demonized and ridiculed, likely because of his black skin, foreign passport, and class status. In the face of a news media frenzy characterizing Africans (more so than the disease) in a negative light, African communities in the United States have contended with growing racist and xenophobic sentiments as Ebola continues to cut down the lives of people throughout Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

 

Closing the Borders: Xenophobic Attitudes in Ebola News Coverage

Closing the Borders: Xenophobic Attitudes in Ebola News Coverage

Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health and Elisabeth Hasselback - Fox News

Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health and Elisabeth Hasselback – Fox News

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIH on the October 6th edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends

When Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola in late September, the majority of the American public had little to no understanding of the disease – in particular its transmission and symptoms. Grasped by the fear of a seemingly imminent outbreak, many right-wing news media reports called for a travel ban on West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. Like countless others calling for the closure of U.S. borders (as heard on The Rush Limbaugh Show and The Laura Ingraham Show), Elizabeth Hasselbeck, in conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci – Director of the National Institiute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, posed the question of sealing off the border without considering the consequences of blocking travel to countries in need of medical assistance and aid. Dr. Fauci’s response echoed that of several major public health officials, researchers, and organizations but the proposal of a travel ban itself begs the question of racial and xenophobic undertones. Why would travel bans be deemed an acceptable measure in dealing with African nations? Would the same measures be considered for European countries? In a country that is dealing with the Bubonic Plague in Colorado and Enterovirus in multiple states, Ebola poses little to no threat to the U.S. population – resulting in the unfortunate passing of Thomas Eric Duncan on October 8th.

 

Into the “Wild”: Newsweek’s Bushmeat Scare Tactics

 

Newsweek Cover

Newsweek Cover

The August 21st edition of Newsweek featured Gerard Flynn and Susan Scutti’s article entitled “Smuggled Bushmeat Is Ebola’s Back Door to America.” The title and cover are only the beginning of a problematic article. Flynn and Scutti manage to utilize imagery and language of “othering” found throughout western media, invoke xenophobic language, present little to no statistical evidence for claims on the importation of bushmeat in the United States, and misrepresent an entire continent. Playing on the general public’s ignorance, the authors attempt to instill fear of an impending health crisis borne out of the insatiable desire of a growing African immigrant population for bushmeat. Bushmeat, a term used for non-domesticated animals used for consumption, has traditionally been used in reference to the eating habits of African people. I suppose there aren’t U.S. citizens who consume rabbit, deer, squirrel, possum, fox, and other non-domesticated animals. While bushmeat is consumed by small segments of the population living in the Ebola stricken regions of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the majority of these nations’ populations are not eating chimpanzees – human-to-human contact being the primary mode of transmission of the Ebola virus.

 

The article is riddled with assumptions and overgeneralizations, provides little to no evidence in support of its claims, and is written in a style similar to early articles and novels on the “dark continent.” The second paragraph of the article itself calls the author’s intentions into question as they enter the Bronx “…looking for bushmeat, the butchered harvest of African wildlife, and an ethnic delicacy in West African expatriate communities all over the world.” Relying heavily on a single interview with a Ghanaian American along with scant and scattered statistics, the authors concluded the rising number of African immigrants in the United States will increase the likelihood of an Ebola outbreak in the United States – ultimately calling for the curtailment of trade with African countries. Considering past and present trends in foodborne illnesses in the United States, with Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Vibro causing the deaths of 80 people in 2013,  along with segments of the population known to consume non-domesticated animals, why is it acceptable to pose the unwarranted threat of “bushmeat” as the “backdoor” for Ebola into the United States? This display of irresponsible and poorly researched journalism plays on the media’s fascination with portraying African people as “others,” consuming disease-ridden food in spite of posed health risks.

 

Backwardness and Witch Craft: Racist Attitudes in Ebola News Coverage

Fox News is notorious for its biased and bigoted reporting of domestic and international news. Following the diagnosis of Thomas Eric Duncan with Ebola, reporters on Fox News came full throttle with racist, xenophobic remarks targeted at Africans on the continent and the African community in the United States. In the clips to follow, Fox News reporters manage to merge racist attitudes with misconstrued statistics and reports for the sake of increased viewership.

Andrea Tantaros

Andrea Tantaros on Fox News’ October 2nd edition of Outnumbered

 

Tantaros, O’Reilly, and Goldberg (Bernie Goldberg on Fox News’ October 6th edition of The O’Reilly Factor) use their reporting platforms to formulate and launch a direct assault indigenous medicine, knowledge, and spirituality throughout the African continent. With little to no understanding of Africa, Africans, and the African Diaspora, the three boldly and freely present their poorly researched assertions to the viewing audience – clearly underscored with racist language and attitudes. It begins with Tantaros’ claim to understanding the health practices and preferences of an entire continent. She states, “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. In these countries, they do not believe in traditional medical care and someone could get off of a flight and seek treatment from a witch doctor who practices Santería.”


In less than 60 seconds, Andrea Tantaros displays a frightening level of ignorance and disrespect. She not only characterizes vast majority of African peoples as resistance to medical assistance, she makes the claim that Africans flying into the United States (if knowingly infected with Ebola) would seek assistance from “witch doctors” who practice Santería – an Afro-Cuban religion. Several problems arise with Tantaros’ statement. First, Tantaros has a complete lack of understanding of difference among African and African Diaspora cultures. Santería is practiced among Afro-Cubans and is based off of traditional Yoruba (an ethnic group located in Nigeria) beliefs, traditions, and folklore. Santería is not practiced in Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone. Second, it is problematic to assert that the majority of the Guinean, Liberian, and Sierra Leonean populations are not accepting of medical services and assistance. While segments of the population do rely on indigenous medicine (which has proven to be efficient in combating certain ailments and diseases), lack of money and transportation of a large portion of these populations is more of deterrent than that of distrust of Western medical practitioners. Also, the mistrust of Western medicine is not far fetched considering past occurrences that violated the trust and human rights of Africans and African descendants (see Medical Apartheid and America’s Shameful Ebola Ignorance)

 
Following Miles O’Brien’s chastisement of Tantaros and the Fox News Network, Bill O’Reilly, comes to the rescue of a fellow Fox News report. He begins his segment with a poorly contextualized Doctors Without Border’s report on the reliance of rural people in several African nations on traditional medicine. Bernie Goldberg picks up where Tantaros and O’Reilly left off, insisting that “many Africans in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and places like that are backward people.” There is no need to dig deep into Goldberg’s statement. They are clearly misinformed, racially charged, and disrespectful. What is alarming and in need of further investigation is the open display of arrogance and ignorance among right-wing media correspondents, along their poor mastery of skills (i.e. research, multiple sources of information) necessary for commentary on news.

 

Moving Forward

Over the past two months, we’ve been exposed to best and worst of news coverage on the Ebola virus. The conservative, right-wing media has run rampant with racism and xenophobia with the intentions of instilling negative attitudes towards Africans and African immigrants in the United States – at points calling for the closure of U.S. borders, increased airport screenings, and other extreme measures to curtail an unlikely Ebola outbreak. The fear and panic has not been directed in ways to help those fighting against Ebola but rather towards those people considered vessels of the disease, Africans, regardless of national origin, immigration status, and citizenship. In the wake of deaths of thousands of Africans, it is critical to not only understand the tactics and strategies used by the conservative, right-wing news media to strip Africans (on the continent and abroad) of humanity but critique and challenge the assertions of news media networks and publications that taint the primary purpose of journalism – to gather and disseminate news and information to the public.

 

Nana Brantuo is a writer, poet and activist in Washington D.C.