Our co-coordinator Trina Jackson, along with 17 other Black US Americans traveled to Palestine as part of the 3rd African Heritage Delegation from October 25 to November 7th. This is their statement of solidarity, read more on their website.
With snow coming down outside, and roads and sidewalks becoming slippery, 10 people arrived at the Julia Martin House for the second workshop on the Race Wealth Divide with United for a Fair Economy. The weather was a barrier for many people to come to the workshop, and with people who arrived worried about the time commitment, it was decided that the official workshop would be postponed, but that we would begin a discussion and reflection about who we all were and our collective work together. We began going around and giving introductions, with everyone telling a bit about themselves, who they were, whether they were from and how they found themselves at this workshop.
After individual introductions, Jeanette from United for a Fair Economy invited everyone to share, “what is the temperature that you can measure around race?” This simple question launched into a moving a deep conversation of individuals sharing their stories, some talking about where they were from and where they find themselves now, to talking about the communities they are part of and how race is or is not addressed.
This is one person’s story which they shared I moved to Jamaica Plain 19 years ago, quickly moving into an apartment which the landlord wanted tenants as soon as possible. The neighborhood was a very white, safe place. In this neighborhood people wouldn’t talk to me, they would talk to my dog. My landlord wanted us to move out because we had a big family and some of my kids moved back in after college, and we knew we either had to fight or move, we moved. My family had to move while I was away at a training, and they moved to Dorchester. I loved my place there, I never had such a beautiful place, but outside people told me it was dangerous. We were the only Latinos on the block, the block was all black families, and as soon as we moved we became a part of the neighborhood. My neighbors talked to me. Yet, I realized that with all that was happening in Ferguson, police cars started appearing on my block, and I was petrified, why are they here? These are nice people, but they are here because everyone is black.
This is another person’s story: Boston is my 4th city in 3 years, I am not planning on moving anytime soon. I moved up from Atlanta, I lived in a former redlined community, and everyone creates their own part of this neighborhood. It has its own bank, its own grocery, when someone lives there, they are that neighborhood and that neighborhood is them. I tried to find a community like that in Boston, I started to notice a lack of space where people come together and live among each other. I moved to Savin Hill, Mayor Walsh is just a couple minutes away. On my block there are these beautiful multi-family houses, each one with its own story, its own family. One house has a Vietnamese family, another has a black family, another has a family from Cape Verde, and everyone all on the same block. There are a lot of Vietnamese stores and many of them are closing. One new one just opened and it’s a Vietnamese craft beer store, they are trying to tailor themselves to the changes in the neighborhood. When I first moved there, people I would go out with would tell me, the sun is going down, shouldn’t you go? This is what other people think of my neighborhood. But if you could just freeze it and build community it in, it would be something that could thrive. But its changing so fast. You can see the whole history on one block.
Each person continued, telling their story, telling where they were living, how their family, their neighborhood, their work or school all was dealing with conversations on race. People spoke of the pain they feel when talking about race, what is happening in their communities, what has happened over history. People talked about the beauty of neighborhoods and the hate that has filled neighbors and communities. People reflected on the conversations emerging because of Ferguson and Staten Island and shared that the temperature is suspicious, one person shared if people really understand “black lives matter,” do people know what this about, is it widely shared. Is it shared and understood, they questioned whether it was.
We closed the session by sharing our gratitude with each other. Through each story, through talking about our neighborhoods were able to see the humanity in the conversation, to recognize that movements are made of people. We were all struck by the level of trust that we had with each other to tell our stories, to build upon each other’s stories and go deeper. We were vulnerable with each other, and we moved into a collective story in our own way. It was powerful to share these stories.
As part of the I’m Migration Series, NIAAS hosted a film and dialogue series on the PBS documentary Citizen King. In the context of the state of violence against communities of color and the protests in Ferguson and Staten Island, NIAAS invited folks to bridge what was happening to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and reflect on the meaning of citizenship and rights today.
Members from NIAAS’s core group, folks all the way from Providence, Rhode Island and as close as Jamaica Plain came together to watch the documentary Citizen King together. People ranged in their experience and knowledge of Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement, with some present who had marched with Dr. King or others who rallied in Washington D.C. demanding that a federal holiday be named in his honor, to others who had been more recently involved in Occupy movements and #BlackLivesMatter. There were also those who have migrated to the US, and were involved in movements, like the labor movement, in their home country and felt they only knew little about Dr. King.
We watched the documentary in 9-minute segments, after each segment we were to write our impressions down in silence. This pattern continued until nearly done with the movie, where we stopped and began a group reflection. Trina, the co-coordinator of NIAAS, along with Joel, a core-group member and community historian, facilitated our dialogue on our reflections. We began by going around the circle and having everyone share what surprised us as we watched the film. Here is what jumped out at folks:
There is an event upcoming this month that is important to African Americans and should be important to the nation. It is the pending decision by the Grand Jury in the case of 28-year old Darren Wilson, a white police officer, who shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18 year old black American on Saturday afternoon, August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. There is an event upcoming before 2014 ends that is important to Latinas/Latinos, and especially to “The Dreamers” and is one that should be important to the nation. It is President Obama’s decision on comprehensive immigration reform.
We know that tensions exist between and among African Americans and immigrants of color. We know too, that it is difficult to talk about and work on those tensions. What we tend to do, all too often is simply allude to those tensions then let them be. The test is, whether solidarity between African Americans and immigrants of color remains strong when the decisions mentioned above are made. Or, will each cultural group go its separate way seeing no similarities in the struggles for social justice, resulting in little or no solidarity? Having ongoing discussions about each pending event with as many groups as possible will enhance understanding of issues that these groups have in common.
This blog post is to urge us to start and continue discussions on the similarities and differences that characterize both the Ferguson, MO and the comprehensive immigration reform outcomes. Let’s begin with ongoing social media dialogue. When you engage, help us by naming a group that you will ask to join the dialogue. We need as much diversity as we can get. This test of solidarity will also help us discern specific ways to support each other’s causes in this difficult period of time. As we anticipate the yet unknown outcomes of pending decisions let’s strive for non-violence, peace, order, and level headedness. There are always next steps that we can work on, together, no matter the outcomes.
If there is agreement about the value of using social media as well as dialogues open to the public, I propose that through our NIAAS Co-Coordinators, Trina Jackson and Luz Zambrano we ask Joel Mackall to help us set-up the ongoing social media dialogue format to be used between and among individuals and diverse groups. I also propose that through our Co-Coordinators, we request public relations/media assistance from Kevin Ferreira and assistance from our Core Group Members, Antonietta Gimeno, Ferai Williams, and Trina Jackson, who are experienced with “Theatre of the Oppressed,” regarding the set-up of dialogue format that will be open to the public.
These pending events are already national news. Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon appeared on MSNBC television discussing possible outcomes of the Michael Brown killing. He went so far as to say, “The world is watching.” President Barack Obama sent U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder to Ferguson, MO. As a result, the U.S.
Department of Justice (DOJ) is conducting its own assessment of the Ferguson Police Department’s internal investigations of use of force during the last four years. President Obama told the nation that he will act on comprehensive immigration reform after the mid-term elections. That time has come. These two issues, now before the nation, deserve our attention in solidarity. How will the “Solidarity Test” turn out? Blog posts from you will invigorate results. Let us hear from you. Can we do this together? Si se puede! Yes we can!
The Network of Immigrant and African Americans Solidarity – NIAAS
Connecting the Dots:
Root Causes of Inequality
A popular education workshop on what's happening with the economy, why, and what we can do about it.
Led by Jeannette Huezo, United for a Fair Economy
Saturday November 1, 2014
Julia Martin House
90 Bickford Street, Jamaica Plain
(Jacon Square, Orange Line)
FREE and Open to All
RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Luz Zambrano at (617) 742-5165
There are some great opportunities to engage in rich dialogue with each other strengthen and deepen our relationships for solidarity and sustain a movement for racial and economic justice. We encourage all agents of change: activists, community members and leaders, to join us in these spaces:
The global struggle for human rights in Palestine is connected to the struggle for human rights here at home against criminalization, incarceration, and racial profiling of African Americans and immigrants of color. This dialogue on promises to be very engaging:
On Tuesday, March 11, NIAAS will join a national webinar on addressing tensions between African-American and immigrants, hosted by the Immigrant Learning Center in Malden. Click here to register for this webinar, shown below.
How to Stop Deportations with Community Organizing
Massachusetts Jobs With Justice
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 – 5:30pm to 7:30pm
3353 Washington Street
02130 Jamaica Plain, MA
Click here for more information