CSIO 89 South Street, 2nd Floor
Light supper served
FREE and open to all
Join us for an evening of two short films and discussion:
“Underground” is a short film told through song about a father’s escape from slavery after learning that the plantation owner is going to sell his young daughter, Emala. With another enslaved woman, they strike out in the dead of night singing, spirituals to protect them on their perilous journey to freedom. (19 min).
“Reggaeton-La Clave” is a fascinating musical documentary film about the similarities between two types of music genres known today as Salsa and Reggaeton and the African roots that influenced all of these different types of music. (7 min clip)
February 20, 2014
CSIO 89 South Street, 2nd Floor
Light supper served
FREE and open to all
On July 26, the Network of Immigrant and African-American Solidarity (NIAAS) held a community dialogue in Boston with nearly 40 community leaders to talk about the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
This dialogue was an open space for people to share their reactions to the verdict, tell their own stories of racial profiling, and pose questions about what is to be done about the persistent racial inequality that plagues this country. Furthermore, given the persistent racial profiling and criminalization of both African Americans and immigrants of color, particularly black immigrants, it was extremely important to have these two communities engaged in this discussion.
The format of the dialogue was a community circle. All voices were important. Leaders invited to speak as “panelists” served as “conversation generators”, speaking from particular perspectives which participants were invited to respond to and/or tell their own stories. These conversation generators included Joel Mackall, a NIAAS advisory board member and local black historian, who provided a historical context to the U.S. narrative of black bodies — particularly black men and boys — as “threats’: Rev. George Walters Sleyon, of the Center for Church and Prison Project at Boston University, explained why the so-called juidicial system is applied so unevenly across race; Ayeesha Lane from The Inclusion Initiative and mother of a young black son, shared the emotional challenges of talking to him about the verdict; and two youth organizers, who both spoke candidly and eloquently of their experiences as young black men in Boston.
Patrick Breton, a graduate of YouthBuild, spoke of losing a brother to gang violence and having a father who is incarcerated, and how young black men like himself often act out because they feel isolated. Dalitso Ruwe, a young black immigrant who works at Project Hip Hop in Boston, talked about initially being confused as a target of racial profiling, but how his organizing work with other black youth helped him to understand his experience.
As a community we tried to answer questions such as: why the judicial system is applied so unevenly across race? Why does it presume that black men and boys are guilty? What do black parents tell their sons? What is the historical context of how this injustice is targeted uniquely to black men and boys? And why “looking suspicious” has become the facto practice of racial profiling?
Rev. Walters-Sleyon talked about the “Zimmerman mindset” that view problems through the lense of race and class and drives the adoption of many mandatory minimum sentence laws, such as the “Stand Your Ground” in Florida. This mindset views black men and boys as “perpetual problems who have infected our criminal justice system, our schools and our politics and policies.” This mindset has had devastating consequences, including the birth of a prison system unprecedented in world history, where mostly black and brown people are incarcerated or detained, and strips millions of people of their basic civil and human rights.
What do we say to our black sons? Very simple but crucial: We need to tell our black sons every day that we love them and that they matter. That their lives are as valuable as any other lives and that all of us are there for them. We need to work together, involving our sons in the quest for solutions to the problems aiming to achieve justice and equality for ALL.
Let us know what do you think? Let’s continue the dialogue together!
Luz Zambrano, NIAAS co-coordinator, shares her experience facilitating a community conversation about MLK’s legacy with mostly white residents in Wellfleet, MA.
As a part of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington DC, the town of Wellfleet hosted different events during the month of January 2013 to celebrate. The Wellfleet United Methodist Church (WUMC) organized two dialogues for its mostly white residents of about the Civil Rights movement: it’s making and it’s legacy. NIAAS was invited to co-facilitate these discussions. After talking with some of the NIAAS’ core group members, I agreed to co-facilitate the dialogues with my husband, Federico Carmona, the church’s pastor.
Even though the audience was not our usual target group – people of color – I thought the dialogues could be a good educational experience for me and for them. Why? Because I am an immigrant in this country. I have read, watched movies and documentaries about slavery in the U.S., civil rights struggles, freedom stories, etc. I’ve tried to relate to my African American sisters and brothers through my own struggles as a woman and immigrant of color. Sometimes, though, it has been hard for me to understand the most profound human realities of the African American experience. Through my work with NIAAS, I have learned a lot from the perspective of African Americans about their struggles for freedom, equality, self-worth and justice. It has been so hard for me to hear their stories of racism that prevail even until today. But these dialogues presented to me with the opportunity to learn directly from white people for their own experience and perspective on this.
As an immigrant, my relationship with white people is different because I don’t bring with me the same kind pain and suffering from generations of racial discrimination that has filled African Americans hearts and souls.
In these two dialogues at Wellfleet, I listened to white people tell their stories of privilege, ignorance, racism and blindness that they were exposed to were growing up. As people introduced themselves and shared a little about why they came to these dialogues, I couldn’t believe the stories that I heard. Some were able to open up and trust the group process enough to talk openly about how their own parents would shut the doors and close the shades of their windows when they saw black people approaching their homes; how their parents used the dinner table for conversations that fueled a hate mentality in their children towards black people and how those experiences fed into their own racism as adults. Others, however, denied that they have any privilege at all or were racist. They felt that black people were treated equally in their home towns; they even “tipped them for their good work in the barber shop or at the restaurant.” Other participants said they lived in places where they never have to deal with African Americans at all. They were from all-white neighborhoods and their interactions with African Americans or any other race was minimum. But a good number of people talked about their experience of being involved in the civil rights movement, trying to “go against the flow” and “step out of their own privilege to walk in solidarity with African Americans.”
We watched a few clips from documentaries made about the civil rights movement and then had some discussion. Some participants cried during the screening, feeling “ashamed” they said about the images of the violence and anger of whites directed at black people. Some reacted by saying they “need to know more” and they want to be more aware of the past and present; others connected the civil rights struggles to other movements like gay rights, immigrant rights, and women’s rights.
But I began to understand why, even now, the pain is still so deep in people’s hearts; why the “good intentions” of white people are often unwelcomed.
For me, this was a personal experience that I much needed to understand a little more, why there is so much mistrust from African Americans. As an immigrant, I have go through a lot of pain, my rights has been denied and being treated unfairly. I have experienced discrimination. I have been treated as “less than.”
Even though NIAAS was not created to deal with white racism and privilege, I believe that to have a movement that can really create social change, we need to open spaces for dialogues like this. I believe that they can lead us to a more human based understanding. There is so much education, consciousness raising and willingness to understand that we all are human beings, we all deserve the best for ourselves and our families and that what hurts one, hurts all.
NIAAS’ mission is about relationship and solidarity building. What I saw and learned in Wellfleet from these dialogues represents what is going on in the cities and neighborhoods all over the world. People must be willing to take the time address the root causes of our oppression and allow themselves to be vulnerable so that, in the process, we can actually transform our humanity.
Exit polls show that 93% of Black voters, 71% of Latino voters, and 76% of Asian voters re-elected Barack Obama to another term. If it takes a coalition to win elections, then what does it take for a coalition to win justice? How do we build power as communities of color to be stronger together?
Join us for this important conversation!
THURSDAY, December 6, 2012
5:30pm – 8:00pm
Haymarket People’s Fund
42 Seaverns Ave.
Jamaica Plain, Ma. 02130
Much of Boston’s Pan-African history may be visible to some of us, but is definitely hidden from discussion and acknowledgement. In October, NIAAS participated in a Pan-African Heritage Tour,led by NIAAS advisory group member and local community historian Joel Mackall. What we learned about the history of people of African descent in Boston was eye-opening. Two NIAAS members reflect on their experiences of the the tour:
It was enlightening. To stand on sites in the local areas of Boston and vicinity that show how African American activists dedicated their lives to the cause of freedom was inspiring. It elucidated the importance of fulfilling the mission of NIAAS. We live in the North. You will learn more about Phillis Wheatley, a slave in Boston in the 1700s who not only became literate but was the first Black person and the third woman in the United States to publish a book of poems. It is chilling to be just outside of Boston in Medford, Massachusetts on property, now a museum, where one of the buildings was slave quarters and the other the master’s house. But there it is, in your face. Burial grounds are often visible to us in Massachusetts, as we drive by them. Joel takes you into the cemetery where you can see, touch and ponder the burial place of Prince Hall who is recognized as the father of Black Masonry in the United States. He established his African Fraternal Lodge of Masons as far back as 1784. Because of Prince Hall’s efforts, the world-wide lodge numbers in present day have increased to well over 4,500. I was moved by this historical information being part of Joel’s tour because my late father was a Prince Hall mason. We totaled eight people, comfortable on this van tour. I knew that I was in good company. Look for the next opportunity to go on this tour. Joel, the great tour guide, will not disappoint! - Dolores Alleyne Goode, Ph.D.
I felt like Joel gave me gold and diamond after this tour because of the knowledge I gain and about such remarkable history that was revealed. I have lived in the Boston area for over ten years and have never been anywhere as important and educative like the places we visited on this tour. I was so moved to see the house that Malcolm X lived in and so proud knowing that one of my country women a slave in Boston in the 1700s was literate, a writer and was the first Black person and the third woman in the United States to publish a book of poems. - Fatou D. Fatty, Executive Director, Women Encouraging Empowerment
Thanks to everyone who attended the community conversation on October 3 in East Boston! It was rich dialogue and a great opportunity for community building and making connections.
A special thanks to the organizers who came out to talk specifically about what impact the elections could have on issues that affect us as people of color across groups, immigrants of color and African Americans alike. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, one understanding that was shared by everyone is that no matter the outcome of any election, we must continue organize, be vigilant and have strategies for solidarity building, especially when we are pitted against each other.
As promised at the dialogue, below are the questions from the participant fishbowl.
FISH BOWL QUESTIONS FROM PARTICIPANTS
Anybody with responses to these questions please send them via e-mail to email@example.com
Thank you to all those who participated in the recent community dialogue “Tired Feet, Rested Souls: Celebrating Civil Rights Around the World“on July 6 at Encuentro 5.
It was an incredible afternoon of freedom songs, storytelling, connecting the dots between historical precedents, and building strategies for how we unite against racial profiling and hateful anti-immigrant legislation. Here are images from a break out activity where we mapped our migration stories to the U.S. civil rights movement timeline, connecting the historical and current issues we face as immigrants of color and African Americans.
For more information about NIAAS and getting involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please visit Encuentro 5 for how to support open meeting spaces for social justice groups.