On Saturday, April 9, the Black Lives Matter movement in conjunction with the Black Association of Just Immigration (BAJI) came together at the California African American Museum in celebration of BAJI’s 10th Anniversary supporting the rights of Black people throughout the diaspora.
BAJI Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Black Lives Matter movement Opal Tometi organized and hosted the event, which joined numerous social advocates, philanthropists, and culturally diverse people of African descent. The dynamic gala, which included diverse musical performances and foods, also featured a special performance from Goapele, with guest appearances from artist Tabi Bonney and actress T’Keyah Crystal Keymah.
Honorees for the evening included Congresswoman Karen Bass, SEIU Vice President Gerry Hudson, BAJI’s founding Director Gerald Lenoir, artist Wangechi Mutu, and others who’ve advocated for the rights of African Americans and Black immigrants. Major sponsors included SEIU and the James Irvine Foundation.
According to statistics found by BAJI, there are “over 4 million Black immigrants in the United States, 1.8 million of who are from the Caribbean while 1.7 million are from Africa.” For Tometi, the inclusion of these cultures legislatively is one of BAJI’s primary goals.“The theme of the evening is “Uniting the Diaspora” and really that’s the work that we’ve been doing for the past 10 years,” Tometi stated.
“There are so many things in our society that wants to tear us apart, that wants to make us feel as though we’re divided, that we don’t have any vested interest in one another’s struggle. But the reality is that destiny, our lives, our experiences are very much so intertwined,” Tometi continued. “We really believe that together we’re stronger, and that together, we’ll win.”
Singer Goapele says she’s a second generation immigrant and was excited to reconnect with her roots. “It feels really good to be a part of this night where it’s about the African diaspora and representing the rights of immigrants. It’s well overdue that we’re talking about this within black lives matter,” she stated.
Tabi Bonney, who recently dropped a single with Wiz Khalifa, entitled Bang Bang, says as a Native of Togo, West Africa and raised in the District of Columbia, “not to even know about that struggle was a surprise.” “To see the numbers, I think that it’s an important issue,” Bonney added.
Former star of In Living Color T’Keyah Crystal Keymah says that she resonates with the issue, as her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta has made it a point to be mindful of the treatment of Black immigrants. Keymah also noted that those in positions of political power must not only acknowledge the disparate treatment of Black people in America and throughout the diaspora, but take action. “Black people scream Black Lives Matter when actions dictate that we scream that, because people in power seem to kill us with no consequence,” Keymah stated.
As the African immigrant population in the United States remains on the rise, BAJI continues to advocate for unification and the fair and just treatment of immigrants across the diaspora.