Black. Family. Love.
In my family, I walk into a space surrounded by love.I walk into a space of acceptance. I walk into a space where we share common experiences, struggles and a passion to fight and protect our kin and our community.
My family is the Black Immigration Network (BIN).
It was 6 years ago, that a group of Black immigrants and African-Americans convened in Baltimore, Maryland with a clear understanding that our experiences are linked. Whether we migrated involuntary by force or out of the circumstances and the conditions in our countries in the Caribbean, the Americas or Africa. Or we migrated for the hope of living the “American Dream,” we all are cut from the same cloth and share the experience of what it means to be Black in America.
Our communities are under attack and we have a responsibility to unify our voices in order to amplify our impact. BIN is a national network of people and organizations serving Black immigrant and African-American communities. At the core of our network is creating a space where we can build between all communities of African descent.
On April 8th, 2016, BIN hosted our 5th National Kinship Assembly, Black Love Beyond Borders. With over 400 family members of African descent from across the globe, we stood together and had difficult, emotional and much needed conversations where we embrace all of who we are in this world and our place within the immigrant rights and broader social justice movement.
Imagine walking into a room where on one hand you can count the number of Blacks in the room. Over the past 8 years, this has been my reality in most immigrant rights movement spaces I enter. I am the Black woman always asking the question, where are the Black immigrants in this room? Why are there so few us? How can this be, when over 3.8 million Black immigrants call the U.S. home and of that 400,000 are undocumented. This movement cannot continue to exist as a fight for fair treatment for all regardless of one’s status, but do not incorporate, regardless of one’s race.
Our communities do not have adequate resources to thrive. Exploitation. Modern-Day Slavery. These are our realities, not only in the U.S., but also throughout the globe. By making these connections, we can understand the root causes of migration and that our struggles are completely linked.
All of our communities are under attack. Our youth are being gunned down. Our communities are being racially profiled. Mass criminalization and incarceration is the reality of black and brown communities in the U.S. Our children from the day they are born have already been marked to not excel in this “land of opportunity,” through the cradle-to-prison pipeline, which criminalizes our youth for profit. Private prisons and detention centers maintain their profits by the number of bodies they have in their beds, which leads to unfair criminal justice reform putting a target on the backs our communities.
Inclusiveness in our social movement is not the sole responsibility of those who seek to be included; it is the responsibility of all who are part of the movement to demand the diversity our communities are reflected in these spaces.
I am thankful everyday that I have my BIN family and we created our own space in this movement, which forces us all to think about, who else is missing in this space, who would you say is not properly represented?
Francesca Menes a Haitian-Dominican-American from Miami, Florida. She is the Director of Policy of Advocacy of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. She is a founding steering committee member of the Black Immigration Network.