Black people have migrated for hundreds of years, but that side of migration has mostly been ignored. In the realm of advocacy, organizing and lobbying, activists that are not Black have minimally paid attention even to the numbers in the Americas. Using Black migration to the United States as an example, Black people from the Caribbean and Latin America have historically come from Bahamas, Jamaica, Honduras, Haiti, Colombia, from the Dominican Republic, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago to name a few. But who pays attention to this and who's paying attention to the mobilization of Black immigrants throughout the Americas in general?
In 2015 for example, there was a large number of Garifuna Women, that due to political instability that for many led to violence and poverty, fled their ancestral land and then fled their homes in Tegucigalpa, an urban city where they never felt they belonged nor thrived and where they were met with both state and gang violence against their children and their own bodies. These women did not fly, they did not buy a ticket for a boat or train with a visa. Many that I was able to share in sisterhood with shared that they left in the middle of the night with flip flops, the clothes on their back, and enough food and money to last one or two days. They came in mass numbers, going through multiple countries, faced many things including violence, and many did not make it. Where is the visibilization of this in the international organizations, and the local organizing groups whose mission is to service immigrants, in this case the so called ‘Latino Community’? There were over 250 Black Women and their children, some of them babies, and some of them pregnant, that the media ignored and didn't cover because Blackness in the context of immigration just doesn't matter for within the Latino community. The only groups and individuals that integrally stepped up during this issue were Black led organizations and communities. I must give credit where credit is due, the Garifuna women and other Black immigrants, who then ended in the Bronx due to that caravan in 2015, were welcomed with open arms and provided shelter, food, love, emotional support and a sense of belonging by underfunded organizations like Mothers on the Move, La Iglesia Evangélica, and AfroResistance, and individuals like Wanda Salaman, Danilo Lachapel, Claudia de la Cruz, Alicia Grullon, Carla Garica, myself, and several others- 95% Black Immigrants ourselves.
If stories like the example shared (and there many many others) have been intentionally ignored (trust that we reached out to countless local and national immigrant rights organizations and the media, with no response) then we can deduce that immigrant rights advocates that are not Black have no understanding about the experiences of Black immigrants in the Americas, because our stories have been mostly overshadowed by the fact that immigration has been focused on Mexico and other mostly central american countries and their non Black communities, such as Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and in the caribbean to Puerto Rico, Cuba, etc. All countries that share a commonality, they have Black populations that experience personal, structural and institutional racism and violence at their source and fibre. Racism migrates. This is why it is easy to focus on migration, but in a racialized way, where Black narratives do not exist.
But what does this invisibility mean then? What does it mean when we don't see the stories of Black people centered? It means Black people, both individually or collectively are not seen as humans, not seen as humans having to face unique issues or having distinct needs. This invisibility on top of the racial stereotypes that people have been exposed to of Black people, of Black Women, of Black Girls, of Black Men, the stereotypes of our life in our home countries, among other stereotypes that are many times presented with the common ‘you know how they are’ all lead to Black immigrants being something to not touch, to be vilified, to be questioned on their/our experience, and to ignore their/our reality. And that leads to Black immigrants being hidden, swept under rugs, ignored, being vulnerable to more violence, abuse and trauma, which creates an ongoing cycle of detentions, deportations, incarceration, violence of our girls in schools, lack of opportunities, etc.
I'm grateful to be surrounded by people that center Blackness and Black excellence in all the work that they do, from individuals to organizations. Sadly, unless people are consciously unlearning the many ways of being that prevent them from listening and believing Black people, we will not be heard until a more accepted or palatable non Black person shares our stories. Then our stories might be momentarily centered, the person gets acknowledged and their organization more than likely gets funded. To this end I am sharing some of the organizations that keep on going and centering Black despite the wave of invisibility thrown unto them, and mostly being marginally funded.
AfroResistance (Previously the Latin American and Caribbean Community Center)