NoVo in the Media

People Are Stepping in to Help Queer Migrants

25 June 2018
BY Mary Grace Lewis
PUBLISHED IN The Advocate

With our own country taking aim at migrants, a large cash infusion for the Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project couldn’t come at a better time. The nonprofit NoVo Foundation recently awarded the Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project — an initiative of the Transgender Law Center — with a $300,000 grant. That money will help people like Ukoda Nweke, a gay Nigerian migrant who’s been in ICE detention since 2016 and who would face a 14-year prison sentence or death if he is deported.

The BLMP aims to “build leadership, reduce isolation, and protect and defend black LGBTQIA migrants from state and interpersonal attacks,” according to a description on NoVo’s website.

With the money, BLMP will create an annual leadership cohort to foster resources for black LGBT migrants.

“Our goal through these queer black migrant gatherings is to engage 100-150 people in the community and creating local chapters next year,” co-creator and staffer Ola Osaze told The Advocate. Osaze is a Transgender Law Center national organizer who established BLMP in 2017 through a Soros Fellowship.

Since its creation last year, the BLMP hosted community gatherings for migrants in Minneapolis, in Oakland, Calif., and at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in Washington, D.C. All three cities have particularly large numbers of black migrants, with Minneapolis being home to the most Somalians outside of Somalia.

“We’ve already engaged over 100 people,” Osaze said. “And that also speaks to the fact that our numbers here in the U.S. are getting larger than what many people think. Many people think that we have a low percentage of queer and black migrants in the U.S.”

There is currently no collected data regarding black LGBT migrants in the United States, but the organization plans to use funds from the NoVo grant to change that. BLMP will conduct a survey to collect data on the number of black LGBT migrants in the U.S. and gauge their experiences. BLMP members hope that publishing such data will educate the public on the myriad of struggles these migrants face. Representatives of the group believe this education is more necessary than ever.

“We have a president who refers to African nations and Haiti in such derogatory ways and gets no blowback from it,” Osaze said. “We have an administration that is very much anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ. These communities are already experiencing such hardship. Imagine people who are living at the intersection of these communities. So I can’t think of a better time for BLMP to exist for our community, to start to change hearts and minds, but also change the narrative. It’s an urgent crisis that we’re dealing with.”

BLMP has also partnered with antideportation campaigns like Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the LGBT Center OC in Orange County, Calif., Black Lives Matter, and Black Immigrant Collective, and plans to use the Radical Hope Fund money to continue such partnerships.

“We can’t do this work alone,” Osaze said. “We have to foster partnerships with other organizations who are also invested.”

BLMP is currently working on the #FreeUdoka campaign. It is also focused on spreading the word on a documentary centered around black LGBTQ migrants in the U.S. Watch it below.

Meanwhile, the NoVo Foundation funds social justice campaigns aimed at helping a variety of causes, ranging from ending violence against girls and women to supporting indigenous communities in North America. The money given to BLMP was part of their $34 million Radical Hope Fund, which went to 19 social justice organizations.

“We launched the Radical Hope Fund as a radical experiment — can a time of increasing repression and darkness also serve as a springboard for deep collaboration and transformative change?” said Jennifer and Peter Buffett, NoVo’s co-presidents, in a prepared statement. “The answer has been overwhelming: Feminist grassroots advocacy, activism, and organizing are thriving across the globe, new partnerships are growing, and justice leaders everywhere are planting the seeds for a radical new world based in equity, possibility, power, and dignity for all.”