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staff

our leadership & organizers

National Staff

Nana Gyamfi 

Executive Director

Nana Gyamfi received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University, and her Juris Doctorate from UCLA School of Law. She brings with her over three decades of service to the Movement for Black liberation, and over twenty years experience directing Black social justice organizations and networks. Nana is a human rights and criminal defense attorney, a professor in the Pan African Studies Department at the California State University Los Angeles, and radio personality who hosts 2 popular shows in Los Angeles, CA. She is also the president of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL).

As a seasoned organizer and activist, Nana has been involved with and led various local, national, and international social justice organizations for over thirty years. She is a Co-Founder and managing member of two Black-led and Black-focused organizations – Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives and Human Rights Advocacy. She is a co-founder and Core Team Member of Black August Los Angeles. She has also served as Executive Director of Black Women’s Forum, an organization founded by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who serves as its President.

 

 

 

Abraham Paulos

Deputy Director

Abraham Paulos is a seasoned communications expert, journalist, and movement leader who has advocated for human rights for more than a decade. Abraham is currently the Deputy Director of Communications and Policy of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). He develops and implements BAJI’s overall communications strategy nationwide in collaboration with BAJI members and staff. Before joining BAJI, Abraham was the Executive Director of Families for Freedom (FFF), a position he held after facing immigration detention at Rikers Island and becoming a member of FFF.

Earlier in his career, Abraham was a researcher at Human Rights First, focused on immigration detention. He also served as Program Director at Life of Hope, a community-based organization in Brooklyn, which provides services to low-income immigrants and as the Communications Coordinator for WHY Hunger, a global NGO that tackles issues of hunger and poverty.  As a journalist, Abraham reported on urban policy and human rights for City Limits, the NYC civic affairs magazine, and for the Foreign Policy Association, writing about foreign policy and global issues. Abraham is a Stateless Eritrean refugee, born in Sudan and raised in Chicago. He is a graduate of George Washington University with a degree in International Affairs and a Masters at the New School University. 

 

Nekessa Opoti

Communications Director

Nekessa Opoti is a former journalist, editor, producer, writer, communications strategist, and immigrant justice organizer. For over fifteen years, she worked as a journalist and print/web news editor, and publisher. Her work promotes a grassroots articulation of often unheard voices. Her work promotes a grassroots articulation of often ignored and marginalized voices. Her work challenges: racism, particularly anti-Black racism; class and workers rights;  migration and displacement; access to public education; state surveillance, gender, sexuality, identity, and belonging from a queer Black femme immigrant lens. 

For the past five years, her work as a communications strategist informs local, state, and federal policy while being anchored by community voices and experiences. She has worked on: education and healthcare access as well as immigration issues including driver’s licenses, detention & deportation defense, and advocacy for under and undocumented immigrants. She has consulted with local and national foundations, coalitions as well as government agencies agitating and pushing for an undoing of institutional harm and state violence. 

Nekessa is one of the co-founders of the Minnesota based Black Immigrant Collective and a member of the Black LGBTIA+ Migrant Project.

Nekessa grew up on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya where mangoes were in abundance. She now lives in Minneapolis, thousands of miles away from the equator.

 

Amina Elamin

National Youth Organizer

Amena (she/her) is Sudanese by way of Brooklyn. She has years of community engagement and organizing experience from her hometown of Wichita, Kansas. During her time in Wichita, her work centered around youth-led initiatives and programming. She served as the Youth Development Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee, building the first IRC youth program in Wichita, designed to empower refugee and immigrant students through their high school and college career. Most recently, Amena served as the Community Building Fellow at UNICEF USA in New York City. As a fellow, Amena was able to work with young people from across the nation and champion community building efforts nationally. Amena believes in the power of youth as the pulse for the livelihoods of our communities and movements. As a youth advocate, she is excited to work with BAJI youth towards justice and liberation by centering and amplifying Blackness in all its forms.

Ronald Claude

Director of Policy and Advocacy

Ronal Claude was a Legislative Assistant with the Office of Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. He has done policy work on transportation, immigration, and foreign policy-related issues. As the proud son of immigrants, the immigrant story is one that he is deeply familiar with—and is the space and community where he would like to continue to serve. He is excited to join BAJI to ensure Black Migrants and the Diaspora as a whole is not left behind when we make policy/ In his spare time Ronald loves soccer and his favorite team is FC Barcelona, and can mostly be found playing or watching soccer in his free time.

Erica Baganza

Policy Manager

Erica worked for the congressional Foreign Affairs Committee as a staff associate for the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights, chaired by Congresswoman Karen Bass. In this role, she supported the legislative agenda on U.S. foreign policy with Africa, global health, and human rights issues. Her contributions include the planning and execution of subcommittee hearings to educate  members of congress the important issues affecting the continent, meeting with several people in the government and private sectors, and staying in touch with advocacy and diaspora groups to better inform legislation.

In addition to working on foreign policy issues, Erica also has experience in the criminal justice and trauma sectors as a victim and witness advocate with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in her hometown of Boston, MA. There she worked with law enforcement and court personnel, community partners, and survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, gang violence, and the families of homicide victims. As a first-generation child, Erica is thrilled to use her skills to contribute to the groundwork BAJI has set out to further ensure the rights and liberties of Black migrants are upheld in our society. One of Erica’s favorite things to do is travel, and she has been doing so since the age of four. Her personal life goal is to visit every country on the African continent. She has visited four thus far.

 

Amanuela Berhane

Operations Manager

Amanuela has been working professionally in the areas of Operations and Human Resources for the better part of eight years. She spent her early life in Ethiopia and Italy, and moved to the United States when she was 8 years old. While working in Brussels (after receiving her Masters there), she co-founded Hariff (Habesha Resources and Initiatives), to assist young professional Ethiopian and Eritrean youth with networking and employment. She has most recently worked in the NETI Program Division of Human Resources for UNICEF. At UNICEF, she was awarded the opportunity to also work in the Ethiopia country office, which she enjoyed very much. She loves traveling and exploring new cultures, and spending time with her nephews and nieces.

Legal Staff

Tsion Gurmu

Legal Director

Tsion Gurmu is a Houston-based immigration attorney.  Tsion is the Founder and Director of the Queer Black immigrant project (QBip), a Black radical lawyering initiative which provides comprehensive legal representation to LGBTQIA+ Black immigrants while creating a safe space for clients to regain control over their voices through a storytelling project. QBip’s mission is to create a systemic response to meet the legal and social needs of LGBTQIA+ Black immigrants while elevating narratives that illuminate the global injustices of state-sponsored homophobia and anti-Black racism. Tsion has received recognition for her work at the intersection of international law and immigration by Preet Bharara and CAFÉ 100, change-makers taking action to address some of the most pressing problems in America and around the world. She was also selected as a 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 Law & Policy honoree and 2019 Okay Africa 100 Women honoree.

Tsion holds a B.A. in Political Science and History, with a minor in Human Rights from the University of Chicago. She also holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law. In law school, she focused on international human rights law and immigration law. She served as a legal advocate in the Advanced Immigrant Rights Clinic, a leading institution in both local and national struggles for immigrant rights that engages in direct legal representation of immigrants and community organizations. In this position she represented individuals in removal proceedings, detention litigation, and civil suits; she also represented community organizations in legislative campaigns to pass the New York DREAM Act. Tsion also managed a capacity-building project for a children’s rights organization in Sierra Leone, Defence for Children International-Sierra Leone, in coordination with New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. During her time in Ethiopia, Tsion worked with the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia assisting women in the struggle to secure full protection of their rights through training and advocacy workshops as well as small-scale research projects aimed at bringing about positive and progressive legal changes for Ethiopian women. Before moving to New York City, Tsion worked as an educator in Miami, FL with Teach for America.

 

Aron B. Oqubamichael

Paralegal

Aron B. Oqubamichael joins BAJI’s legal team as a paralegal after having worked as a community educator in BAJI’s Oakland office. Aron has been experienced in the promotion of and advocacy for human rights, good governance, social justice, and environmental protection for over a decade. He has worked with Partnership for Trauma recovery as a community well being coordinator. He was tasked to help under served refugee and newcomer communities in their efforts to become self-sufficient in the Bay Area while he was working with Burma Refugee Families and Newcomers.

Aron has also worked in a private Immigration Attorney office as a paralegal in Arlington, VA. Previously, he helped Global Integrity, a Washington DC-based nonprofit, in completing extensive research related to public governance and management, accountability and transparency, economic access, and human and civil rights. His research focused on Eritrea.

He has worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross in promoting and strengthening humanitarian laws during armed conflict. He also drafted the Eritrean Law of Environment while working as a Legal Adviser to the Eritrean Department of Environment. Mr. Oqubamichael obtained his LLB from the School of Law at Asmara University, Eritrea.

 

Juharah Worku

Paralegal

Juharah Worku is a paralegal based in Los Angeles. Her passion for social justice was the lifeblood of her work as an undergraduate, and has inspired her to pursue a career in immigration law and international human rights work. As a Black feminist and advocate with experience in policy research and community organizing, Juharah is motivated to serve BAJI’s direct representation and clinic programs as a paralegal. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Africana Studies from Tulane University, and graduated with honors in both fields. Juharah has previously worked with the Tulane Center for Academic Equity, Orleans Public Defenders’ Office, and the National Institute for Reproductive Health.

Local Staff

Lovette Kargbo Thompson

Atlanta Organizer

Lovette Kargbo Thompson, a Mississippi-born daughter of Sierra Leonian immigrants and social justice activist, has worked at many intersections including economic and racial justice, LGBTQ and domestic workers rights, and public health education. Her work has addressed the social determinants of health, community organizing, social policy and practices for racial and class equity in marginalized communities, prison and community health, and rebuilding equitable and sustainable communities. Lovette has served as the Operations & Program Coordinator for the National Domestic Workers Alliance-Atlanta Chapter, organizing domestic workers of Georgia to win dignity, respect and labor protections for this vital and growing workforce that’s primarily held by women of color. She also served as the Organizer for Women Engaged in which she lead the ‘We Vote, We Rise!’ integrated voter engagement program. Lovette continues her work as the BAJI’s Atlanta Organizer fighting back against discriminatory policies that restrict access to social and economic necessities and protects the civil rights of historically marginalized communities. 

Santcha Etienne

Miami Organizer

Santcha Etienne is BAJI’s Miami Organizer.  Santcha is a Haitian immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for more than twenty 20 years. Before becoming a fierce activist for social justice issues Santcha worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in Nursing homes throughout Florida.  As an LPN Santcha started organizing nurses at Nursing Homes for higher wages and better working conditions. She started volunteering for SEIU and mobilized and won to unionize nurses. In 2014, recognizing her passion and her excellent organizing skills SEIU hired her full time as community organizer.  At SEIU she has organized community members around social justice issues including increasing the minimum wage, police brutality, health care and fighting for the extension of Medicaid. 

Maraky Alemseged

Los Angeles Organizer

Maraky Alemseged is BAJI’s Los Angeles Organizer. She is a first generation Ethiopian-American who was born and bred in Los Angeles to two political and social justice activists. As a result, Maraky has spent her lifetime challenging unjust systems of oppression with the knowledge that “the personal is political and the political is personal.” Her nascent professional career is built atop years of community organizing, with heavy involvement in local, national, and international Black immigrant and migrant communities. Informed by abolitionist, Pan-African, queer, sociologist, and womanist perspectives, Maraky believes in approaching social justice issues from an intersectional lens. 

Melissa Johnson

New York Organizer

Melissa Johnson is a British-born Jamaican immigrant and a proud Brooklyn resident. Since childhood the inspirational lives of the Jamaican women in her family and her Caribbean community have shown Melissa the extraordinary embodiment of what it means to be an agent of change. Her life experiences have inspired her to pursue a career that advances racial and migrant justice, gender equality and youth development initiatives. For almost 10 years she has worked as a Program Development Specialist implementing, managing and facilitating direct-service, educational and empowerment programs servicing immigrant, undocumented and Black communities in NYC. Serving in leadership roles from Campaign Organizer for NYC Mayoral Campaigns to Program Director at a NY-based College Access nonprofit to Consular Officer for the Jamaican Consulate-NY, her work is centered on building programmatic missions, campaigns and community organizing to achieve innovative and deliverable solutions that advance justice and expand opportunities for Black and Black immigrant communities. Melissa holds a B.A in Women’s Studies and Sociology from Wheaton College and a M.A. in International Affairs from The New School. She is a recipient of the New York City Council, “Outstanding Service to City & Community” Non-Profit Leadership Award; a UN Global Summit, “3rd Annual Power of Collaboration, Women’s Leadership & Entrepreneurship” NGO Representative; a two-time participant in The Atlantic Magazine, “30 NYC Change Agents Summit” and “Drafting Democracy: NYC Change Agents” as an Education & Social Justice Representative and has most recently served as a Fund Advisor for Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Immigrant Rights Fund. Migrating to New York’s Little Caribbean as a child, Melissa calls Flatlands, Canarsie and Flatbush her home.