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 of Policy and Communications

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.

 

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.

Tsion Gurmu

Legal Manager and Staff Attorney

Tsion Gurmu is a New York City-based attorney, writer, and consultant. 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.

 

Nneka S. Achapu

Houston Political & Public Affairs Strategist

Nneka S. Achapu is a political & public affairs strategist; she has centered her work on U.S.-Africa trade relations,  immigration issues, and civic engagement. She was born in Nigeria and raised in Italy, and later moved to the United  States to pursue further studies. Nneka is deeply passionate about her African roots and protecting the rights of all immigrants. 

Nneka has been very active in the African Community, serving in numerous non-profit boards and volunteering her time with the community. She has served on the boards of World Refugee Day, Discovery Green Park,  AfriPRO, and as the Africa Subcommittee Chair for the International Trade Committee at the Greater Houston Partnership, and the Houston Trade Development Council.

Nneka graduated from the University of Houston with a B.A. in Political Science, B.A. in Spanish, B.A. in Italian Studies,  and minors in Global Business Studies, Arabic & Middle Eastern Studies. She was a recipient of one of the CIL Scholarships that allowed her to travel to the Middle East, to study Arabic at the Center for International Learning in  Muscat, Oman. She is fluent in Italian, Spanish, and proficient in Arabic and several other languages.

 

Olamide Goke-Pariola

Fundraising and Development Manager

Olamide Goke-Pariola currently serves as BAJI’s fundraising and development manager. Olamide was born in the Southern United States and is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. 

Olamide received a Bachelor of Arts In International Affairs and a Master of Science in International Policy Management, both from Kennesaw State University. 

Since her youth, she has been passionate about progressive causes. She attended her first protest as a teenager, and hasn’t stopped since. She interned at Amnesty International during her last semester in graduate school. She has been featured as a guest speaker and panelist at several events, speaking about a variety of subjects, including racial, gender, and social justice.  Most recently, Olamide wrote about her experience as a black woman in her local community, during the summer of 2020. 

Olamide has a variety of work experience, most recently working in document management. However, the majority of her career has been spent in the non-profit sector, working in major gifts fundraising, international development, events, membership services, and more.

Olamide’s pronouns are she/her. She identifies as a radical black feminist, and spends a lot of her time dreaming and working towards liberation.

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.

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. 

Tadios Assefa

Los Angeles Cultural and Legal Immigration Navigation for Interdependent Communities (CLINIC) Program Coordinator

Tadios Assefa is BAJI’s Los Angeles CLINIC coordinator and a veteran educator, community organizer, researcher and immigrants’ rights activist. Tadios has extensive experience recruiting pro bono attorneys and supervising free legal immigration clinics benefiting hundreds of low-income Black immigrants in the Bay Area. Tadios is the founder of African Civil Rights Center, an organization established to advocate for the racial, economic, social and civil rights of Black immigrants in the Bay Area.  As a researcher, he has studied education, human rights, immigration, asylum and refugee rights movement in support of grassroots campaigns. For his unwavering commitment, work and service to the Black immigrants community he earned a recognition and award from the California State Assembly and the 15th Assembly District as a Community Change-Maker and received the 7th Annual Juneteenth Image Award.  

Tadios received an LLM from the University of San Francisco School of Law, where he specialized in International Law. He’s also studied at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and is currently completing his doctoral studies in Global Educational Policy at the University of Southern California School of Education.

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.

 

 

Aron B. Oqubamichael

BAJI Oakland Community Educator

Aron B. Oqubamichael is a community educator in the BAJI 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.