our leadership & organizers
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.
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 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 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 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 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.
Gender Justice Program Coordinator
As a Nigerian woman who was born in New York and raised in London, Catherine believes that Black solidarity is essential in the fight for our collective liberation. At BAJI, Catherine leads BAJI’s research and advocacy initiatives for Black immigrant women and girls. Catherine also serves in the Healthy Equity & Access under the Law (HEAL) Act Coalition, which works to expand access to healthcare for immigrant women and families. Additionally, Catherine represents BAJI on the advisory committee for National Bail Out and engages in national efforts to end the HIV epidemic in Black communities.
As a human rights defender and poet, Catherine believes that creativity is essential to our liberation. As a published poet, Catherine has performed and taught poetry across the U.K, U.S., South Africa and Nigeria. Catherine’s artistry led her to be selected as one of the 12 poets who wrote the official Olympic poem for London 2012 and as one of the most promising Nigerian artists of this generation by Theatre Stratford East.
Catherine has a BA in Psychology from Emory University and an MA in African Studies from Yale University. While at Yale, Catherine was awarded a number of fellowships including a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship in Yoruba. Catherine’s research on the relationship between literature and human rights in Nigeria resulted in her receiving Yale Afro-American Cultural Center’s Inaugural Award for Outstanding Graduate Research in the African Diaspora.
Lovette Kargbo Thompson
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 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.
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.
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 15thAssembly 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.
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.