Building Alliances Between African Americans and Immigrants

Though many immigrant integration advocates and practitioners focus on the shared benefits of immigration to immigrants and receiving community members alike, such arguments may ring hallow for some African Americans who continue to feel marginalized and their needs unmet. What can we learn from cities like Los Angeles that have worked hard for years to overcome a history of racial profiling and violence in order to unify African American and immigrant communities and create greater opportunities for all? This session will drill down on the best approaches to alliance building; discuss how African Americans and immigrants are coming together to address common interests such as civil rights, education and labor issues; and explore the potential for African Americans and immigrants to share pieces of a larger economic pie. Moderator:

  • Dr. Manuel Pastor, University of Southern California Dornslife-Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, Co-Director USC CSII Program -- Manuel Pastor is a Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He currently directs the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII). Pastor’s research focuses on movement building and the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income communities. He has written several books and speaks nationally on issues including demographic change, economic inequality, and community empowerment. In 2012, the Liberty Hill Foundation awarded Pastor the Wally Marks Changemaker of the Year for social justice research partnerships.


  • Juan F. Soto, Executive Director, Gamaliel of Metro Chicago -- Juan F. Soto is the Executive Director of Gamaliel of Metro Chicago, Gamaliel of Illinois and Gamaliel Network’s Director of the Civil Rights for Immigrant Department. Juan is also a senior trainer for the Gamaliel Network and mentors and trains organizers at the local and national level. He oversees Fiesta del Sol, the largest four day Mexican cultural event in that draws in over 1.3 million people annually and has been an economic engine that has supported the creation of entrepreneurship for many small business minded owners.
  • Alberto Retana, Executive Vice President, Community Coalition -- Alberto Retana is the Executive Vice President at Community Coalition. Previously he was a youth organizer and then Director of Youth Programs with the Coalition’s youth component, South Central Youth Empowered through Action (SCYEA). In addition to his work at the Coalition, Alberto has been dedicated to advancing unity and solidarity among South L.A.’s African American and Latino residents. He recently served under U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as Director of Community Outreach organizing town halls across various U.S. cities bringing together thousands of students, parents and teachers.
  • Dr. Steven Pitts, African American professor at UC Berkeley Labor Center -- Steven Pitts is the Associate Chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center. Steven received his Ph.D. in economics with an emphasis on urban economics from the University of Houston in 1994; an M.A. from the University of Houston a B.A. from Harvard University. At the Labor Center since 2001, Steven focuses on issues of job quality and Black workers. In this arena, he has published reports on employment issues in the Black community, developed an initiative to support Black worker centers, and shaped projects designed to build solidarity between Black and Latino immigrant workers.
  • Opal Tometi, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration -- Opal Tometi is the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), an education and advocacy organization comprised of African Americans and Black Immigrants working at the intersection of racial justice and migrant rights. BAJI’s headquarters are in New York City with additional staff and offices in Oakland, CA, Atlanta, GA and Phoenix, AZ. Opal is a 1st generation Nigerian-American who was born and raised in Arizona and has been active in the migrant rights movement for over 10 years. To learn more about BAJI please visit