I am of a history of cross-border movements that no right-wing political administration can contain. My folks are the kind of loud, and Black, and women dreamers who everyday disrupt U.S. binaries of “Black” and “immigrant” by being both at the same time: Black immigrants. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, my mother taught me to never forget her island of Trinidad and Tobago. Because of my family’s love for home, I carry my heritage into all that I do.
As a Health Equity Fellow in the Greenlining Leadership Academy, I am encouraged every day to seek #ChangefromWithin by bringing the fullness of my identity into my work. My experience as the daughter of Caribbean Black immigrants is essential to my developing racial equity framework. At Greenlining, we believe that our narratives are our strongest asset. We know that we have all we need to survive and that when race is no longer a barrier for communities of color, we will thrive.
I first learned of the Leadership Academy last year, while conducting oral history interviews with Senegalese women seeking asylum in Brazil. At the time I was completing a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship. As a Watson Fellow, I received a $30,000 grant to invest in my passion for uplifting the experiences of Black women and other women of color in spaces where our voices are often marginalized.
Watson allowed me to expand my U.S. based research on the hardships that Black American and undocuBlack women and girls face to a global scale. During my Watson year, I conducted an international oral history project focused on the narratives of African and Caribbean immigrant women in China, Dominican Republic, Brazil, and London for whom pathways to citizenship are blocked. I also traveled to Jamaica and worked with organizations that supported recently deported Jamaicans who were returning from the U.S. and the U.K.
In each interview, Black immigrant women stated the conditions that limited their access to a healthy life. At the same time, these Black immigrants were plotting ways to overcome the obstacles they faced.
These women articulated their experience with ease.
They knew what they needed.
Yet anti-Black stigma, high costs, and citizenship status requirements barred them from accessing quality healthcare. Many of the same barriers stop Black people and other communities of color in the U.S. from accessing healthcare.
I am charged by the weight of Black immigrant women’s narratives to make access to a healthy life available to all. I believe in the strength of women of color whose collective actions can shatter glass ceilings and push us to believe in the impossible. Think of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Alexandria is a Latina woman from the Bronx who, in her first campaign, recently defeated a congressman who held his position for 12 years.
I trust the narratives of black immigrants and of women of color to lead me as I identify the obstacles that stop girls and women of color from achieving their goals. I am dedicated to girls like us. I am dedicated to creating pathways for us to achieve what we define as success.
Asia Alman is Greenlining’s Health Equity Fellow. Follow her on Twitter.
Over the next year we’re continuing our #ChangeFromWithin blog series with posts from our newest cohort of Fellows. They will explore their own personal transformation, #ChangeFromWithin, and what that means for leadership development. You can read Patrick Brown’s introduction to the series here. Here at Greenlining’s Leadership Academy, we’ve been on a journey. We invite you to join us.