An Influencer from the African Diaspora Who Started an American Movement

Opal Tometi, on May 16, 2016 in New York City.
Kevin Mazur—Getty Images Opal Tometi, on May 16, 2016 in New York City.

Opal Tometi on how her Nigerian roots feed her social justice drive

As executive director of the Black-Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), a national organization for immigrant rights, she advocates for and educates people of African-descent in the U.S. The 32-year-old is also one of the three women who started #BlackLivesMatter.

“I could see that our communities were vulnerable, yet we didn’t have the organizing capacity or the tools to address the issues—being profiled, being discriminated against in the workplace. When I was introduced to BAJI, I was like, Yes, I finally get to use my experience to support my community.”

Nigerian. “My parents being from Nigeria deeply informs all my social justice and human rights work. The Nigerian community in Phoenix [where I’m from] learned to stick together and look out for one another. There was a time when my uncle was in an immigration detention center, and members of our community would take turns visiting him each weekend. That instilled in me the value of taking care of each other even if the systems aren’t working in your favor.”

“I have always felt like I want to change the course of history. I was in awe of previous Black liberation struggle leaders—Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. Black Lives Matter has been that.

Tap to read full story

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at