Interviewed by Temi Boyede
Please introduce yourself and how you came to organize against deportations
Leroi: I am LeRoi Newbold and I started organizing against deportation when I was a member of BlackLivesMatter-Toronto. I was driving to work one day, when I heard about Beverley Braham’s case on the radio station, G98.7. I heard that Beverley was 8 months pregnant and that she was being deported despite being married to a Black Canadian man. I immediately thought that somebody must organize to stop this. It’s horrific to think that somebody could be deported while 8 months pregnant, especially because there were complications with her pregnancy.
I called the radio station to ask for Beverley’s contact information and I got the number for her lawyer. We started organizing an online campaign to put pressure on the safety minister to stop Beverley’s deportation. This resulted in hundreds of people calling his office to demand that she be allowed to stay in Canada. We also held a demonstration where we blocked a busy intersection during rush hour to bring attention to Beverley’s case. We connected Beverley’s case to the history of the Canadian state’s attack on Black families through the trans-atlantic slave trade and domestic worker schemes. My dad was also deported from Canada when he came here in 1983; so I’m motivated to fight for justice around deportations.
Did you work with an(y) organizations to meet your goals? Why or why not?
After we learned about Beverley’s case, we started researching to see who the ministers in charge of deportations were. We then learned that the safety minister is the one who would have the power to stop a deportation. So, we started an online campaign that targeted the safety minister and the immigration minister. Like I mentioned above: we encouraged people to call in and make complaints about this young Jamaican woman who was being deported. Our communities collectively won a 3-month-stay for Beverley. During that time, her child was born in Canada. After her birth, the Canadian state tried to deport Beverley again but she did not give up and eventually she got her permanent residency in Canada.
What kinds of things should people looking to support those at-risk of deportation know before they engage in this type of work?
If you are looking to support someone who is facing deportation, know that you can win! Speak to the individual and the family of the individual you want to support and follow their lead. You may also want to speak to the individual’s lawyer. Take some time to strategize and get familiar with the governmental bodies that have power over deportation like the safety minister. Connect with migrant justice groups and Black resistance groups in your city because they can support with press releases, creating online campaigns and hold direct actions. Connect with community organizers who are familiar with the process; groups like No One is Illegal, Solidarity Across Borders, BLM Toronto and the BLM global network. They can likely offer help and resources.
What lessons did you learn from engaging in Beverlys’ campaign that you would like others to know?
I learned that you don’t have to be a professional activist to help support someone and intervene to protect them. Beverley really took the lead and we used the resources we had access to in order to support her. Don’t be discouraged if people tell you that it’s not likely for you to achieve what you’re trying to achieve.
How do you encourage yourself to keep fighting when things don’t work out?
Fighting against systemic racism and state violence takes a toll on your mental and physical health because a lot of things that happen can ignite trauma. These systems are meant to dispossess Indigenous people of land, exploit Black and racialized people’s labour. Often, the connections we have to our families mean nothing to the system. In order to continue organizing, I need to not be continuously fighting the system. I need opportunities to create outside of the system. My child and my nieces help to keep me grounded. I like to do things creatively and involve art because art keeps me going.