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OAFRO: The Black American Lawyers Fighting Racism In South America
Dr. Judith Anderson always knew that Argentina was a place that needed Black lawyers. So, when Madoda Ntaka asked her to be the co-founder of Argentina’s first Black legal aid organization, OAFRO, she couldn’t say no.
Dr. Anderson, who is a professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, cultural anthropologist, and Afro Latin Americanist, researched Black political organizing in 2005 and noticed a common theme as she wrote her dissertation in 2007.
“My general observations about Black activism in Argentina was that things started slow,” she tells Travel Noire. “When making some comparisons and looking at Black movements across the diaspora, I noticed people would benefit from Black lawyers.”
According to Dr. Anderrson, there has been an increasing number of racially motivated attacks on people of African descent.
“African immigrants face a lot of discrimination in the streets. People are being physically attacked for the color of their skin and the fact that when many first arrive, they don’t speak fluent Spanish.”
But there’s not only a growing concern among African immigrants but locals as well.
“People locally were approaching each other and reaching out to other Black organizations asking for legal help saying, ’I’m getting kicked out of my apartment and I think it’s because I’m Black.’”
In a separate incident, a group of Haitian students studying in Santa Fe came home to see graffiti on their dorm room full of racist threats. Three students also received mail from other students at the university calling on the students to go back to their country, which two of them did, according to Dr. Anderson.
For Anderson and her co-founders, it was very clear that race and Blackness were elements of why Afro Argentines were experiencing such vile incidents, and they were being discriminated against.
That urgent need is why OAFRO, which stands for Organizacion Afrodescendiente para la Asistencia Juridica y Formacion, was officially launched in 2020 to help Afro Argentines with legal representation when they are discriminated against.
Anderson says the goal is to eventually expand to other places in South America.