10 (Un)documented Black And LGBTQIA+ Activists You Need To Know

by Alan Pelaez Lopez


Growing up Black, queer, and undocumented in the United States was an isolating and frightening experience for me. I was always afraid of being deported, profiled by the police, or shamed for my queerness. Being Black and queer meant that I was not sure how I fit into the U.S. narrative of immigration.


This is because the immigration narrative in the U.S. focuses on non-Black Mexican immigration and does not address Black, queer, and trans identities. The truth is, undocumented Black queer and/or trans activists have always been a huge part of the immigration movement and it is time that they receive recognition.


Here’s a list of 10 (un)documented Black queer and/or trans activists to know, and ways that you can support their work.


1. Karolina Lopez

Karolina Lopez

Karolina Lopez is a fierce transgender afro-Mexicana that fights day-and-night for prison abolition. When she first came to the United States, Karolina was incarcerated for 3 years at an all-male detention center in Arizona and spent 6 months in solitary confinement. She is known for occupying busy intersections in California, fundraising with Mariposas Sin Fronteras to pay the bonds of undocumented trans detainees, and giving powerful testimonies. In recent conversations, Karolina has opened up about the ways her Blackness gives her a political consciousness to fight against the incarceration industrial complex.


You can book her to speak at an event at: info@familiatqlm.org


2. Laura Perez


Laura Perez is an (un)documented Oaxacan migrant with rich pan-indigenous and african-diasporic roots. She is known for helping organize the Oaxaqueño/a Youth Encuentro, a gathering that brought together indigenous Oaxacan youth to address issues of afro-indigeneity, food injustice, and the lack of resources that communities of color are facing in the U.S. She is currently building community gardens to create herbal medicine for (un)documented migrants and is part of the Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners network.


You can book her to speak at an event at: info@undocublack.org


3. Kemi Bello

Kemi Bello

Hailing from Nigeria, Kemi Bello has made a mark in the movement by using her poetry and narrative writing in her activism. Kemi took part in the No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice, which traveled around the country protesting deportations, racism, and incarceration. The riders each faced the threat of being stopped at an immigration checkpoint and potentially deported.  If her courage doesn’t impress you, her heart will. In 2014, she wrote to the undocumented community, “and when you are tired of crossing borders, migrate to me. We will not apologize for this pursuit of decolonial love…”


You can book her to speak at an event at: sonia@culturestrike.org


4. Jonathan Perez

Jonathan Perez

In 2011, Afro-Colombian activist Jonathan Perez entered a border patrol office in Mobile, Alabama to voice his disapproval with the Obama administration’s deportation of more immigrants than any other U.S. President. Upon voicing his disapproval, this courageous undocumented Black activist was detained and shipped to an immigration detention center. Since then, Jonathan has successfully led a campaign to build 3 new schools in his community in Los Angeles and he continues to use his voice to create change today.


You can book him to speak at an event here.


5. Grace Lawrence

Grace Lawrence

Grace Lawrence is a transgender Liberian activist who uses photography as a political tool to talk about LGBTQIA+ violence in Africa. Grace migrated to the United States seeking political asylum, but instead of being granted safety, she was incarcerated for almost 3 years. For 6 of those months she was in solitary confinement where was ordered to be deported by a judge and suffered from a mental breakdown. Grace uses art and her voice to encourage the trans immigrant community to come together and join her in the fight. She now runs a Facebook page called LGBT Liberian Photojournalism Activist which archives anti-LGBTQIA+ violence across the globe.


You can book her to speak at an event here.


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6. Ola Osaze


Ola Osaze is a trans Nigerian writer, activist, and overall powerhouse! As a community activist, Ola has been involved with the Audre Lorde Project in NYC, co-founded Trans Justice and Uhuru Wazobia, one of the first LGBT groups for African immigrants in New York. He currently serves as the development senior manager of the Transgender Law Center. Ola’s powerful writing has been featured on BGD, Autostraddle, Apogee and more. Recently, Ola co-founded the UndocuBlack emergency fund to support emergency needs of those that are (un)documented and Black in the U.S.


You can book him to speak at an event at: jill@transgenderlawcenter.org


7. Angel Patterson

angel patterson

Angel Patterson is a trans, gender non-conforming femme activist from the Dominican Republic via the Cuban diaspora. When they were a teenager, they were placed in solitary confinement at an immigration detention center after revealing their trans identity. Migrating throughout the rural south, Angel is known for their work with the organization SONG, where they focus on battling deportations, transphobia and femmephobia. They are also a co-founder of the UndocuBlack Emergency Fund.


You can book them to speak at an event at: info@undocublack.org


8. Christina Mavuma


Christina Mavuma is an (un)documented activist and key health advocate from Botswana in the immigrant rights movement. She has dedicated her life to change how primary care is experienced by QTPOC communities. Many may know her from her powerful piece on Pen Out-Write about almost being arrested inside a health facility because the nurses did not believe her identification was correct due to her legal name not matching her “gender presentation.” Now that she has gained “legal” immigration status, she works with The Exchange Program to capacitate “emerging transgender activists in South Africa and the East African region.”


You can book her to speak at an event at: info@undocublack.org


9. Didi Adiakpan 


Didi Adiakpan is a brilliant youth organizer from Nigeria who works on fighting biphobia and towards decolonizing Evangelism in Texas. When she was in high school, she helped pass the Employee Non-Discrimination Act in the city of San Antonio. Didi also runs a Tumblr page with almost 2,000 followers which highlights womyn of color and LGBTQIA+ musicians who are influenced by Black music genres. Recently, she has been working with the UndocuBlack network to create a resource document of national organizations that are both undocumented friendly and anti-racist.


You can book her to speak at an event here.


10. Jerome Andre


Jerome Andre is a gender non-conforming femme from Barbados. While they were in NYC, they worked with Brooklyn Men (K)onnect doing health educational outreach with young men of color. In addition to doing HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention work, they were also heavily involved with Make The Road New York, advocating for the rights of undocumented and LGBTQIA+ migrants.


You can book them to speak at an event at: info@undocublack.org



These 10 (un)documented, Black, queer and/or trans activists are all doing critical work to reimagine a world without borders. There are so many more folks out there shaping our movement than just these 10 brilliant activists. I hope this list challenges your perception of the immigration movement, because the Black queer and/or trans community is affected everyday, and we can’t fight alone.


Alan Pelaez Lopez is a formerly undocumented Black Mexican artist, contributing writer at Everyday Feminism, and former BGD intern. They currently live in the SF Bay Area where they spend their time making jewelry, reading for grad school, and doing community work with Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement



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