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Oakland groups urge local financial institutions to order Maya Angelou Quarter at US Mint

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

“Many people of color lived in Ukraine, had fun, worked and went to school. The Russian invasion on February 24, 2022 brought about a major change,” reads a letter shared with parishioners and friends of St. Paul African Methodist Church in San Bernardino via email.

“For these people of color, an additional crisis has arisen, the additional burden of racism. As these people flee to neighboring countries, they are met with open hostility,” the letter continues.

The Reverend Steven Shepard, pastor of St. Paul’s, delivered the letter, which called on AME Church members around the world to support a student from Ivory Coast seeking asylum in Ukraine until the war breaks out. Shepard encouraged church members to stand with “our African brothers and sisters” and condemn racism in Ukraine.

The young woman had to wait almost 24 hours in freezing weather, hungry and cold, before crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border.

The letter shared by Shepard was among hundreds of thousands, possibly more, of videos, letters, memes, photos and other media sent around the world highlighting racism in Ukraine on two fronts.

First, the way Ukrainian citizens treated people from Africa, the Caribbean and other people of African descent as people clamored to board trains and buses fleeing the advancing Russian army.

“We write with concern about the treatment of people of African and Asian descent trying to flee Ukraine,” members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) wrote to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, asking her to push back on reported discriminatory incidents.

Members of the CBC Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), chair of the appropriations subcommittee on state and foreign operations; Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH-03), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY-05); chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations; and Rep. Stacey E. Plaskett (VI-At Large) signed the letter, which was sent March 4.

“Thank you for making it clear that the borders of the European Union are open to anyone fleeing the war in Ukraine,” the lawmakers continued. “Nevertheless, numerous press and social media reports indicate that many black families, African Diaspora immigrants and other people of color are subject to discriminatory or inhumane treatment as they seek to flee the Ukraine for the security of other European countries.”

“We welcome the fact that you have publicly rejected the discriminatory treatment of refugees,” they continued. “We request more information on how the institutions of the European Union and its Member States are working to implement fair and humane policies and procedures with regard to refugees. We further request that a Commission representative inform us of the progress of these efforts.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said the racist actions of Ukrainian citizens violate international treaties.

“All those fleeing a situation of conflict have the same right to safe passage under the UN convention and the color of their passport or their skin should make no difference,” he said.

African leaders, commentators, civil rights leaders, public figures and media personalities have also spoken out against racist media coverage of the war.

“It’s not a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European city – I also have to choose those words carefully – where you wouldn’t expect this or expect this to happen,” the CBS News correspondent said, Charlie D’Agata, reporting from kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

D’Agata, who has since apologized for the comment, has been widely criticized for his bias.

Comedian Trevor Noah also reacted to D’Agata’s comments. “Here’s the thing. Beyond racism. You realize that until recently waging mad wars was Europe’s thing. It’s all European history. They even had something called the Hundred Years War,” he said.

“I don’t know about you, but I was shocked at how many journalists around the world, by the way, seem to think it’s more of a tragedy when white people have to flee their country,” Noah said.