Ayọ Tometi

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Ayọ Tometi
Ayọ Tometi - 2021 (51648565860) (cropped).jpg
Born (1984-08-15) August 15, 1984 (age 38)[1]
EducationUniversity of Arizona (BA)
Arizona State University (MA)
Occupation(s)Activist, writer
Known forBlack Lives Matter, Black Alliance for Just Immigration

Ayọ Tometi (born August 15, 1984), formerly known as Opal Tometi, is an American human rights activist, writer, strategist, and community organizer.[2] She is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM).[3] She is the former Executive Director of the United States' first national immigrant rights organization for people of African descent, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), working there in various roles for over nine years.[4]

With BLM, Tometi brings attention to the racial inequities faced by black people. She started as an active community organizer in her hometown advocating for human rights issues. She has campaigned for advancing human rights, migrant rights, and racial justice worldwide. She also worked as a case manager for survivors of domestic violence.

Early life and education[edit]

Early life[edit]

Ayọ Tometi is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, who hail from the city of Lagos. Her parents are of Yoruba ethnicity and they speak the Yoruba and Esan languages.[5] Her great-great-great-grandfather was born in the country of Togo, and his son, Tometi's great-grandfather was from Cameroon. Eventually, Tometi's grandfather was born in Cameroon before emigrating to Nigeria. She is the oldest of three children and has two younger brothers. She grew up in mostly suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona with other children of immigrants. In addition to Yoruba and Esan, Tometi grew up speaking Pidgin English.[5]

Her parents moved from Nigeria to United States as undocumented immigrants in 1983, the year before Tometi's birth.[6] During Tometi's middle school years, they faced deportation and her mother was unable to return to Nigeria for the burial of her father, Tometi's maternal grandfather, because of the ongoing case.[6] Her parents were eventually successful in defeating their deportation case and able to remain in the United States.[7] However, other family and friend's of Tometi, including her uncle, also battled deportation during her youth.[8] Tometi's parents later opened a church at which her father is a pastor, Phoenix Impact Center in Phoenix, Arizona, that also serves to help new immigrants adjust to life in the United States.[9][5] Tometi visited Nigeria for the first time when she was 17 years old and credits these experiences with shaping her approach to pro-immigration advocacy work.[6][8]


She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public/Applied History from the University of Arizona in 2005 and a Masters in Communication Studies, with a specialization in Advocacy and Rhetoric from Arizona State University in 2010.[10] On May 7, 2016, she received an honorary doctor of science degree from Clarkson University.[11] Tometi is a former case manager for survivors of domestic violence and still provides community education on the issue.


Early activism[edit]

After her parents won their deportation case, Tometi began demonstrating with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She worked as a legal observer at the US-Mexico border.[7] While studying at the University of Arizona, Tometi advocated against Arizona SB 1070, one of the strictest anti-immigration bills passed in the history of the United States, with the Alto Arizona campaign.[12][6] At the Black-Brown Coalition of Arizona, she also previously held a position as the lead architect.[12] In 2010, Tometi also worked as a spokesperson for the Puente Movement, an immigrants rights group in Arizona.[13]

Black Lives Matter[edit]

Tometi, with community organizers, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, founded Black Lives Matter (BLM) in 2013.[7] Originally, Garza wrote a Facebook post in response to George Zimmerman's acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin. In a response to the post, Cullors used #blacklivesmatter for the first time. Then, Tometi contacted Cullors and Garza, interested in buying a website domain by the same name.[14] The three organizers agreed and Tometi purchased Blacklivesmatter.com, established Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter pages for the movement.[15][16] Following this, Tometi contacted numerous other activists in the Black community, alerting them of the new plans and inviting them to join by using the hashtag.[16] Tometi is also credited with selecting black and yellow as the organization's colors, in addition to forming BLM's social media platforms and strategy.[12][6]

A year later, Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Witnessing the unrest unfolding in the city via social media, Tometi led a mobilization of 500 community activists to demonstrate in the city. Tometi has referred to this as a "Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride" and believes that it ignited a desire to make Black Lives Matter into a global movement.[16]

After Eric Garner was killed, Tometi organized with a campaign called Safety Beyond Policing in New York. She is a proponent of defunding the police.[17]

Black Alliance for Just Immigration[edit]

From 2011 to 2020, Tometi worked as co-director and communications director, prior to becoming the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), the first national immigrant rights organization for people of African descent  .[10][12] She was working as the executive director of BAJI when she first saw Garza's Facebook post in 2013. In this role, Tometi was responsible for directing staff within the BAJI organizing committees throughout Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, as well as committees within the South on various initiatives concerning racial justice and immigrant rights in the United States.[12] Her other contributions included leading organizing efforts for a rally for immigrant justice and the first Congressional briefing on black immigrants in Washington, DC.[12] After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, many Haitians were displaced and Tometi led BAJI in securing family reunification visas for those affected by the disaster.[12] Tometi also helped start BAJI's partnership with Race Forward’s Drop the I-Word campaign.[12]

Additional work[edit]

Tometi at The Laura Flanders Show in 2015

Diaspora Rising[edit]

In 2020, Tometi created Diaspora Rising, a center focused on cultivating a global Black community, operating mostly on social media.[18]

Other projects[edit]

Tometi also collaborates with the Black Immigration Network and the Pan African Network in Defense of Migrant Rights.[12] She has also been a part of the Global Forum on Migration and Commission on the Status of Women.[12] She serves on the board of directors for the International Living Future Institute and the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity.[12][18]

Tometi has spoken at Susquehanna University, the Facing Race Conference of 2012, the Aspen Institute's Ideas Summit, and the Grinnell College Technology and Human Rights Symposium.[19][20][21][22] She has presented at the United Nations and has participated with the United Nations Global Forum on Migration and the Commission on the Status of Women.[19] While at The University of Arizona, Tometi volunteered with the American Civil Liberties Union. She is additionally involved with Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity[23] and is a member of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc.

She has appeared in several media outlets, including Glamour,[24] Essence,[25] CNN,[26] MSNBC,[27] and BET.[28] Her written works have been published by several media outlets including The Huffington Post[29] and Time.[30] Tometi continues to collaborate with communities in Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York City, Oakland, Washington D.C. and communities throughout the Southern states.

Personal life[edit]

As of December 2021, Tometi lives in Brooklyn, New York City.[12]

Recognition and awards[edit]


  1. ^ Williams, Lauren N. (August 29, 2016). "An Influencer from the African Diaspora Who Started an American Movement". Time.
  2. ^ AYỌ - Opal Tometi BLM Co-Founder Special Announcement, retrieved November 5, 2021
  3. ^ Dalton, Deron (May 4, 2015). "The Three Women Behind the Black Lives Matter Movement". Madame Noire. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  4. ^ Bhagwat, V. M.; Ramachandran, B. V. (September 15, 1975). "Malathion A and B esterases of mouse liver-I". Biochemical Pharmacology. 24 (18): 1713–1717. doi:10.1016/0006-2952(75)90011-8. ISSN 0006-2952. PMID 14.
  5. ^ a b c "How Nigeria helped inspire Black Lives Matter". BBC News. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Opal Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter: 'I do this because we deserve to live'". the Guardian. September 24, 2020. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Alex, Ella; er (December 22, 2020). "Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi: "Black people can't catch a break, even in a global pandemic"". Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  8. ^ a b "The New Civil Rights Leaders". Essence. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  9. ^ Race, Religion, and Black Lives Matter: Essays on a Moment and a Movement. Vanderbilt University Press. August 15, 2021. ISBN 9780826502094.
  10. ^ a b Tometi, Ayọ (November 30, 2021). "Ayọ Tometi". LinkedIn. Retrieved November 30, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ "Opal Tometi Awarded Clarkson University Honorary Degree | Clarkson University". www.clarkson.edu. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Tometi, Opal. "Opal Tometi | Speaker | TED". www.ted.com. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  13. ^ Administrator. "SB 1070 Lite? | Frontera NorteSur | New Mexico State University". Retrieved December 4, 2021.
  14. ^ "Civil Rights Activist and BLM Co-Founder Opal Tometi talks activism with W&J Students". Washington & Jefferson College. October 8, 2020. Retrieved December 4, 2021.
  15. ^ a b Apr 27, Tessa Petak. "How Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Opal Tometi Keeps Her Stamina Up". InStyle. Retrieved December 4, 2021.
  16. ^ a b c d e "Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Opal Tometi on the Fight for Racial Justice in the US". Georgetown Institute of Women Peace and Security. Retrieved December 4, 2021.
  17. ^ "The Matter of Black Lives". The New Yorker. March 7, 2016. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  19. ^ a b "#BlackLivesMatter Founder to Speak at Susquehanna University". Susquehanna University. September 4, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  20. ^ Dinan, Stephen (September 30, 2015). "Black Lives Matter is Message of 'Love' for All: Founder". The Washington Times.
  21. ^ "Opal Tometi". Facing Race.
  22. ^ "Technology and Human Rights Symposium | Grinnell College". www.grinnell.edu. March 7–10, 2017. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  23. ^ Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD) website.
  24. ^ Meyerson, Collier. "Meet the Women Founders of Black Lives Matter". Glamour. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  25. ^ "Black Lives Matter Founders Chosen As Glamour's "Women Of The Year" Essence". Essence. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  26. ^ "The Disruptors". Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  27. ^ "When #BlackLivesMatter we won't have to say 'black lives matter'". MSNBC.com. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  28. ^ "Community Change Agent". BET.com. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  29. ^ "Opal Tometi". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  30. ^ "Opal Tometi". Time. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  31. ^ a b Dandes, Rick. "How 3 friends tapped power of social media to start a movement". The Daily Item. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  32. ^ "Black Lives Matter Founders: 100 Women of the Year". Time. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  33. ^ "TIMEPieces: Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi, 2013". Time. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  34. ^ "The Root 100 2015 - The Root". October 12, 2015. Archived from the original on October 12, 2015. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  35. ^ "The POLITICO 50". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  36. ^ "The Black Lives Matter Founders Are Among the World's Greatest Leaders". Fortune. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  37. ^ "Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards". Institute for Policy Studies. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  38. ^ "Awards & Award Winners". PEN Oakland. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  39. ^ "Opal Tometi: Black Lives Matter". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. January 5, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  40. ^ Twitter https://twitter.com/cunylawreview/status/847926883870273537. Retrieved December 5, 2021. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^ "Opal Tometi Awarded Clarkson University Honorary Degree | Clarkson University". www.clarkson.edu. Retrieved December 5, 2021.

External links[edit]