Forward ever, backward never. - Dr. Kwame Nkrumah As I prepare to ring in another birthday, tomorrow (8/15), I can’t help but be reflective. There’s so much going on in the world these days. It feels rather difficult to maintain a healthy perspective about our future, but nevertheless we must. We have to compel ourselves to caste a better vision for our future, and do the work to achieve it. Because it’s clear that on a personal level (& collective), we can’t rest on our laurels - or do the same thing and expect different results. Doing the status quo or remaining neutral is a slippery slope and the way things work — that will lead to stagnation and eventual decay. And so, here I am — looking forward to using the anniversary of my birth to recommit to doing the things that keep me (&us) moving forward. [Also shout out to the bomb photographer @joshuakissi - thanks for capturing my good side!] #leoseason #leoszn #leo
It’s been 5 years since Mike Brown‘s life was taken. And we will never forget him nor this day because the people of Ferguson made damn sure of it. Their righteous mourning and protest brought the world to attention. His life and the Ferguson uprising forever changed the course of history. I have nothing but an abiding love and reverence for all Mike Brown’s loved ones and all who’ve fought for an end to the war on Black life. #MIKEBROWNFOREVER
Thankful for the brave and beautiful life of Toni Morrison. What a beloved gift she was and will forever be to us. She was the first writer to ever make me feel seen as a young Black girl, and her words and life have mentored me throughout adulthood. She is truly one of my greatest inspirations. I’m sure the heavens are welcoming this one in a most jubilant way. 88. #ToniMorrison #RIPtonimorrison
For those of us who need reminding: No amount of shade can stop your light! 🌻🌻🌻🌻🌻🌻🌻🌻 Special shout out to my sisters who are pioneering and founders in their respective fields! #wisdomwednesday #mantra #wordstoliveby #stayfocused #quotes #youarelight #founders #pioneers #wocfounders #blackfounders #blackpioneers
Marielle Franco should’ve turned 40 years old yesterday. As one of the Brazil’s leading Black politicians and human rights activists, her assassination, last year, was devastating. Nevertheless her legacy and contributions are undeniable. The movement is Black, it’s feminist, it’s queer, it’s growing and it’s strong. #MariellePresente #MarielleFranco #MarielleVive #MarielleResists #Marielle40Anos #500DesejosParaMarielle São Paulo, Brazil. July 27, 2019. @aparelhaluzia 📸 @nosocklife
Nothing but respect and admiration for @repilhan. #IMWITHILHAN #ISUPPORTILHAN #ISTANDWITHILHAN
Rwanda, you owe me nothing. You showed me beauty and possibility. You offered Black excellence at a scale I have never witnessed. And despite the challenges and even contradictions that exist here, and everywhere, you offered pure hope. Witnessing all you’ve done since the end of the genocide 25 years ago is nothing short of awe inspiring. The work is deep and far from over, but know you have friends near and far that are committed to your people, and the region. It’s goodbye for now, but I’ll be back. 🇷🇼 #kwibohora25 #RwandanRenaissance #blackexcellence #Africansrising #Rwanda #kigali #rwandan 📸 @cynthiabutare
Can barely believe we are half way through the year, but here we are. This is the perfect opportunity to take stock as to whether you’re feeling content or feeling complacent. It’s an important distinction. And only you will be able to answer that question within your heart. 💛 #midyear #reflection #content #complacency
Blown away by the love and the memorable evening with one of the United States’ leading civil rights organizations, @lawyerscomm . I was sincerely humbled that they chose to recognize me with the Trailblazer for Racial Justice Award. They made time to take stock of my track record and my current work. And tbh, it’s special to be recognized among peers where there’s mutual respect. Over the years we’ve been able to sharpen each other - bridging the gap between theory and practice. And last year, as my final major act as executive director of BAJI, we decided to flex our strength by partnering as their client, and suing to stop the Trump administration’s attempts to intimidate communities of color from participating in the 2020 census. Because of the work we did, including late nights of fact gathering, and testimony writing I did during the holidays - we won! The courts sided with us and agreed it was unconstitutional. And we hope that as we come up against more challenges in the higher courts, the Supreme Court will side with us. So, while there’s still so much more to do, I’m grateful for one night to take a deep breathe, reflect and shore up our resolve to continue the fight for racial justice in all contexts. #Census2020 #RacialJustice #Award #BlackLivesMatter #BlackImmigrantsMatter #GlobalMVMT #DiasporaRising #AfricansRising
Incredible evening of love and uplift with @bethertv! And so much fun supporting my sistren at the #BETherAwards. There are so many sisters across sectors who’re championing our communities despite of all that’s stacked against them. I’m simply in awe of all of the awardees. #BETherAwards #BETweekend #BlackGirlMagic #TrustBlackWomen — Dress: @greyprojects Beat: by me + @fentybeauty + @juviasplace.
Johannesburg, you were so good to me! My fav part between working on research for my book was building with some truly dope sisters! #southafrica #purposefilledpassport #johannesburg #sisterhood #wce
Deeply humbled to be recognized by the Coretta Scott King Center as a National Legacy Award recipient. As a feminist, a woman of faith and an internationalist this particular award means a lot because of my admiration for these 3 shared traits in Mrs. King. Mrs. King’s legacy is immeasurable. She was so much more than Martin Luther King’s wife. She has her own body of work and was deeply involved in social movements before they met. In fact, she informed him about many international human rights issues - and even convinced him to take a stand against the Vietnam war. Her contributions cannot be overstated. For me, as a woman who’s work predates #blacklivesmatter and even that of the migrant justice movement, I hold this award closely as they chose to acknowledge the breadth of my person and my work. I’m humbled by the center and encouraged to keep on building the legacy. —— 📸: @joshuakissi #CorettaScottKing #Award #HumanRights #grateful #blessed #OpalTometi
Got some overdue quality time with one of the most radiant and genuine beings I know. Grateful for our friendship and the lessons we’re learning with each season @tef_poe. Blessings always dear brother!
God bless this beautiful soul and all who loved him. I’ve been struggling for the right words to capture the meaning of his loss, but just can’t. Some things are just felt. But I’ll say this, it's been incredible to witness people come together in historic ways. It’s been beautiful to watch youth in the Diaspora show up and share how they feel a deeper sense of belonging because of his life. And it’s been profound to hear the countless stories of how he materially improved the lives of so many. @nipseyhussle was prolific and principled. On a personal note, Ermias and I shared the same birthday and I can’t help but be reminded that no day is promised. And how vital it is to live our purpose daily. He was actively creating the context to support the growth and dignity of our communities. There’s no more beautiful legacy than this, and love+commitment to family. Sending lots of love to @laurenlondon and the entire family. We're praying. And trust that The Marathon Continues. #nipseyhussle #themarathoncontinues #ermiasasghedom #ripnipseyhussle
Standing on the shoulders of giants who came before us. We can’t help but be inspired when we take time to look back at history and connect with the stories of courageous freedom fighters who came before us. That’s why I was so honored when @brooklynnets invited me to participate in a conversation about icons I admire like Shirley Chisholm while also discussing modern day social movements. The clip featured here is more about the contemporary work, but because Black history is constantly being made, and because so much of the work is being led by Black women and gender non conforming folx, it’s fitting to share this clip now. #BlackHerstory #UntoldStories #BlackHistoryMonth #WomensHistoryMonth #Herstory #BrooklynNets #NBA #BlackLivesMatter #opaltometi #femalefounders Visionaries: @sofiyaballin x @brooklynnets Photography: @joshuakissi Videography: @emmanuel.fola MUA: @ashleyldalton_ [Image description: Opal is standing against a green wall, wearing a black hat, Black dress and khaki colored painters jacket from @marchenoirlomeparis. Opal is posed with smiling grin on face and hands on hips; next is video interview with Opal sitting at Brooklyn Nets practice court, interspersed with archival imagery.]
Such a gift to be shot by one of my fav artists, @hassanhajjaj_larache! And even more to have this image, alongside a few others, be sold as a postcard series to support the incredible work of LA CAN. LA CAN is one of the most transformative and effective organizations fighting the houselessmess epidemic in Los Angeles. I’ve long admired their approach and politics. And was happy to support when asked to participate in this fundraising campaign. You can get your postcards by visiting @goodhq or @summit. [Image description: Opal is seated on a stool in front of brightly colored floral tapestry. She’s wearing a Black Panther Marvel comic tees and patchwork African fabric skirt with the word “love” repeated across the bottom. She’s wearing mismatched neon colored socks and red sunglasses] #hassanhajjaj #opaltometi #goodmagazine #goodinfluencer #africanphotography #summit2018 #losangeles #homeless #eradicatepoverty
A WORD. Apply it how you will. From the spiritual to the political all of it’s interconnected and maintaining a posture of hope is required. Much love to my sister, mentor and fellow abolitionist Mariame Kaba for this poignant articulation. [image description: quote on pale yellow background in yellow letters. Quote says: Hope is a diacripline. - Mariame Kaba] #soulfulsunday #quotestoliveby #quoteoftheday #MariameKaba
A little while ago I saw our gifted sister @KerryWashington perform in @AmericanSonPlay! When she originally invited me I had no idea what I was really in for. And by the end of the play all I could say was - WOW. I was stunned and at a loss for words. The entire production was brilliant and unlike anything I had seen. From the moving narrative, to the nuanced story telling, to the fact there were only 4 actors, to Kerry’s captivating performance. The play is a necessary story for these times and invites people into a conversation that few forms can do well. That said, if you're in NYC do yourself a favor and go see it before it closes on January 27th! Thank me later. #AmericanSonPlay #broadwayshow #broadwayblack #BlackLivesMatter #ProudFriend #Broadway [Image description: Close up shot with Kerry Washington and Opal Tometi with toothy grins backstage. Both are wearing Black tops in this selfie.]
Sisterhood Sunday! Reminiscing about New Year’s alongside my #WomenCrushEveryday in Accra, Ghana! Grateful for the beautiful journey and friendships near and far! #NewYears #FullCircleFestival #WAVsHoliday #MakeWAVs #YearOfReturn #Ghana #PassportHeavy [Image Description: 5 friends (Funa, Opal, Bozoma, Justina and Luvvie) standing side by side at Ghanaian President’s New Year’s Eve Party.]
2018 closed and 2019 opened with some profound revelations and experiences for me. One of which was when I met his Excellency @nakufoaddo, the President of Ghana on a few occasions over the span of a week. On principle I’ve trained myself not to be taken by any political leader, but he truly is a rare one. For those of us doing international human rights and development work to improve the conditions of Black people, he’s one of the few world leaders that also share this mission unapologetically. During my visit to Accra I learned that Ghana is gearing up to provide citizenship for African Americans. 🙌🏾 And is inviting members of the African diaspora to return to the continent in order to reconnect with their ancestry and culture. This is such a powerful notion and invitation for these times. I truly believe in order to weather the storm and build the new world we deserve we will need to shore up our spiritual and cultural reserves — and participating in the #YearOfReturn is one way to do that. I’m starting the year quite encouraged and full of hope because Ghana was 🔥. And I look forward to returning again later this year. #yearofreturn2019 #Ghana #Africa #africandiaspora #nanaakufoaddo #OpalTometi #fullcirclefestival [Image description: A smiling Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo and Opal Tometi standing side by side.]
It’s always an honor to be able to share my story as a Nigerian-American. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with @bbcafrica for the new series #DiasporaDiaries. Few topics were left untouched: we explored what it meant to connect with my blood relatives in Nigeria for the first time at the age of 17, grappled with how far we've come in the past five years of #BlackLivesMatter. I even practiced stepping after a few years away (y'all didn't know I still have it, did you?!) http://bit.ly/diasporadiariesopal #DiasporaDiaries #BBC #NaijaMadeMe #HumanRights #BlackLivesMatter #MigrantJustice #NaijaPride #Step #StepAfrika #OpalTometi
So much love and laughter this weekend. All of this #joy has me reflecting on this beautiful quote my brother shared. Such an exquisite observation of the abundance that already exists and is exemplified in our own bodies.
Wishing the happiest of birthdays to one of the baddest to ever do it — @traceeellisross! Your joy and light are a gift to so many! Grateful for your powerful presence and leadership that transcends industry ... and also speaks beautifully to so many! Blessed by your sisterhood in all things silly and serious! Keep on being the fierce one you are! We got you!
Celebrating my Locs 6th anniversary today!🎉 Still love rockin my hair loc’d! I’ve been wearing my hair “natural” since I was a sophomore in high school so starting my loc journey a few years ago was a fun change... and to be honest - much easier to manage with my on-the-go lifestyle. This summer brought a lil more of that change because I started to get bored with my locs and felt I needed to tap into my 🦁Leo energy.... well 8 boxes of hair dye later... voila Blonde locs! Fun times! It suits my spirit and this season of life as I discovered that authentic self expression is central to self care. Plus all things in yellow and gold hues are truly my favorite! Why do you think BLM colors are yellow and Black??? well now you know! 💛🖤. #nomakeup #nofilter #locs #dreadlocks #locjourney #blonde #naturalhair #nappyhairdontcare #hair #cremeofnature #khemitkinks #interlocking #locsanniversary [image description: Opal is smiling with the sun at her back while standing in front of Danube River in Austria. Opal is wearing a tiny gold necklace, white v neck blouse and yellow jacket with small flowers all over]
Can’t stop thinking about Nia Wilson and her family. My heart has been extremely heavy the past few days. We must do better to protect Black women and girls. #JusticeForNiaWilson #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter #EveryBlackGirl
My shero - Congolese, Black migrant, freedom fighter, Therese Patricia! The epitome of unbought and unbothered. Courageous spirit, clear message and committed to action. 🧡✊🏿#MigrantCrushMonday #UnboughtandUnbothered #theresepatriciaokoumou #BlackImmigrant #AbolishICE #MCM #TrustBlackWomen #Shero
Tonight @vh1 celebrates the life & legacy of some incredible people during the 2018 #TrailblazerHonors. Particularly glad to witness Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin be recognized for their important work in the wake of the murder of their son, Trayvon Martin. 🙏🏿 I’m also humbled that Vh1 chose to acknowledge my human rights advocacy, as well as the impactful work of my movement sisters @crisalx & @joannen.smith! So much is happening in the world and it was truly nice to pause for an evening to acknowledge one another and share our message with more people. So much love for the brothers in my tribe @tonjebakang @popsmbonsu @stanley.lumax for accompanying me and making the evening extra special! And major shout out to @stylememercy for the stylez! 🔥Don’t know what I would’ve done without her!
June 25,2018 - Tamir Rice should be celebrating his 16th birthday today, but he isnt because Cleveland Police took his life when he was 12 years old. No words can capture the pain & injustice, but we can commit to building another world - one that’s safe & affirms Black children. #TamirRice #BlackLivesMatter https://www.ioby.org/project/building-tamirs-legacy
Grateful to have been able to spend the last 2 days with the Mothers of the Movement. Their courage, dignity, resilience and vision is unmatched. I’m moved by how they support one another through all the ups n downs, and how they provide leadership for the movement. Sending extra love to my dear friend, Ms. Rice @sam_i_am815 who chose to honor her son Tamir Rice life by having a sweet 16 celebration last night. She’ll be opening an Afrocentric Cultural Center for Youth in his name. Please consider donating https://www.ioby.org/project/building-tamirs-legacy
🖤 #ItStillTakesAVillage🖤 Nothing like a chosen tribe to keep you inspired, supported, loved, mentored, connected, spiritually nourished and accountable to living your best life! All love for the West African Voltron! (we missed you, @yvonneorji @thefunamentals @jubril8 @tonjebakang @stanley.lumax)
Last memory before ringing in the New Year in California is from earlier this month (December), and it's undoubtedly one of the most humbling experiences of my year! 🙃I met Archbishop Desmond Tutu!!!! Months ago when I was asked to do a public event with him in Cape Town, South Africa I could barely believe it. There are few people on this planet that I hold in such high esteem and he is definitely one of them. As a Pan Africanist his life and all he represents mean a lot to me. Unfortunately, he wasn't feeling too well by the day our event came and so he wasn't able to participate formally, but we were able to meet and he heard me speak. He hugged me as he left and with such intensity and with such warmth and sincere fit he said to me, "you are truly amazing, I am so thankful for you." 😭😭😭 My life is full! Unfortunately the pics that were captured aren't the best, but I'm grateful nonetheless. Bless God! #gratitude #DesmondTutu #SouthAfrica #reflections #NYE
So much went down in November and as I count my blessings the WAV family is 1 of them. Being able to host some of my West African homies in Arizona for a few days was such a gift! We got to experience some of nature's beauty while bonding more deeply with one another. So thankful for a community that inspires me to be the best version of myself. I don't take it lightly that I have friends who understand my cultural context and the nuances of being the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. Big love to people who value their friendships enough that they'd coordinate their lives to have our own mini friend summit. Blessed to have strong community no matter where I go. The WAV family keeps me resilient and inspired. So freakin grateful! #reflections #gratitude #nye #WAVsummit #jolloffwars
One of the highlights of Fall 2017 was being recognized by MoCADA at their annual Masquerade Ball in October. Receiving the Social Justice Advocate award was a humbling recognition, particularly because it was one that took place in my Burrough (the republic of Brooklyn) and because MoCADA saw that my work is global. They took time to understand the context of my lifelong commitment and current contribution. It was such a special night. Deeply affirming. And the work I'm privileged to do is truly impossible without the teams I get to work most closely with. Here's a snippet of what I shared that evening: "... It's our duty to defend ourselves and demand justice. It's our duty to love and affirm ourselves and be reminded that a life of joy and dignity – is in fact our birthright. Y'all, the Black Disaspora is rising! And I am just so grateful to serve and work with communities who know that another world is not only possible, but it is required." #reflections #gratitude mocadagala
Resuming my year end reflection by acknowledging some expediences I'm grateful for... and one of those in September 2017 includes the Black Women's March in Washington, DC!!! A long overdue and historic march in DC and I was humbled to have been invited to speak at the opening. Shout out to Black Women's Blueprint, SisterSong, Trans Sistas of Color Project and BYP for your leadership and the dozens of orgs and hundreds more people who threw down to make this day a resounding success! Here are some words from my speech: “... Alicia Garza , Patrisse Cullors and I created Black Lives Matter – for Black women, too. Y’all we believe...I believe ALL Black lives matter... Beloved, I know you know this, but I have to say this to ensure it’s deep in our bones -- this movement is not merely about civil rights but human rights. It’s not merely about our anger, but also about our love and our joys... Truly, our humanity can never be stripped away from us. And although they may try to codify it away – they cannot have it. We the people will always rise up and defend each other and ourselves... Justice is possible, but it is not inevitable. We will not stop until we win [real justice]. Period. That is it. That is our mandate, That is our destiny. We will not give up - we will not let up, until we have justice and liberation that we seek!" #reflections #Gratitude #BlackWomen #BlackLivesMatter #WomensMarch #NYE
The passing of Erica Garner is a profound loss for our world. I don't have the words right now to articulate just how unsettling this is, but what I know I must say in this moment is just how beautiful a soul Erica was. Such a sweet spirit. Unwavering in conviction. Bold , unapologetic and relentless with her love. My God what a loss ..what a loss.. what a loss.. what a loss. Just praying for her babies, and all who loved her. May she rest in Power and in true peace. #EricaGarner
#FBF Reminiscing about August 2017-- And what a fun month it was! I'm a Leo and rang in my 33rd birthday in Rome with some of my favorite human rights activists from Nigeria, South Africa and France. And then I was off to Miami to relax with some of my besties on the beach. So thankful to have had my Jesus year start off with such joy + celebration with people I love so much! #reflection #gratitude #countdown #blessingsonblessingsonblessings #leo #JesusYear
One of the most transformative experiences of my 2017 was organizing a Black delegation to the US-Mexico border to learn more about Black immigrant and refugee experiences in the region. It was by far one of the most intense experiences of the year. The stories I heard and what I was able to witness is seared into my memory and has informed @instaBAJI's organizing strategy. Participants in the delegation came from across the country and a variety of organizations from Center for Constitutional Rights to Harvard's Immigration Law Clinic to elected officials, BLM and The Nation of Islam. We heard direct testimony from courageous migrants who've journeyed across the Americas, largely by foot, we visited with immigrants imprisoned in Detention facilities and we strategized how to be of direct support to our siblings in the region who are feeling the burden of being Black along a militarized Border. It was powerful. And I couldn't be more grateful that BAJI was able to collaborate with Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans and the Haitian Bridge Alliance to host this powerful delegation. We'll be releasing a report called 'Black Lives at the Border' early next year so that more people can learn and act. #reflections #gratitude #blackborder