On Aug. 25, more than 50 community members came to the City School in Dorchester for a night of explosive performances to raise much-needed funds for the Justice4Siham Campaign. The money raised is going towards obtaining mental health services for Siham’s son Naseem.
The Justice4Siham Campaign began after immigrant mother and community activist Siham Byah was detained during her annual ICE check-in in November 2017 and subsequently deported weeks later. Siham fled her home country of Morocco in 1998 and had been living in Nahant, Mass., for 20 years when she was detained. According to Siham’s immigration attorney, Siham was targeted because of her longstanding activism.
But, as with all cases of detention and deportation, Siham’s struggle was not hers alone. In deporting her back to Morocco, the State ripped her away from her then eight- and now nine-year-old son, Naseem. Naseem, once a high energy smiling boy, has now woken up for over 300 days to no mother. He continues to undergo an immense amount of trauma, and according to Siham, his severe depression continues to grow with each passing day of separation.
Despite the gravity of Siham and Naseem’s struggle, the Jam 4 Justice was a night of community, celebration, and a call to fight against the war on all immigrants. Performers donated their talents for many sets of poetry, music, and tap dancing. Many of the performers brought a political lens to their sets which highlighted the Palestinian struggle, the struggle against gentrification, and of course immigrants rights. Artists donated pieces that were auctioned during a silent auction, and justic4siham organizers were able to secure donations that were raffled off at the end of the night.
The highlight of the event was when Siham and Naseem video-called in. Although they weren’t calling from the same location, it was the first time organizers in the campaign and the larger justice4siham community were able to meet Naseem face to face. The extreme isolation Naseem feels every day was mitigated, however briefly, when he was able to see over 50 people in a room for him, his mother, and their fight for reunification. While on the video-call, Naseem read an incredible statement to the audience. It read in part,
“Being without my mom for almost a year is the hardest thing and most serious thing I’ve ever had to go through. … I deserve to be with my mom. She is a wonderful person, woman, and mother. … She always believed in fighting injustice and always dedicated her time to it. … She always explained to me the causes she was fighting for and taught me not to be selfish … my mom is not a criminal. She has done nothing wrong. … Please reunite me with my mom. I don’t like it here without her. I don’t like anywhere without her. America betrayed me … please help us!”
After Naseem read his statement, the entire crowd chanted “Naseem, we got your back!” It was a painful but beautiful moment of solidarity in struggle.
Later in the evening, Siham addressed the audience again, informing everyone that she had to fight for Naseem to be allowed to speak with the audience earlier that night. She let the crowd know that this is not just an attack on her but an attack on all immigrants. She urged the campaign to continue to “fight for every just cause out there because I refuse to lick my wounds. I am not a victim and I am not going to let them make a victim out of me or my child.”
Siham also pointed out the contradictions of U.S. immigration policy: “Is America any safer when my child is alone and away from me? When he’s lost the will to be a child?” Siham’s words motivated everyone in attendance to continue struggling not just for the reunification of Siham and Naseem but for the liberation of all immigrants and to fight for all struggles against racism and imperialism. She ended her remarks by thanking everyone for being there for Naseem and letting him know he is not alone.
The fundraiser was a phenomenal success. Not only were Siham and Naseem able to video conference into the event and share their words with attendees, but the campaign also raised over $1,000 for mental health services for Naseem. The funds put the larger fundraiser for Naseem’s mental health services over $4,000.
The Justice4Siham Campaign, which the Party for Socialism and Liberation supports, is fighting every day for the reunification of Siham with Naseem and for justice and liberation of all immigrants. You can donate to her struggle by sending funds to Siham’s PayPal.