Ajamu Baraka is an internationally well-regarded human rights activist and a far-left social justice advocate with experience stretching over three decades. He first came into international attention in 1998 after being invited by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Paris to attend an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Domestically, Mr. Baraka played a role in initial establishment of the Southern Human Rights Organizers’ conferences (SHROC) in 1996. SHROC provides a platform for human rights advocates and organizers to discuss strategies and issues involving human rights initiatives in the Deep South, as well as training grassroots activists.
In 1998, Mr. Baraka was appointed Amnesty International’s Southern Regional Director, which allowed him to play an important role in exposing human rights violations in the country. He also served as acting director of Amnesty International USA's National Program to Abolish the Death Penalty. He was subsequently named the 2001 Abolitionist of the Year, conferred by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, in recognition of his service toward the abolishment of capital punishment in the United States.
Between 2004 and 2011, Mr. Baraka served as the Founding Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN), the first U.S. domestic human rights organization to use and apply international human rights standards to the country. During his tenure, USHRN’s core base of human rights-related organizations grew five-fold from 60 to over 300.
Since then, Mr. Baraka has been involved with numerous domestic and international human rights organizations such as Black Left Unity Network, National Center for Human Rights Education, Center for Constitutional Rights, Latin American Caribbean Community Center, Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights and Diaspora Afrique. He is presently an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch magazine and several other digital publications.
Mr. Baraka is a fierce opponent of capital punishment. He argues that it is a “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” of inmates, regardless of their guilt or innocence, and advocates the abolition of the death penalty.
Mr. Baraka also believes that the United States is a “capitalist-imperialist settler state” and a “corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity,” and that there are efforts by the government to “brainwash black people.” He considers President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, among others, as “living embodiments of the partial success” of the country’s “attempt to colonize the consciousness of Africans/black people.”