fbpx

New York

The Buffalo Immigrant Leadership Team (BILT) began as a task force of VOICE-Buffalo in 2015.  Its constituents are the more than 15,000 immigrants and refugees who have come to Western NY since 2000.  BILT’s mission is to develop leaders within this immigrant and refugee community and equip them to address issues that are impacting their lives, thereby creating thriving communities where everyone can reach their full potential.

BILT is now a separate non-profit corporation that has focused on improving advancement and graduation rates for the 6,200 immigrant and refugee students in the Buffalo Public Schools.

BILT is a federation of Faith in Action – the largest faith-based community organizing network in the nation.

Buffalo Immigrant Leadership Team History – 2015-2020

In 2015 Catholic Charities of Buffalo, a member organization of VOICE-Buffalo, approached VOICE-Buffalo with a proposal to organize the diverse refugee and immigrant communities in Buffalo. With start-up funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development the Buffalo Immigrant & Refugee Leadership Team (BIRLT) was established as a task force within VOICE-Buffalo. VOICE-Buffalo organizers conducted over 50 one-to-one conversations with refugees, service providers and faith leaders to better understand the needs and interests in the refugee community, and to identify potential leaders. A concern about public education arose as the burning issue around which people came together.

BIRLT changed its name to the Buffalo Immigrant Leadership Team (BILT) in December 2017.  It was formally incorporated as a separate organization from VOICE-Buffalo in February 2018 and received its 501(c)3 status with the IRS in March 2019.

Since BIRLT/BILT began, its leaders and organizers have developed relationships with Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) officials, including the Superintendent, Buffalo School Board Members and the Buffalo Teachers’ Federation President. BILT has held four public meetings with over 1000 ethnically and racially diverse people present.  Buffalo Public School Officials, Buffalo School Board Members, Congressman Brian Higgins and other elected officials have been in attendance to hear and respond to the public education concerns of immigrant and refugee students and their families.

Through these interactions and other activities, BILT received a commitment from the BPS Superintendent to partner on a campaign to increase state funding for bilingual teacher preparation. BILT worked with the BPS, local universities, refugee resettlement agencies and other advocates to secure this funding and to address policy barriers to having a sufficient number of bilingual teachers in the BPS system.

BILT leaders are refugees and immigrants from countries that include Burundi, Burma, Rwanda, Congo, Liberia, and Somalia.  Our members commit to participating in relationship building through one-to-one meetings and attend trainings to enhance their capacity to function effectively in the public arena, thereby creating greater equity of opportunity and building the power of the organization.

Latest Media Coverage

September 24, 2020

Buffalo schools try to keep pace with kids speaking 83 languages

Over the last decade, the number of students in the Buffalo Public Schools learning English as a new language has more than…

Continue reading

Suspensions, refugee students key issues in Buffalo school board elections

Lowering school suspensions in Buffalo and increasing support for the rising number of students learning English as a new language have emerged…

Continue reading

August 6, 2019

Grants and Philanthropy

More than 800 Rights Organizations expressly support the Disability Integration Act of 2019

852 Civil and human rights, based on faith, judicial reform, proponents of housing by national, state and local organizations support the Law…

Continue reading

BUILDING A PEOPLE-POWERED MOVEMENT

JOIN YOUR LOCAL FEDERATION

Join Us

TAKE
ACTION!

Take Action