ACTING ON OUR CONSCIENCE
|ACTING ON OUR CONSCIENCE
A DECLARATION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN SUPPORT FOR THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE IN CUBA
We, the undersigned, join the growing international outcry against the unjust imprisonment by Cuban authorities of
Dr. DARSI FERRER, an internationally known
Afro Cuban civil rights leader and courageous man who for 17 days has endured a hunger strike and placed his life at risk to draw attention to the conditions of racism and racial discrimination in Cuba that has hitherto been ignored.
Dr. NASCIMENTO’s joint letter to the Heads of State of Cuba and Brazil, respectively General RAÚL CASTRO RUZ and President LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA, is unequivocal. He requests of Cuba’s President that he intervene to stop the unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights. Similarly, he requests that Brazil’s President immediately prevail on the Cuban government to safeguard the rights of Cuba’s most oppressed citizens who, in this case, happen to be more than 62% of the total population.
Professor NASCIMENTO has been a long standing supporter of the Cuban Revolution and government, but he, like we, cannot be silent in the face of increased violations of civil and human rights for those black activists in Cuba who dare raise their voices against the island’s racial system. As of late, these isolated, courageous civil rights advocates have been subject to unprovoked violence, State intimidation and imprisonment.
As African Americans, we know firsthand the experiences and consequences of denying civil freedoms on the basis of race, and we certainly understand what racial discrimination is and does to people. We have not tolerated it for ourselves, and will certainly not acquiesce in its perpetration against any other people. For that reason, we are even more obligated to voice our opinion on what is happening to our Cuban brethren a few miles away.
We support Cuba’s right to enjoy national sovereignty, and unhesitatingly repudiate any attempt at curtailing such a right. However, at this historic juncture, we also do believe that we cannot sit idly by and allow for decent, peaceful and dedicated civil rights activists in Cuba, and the black population as a whole, to be treated with callous disregard for their rights as citizens and as the most marginalized people on the island.
Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted!
We call on the authorities and Government of Cuba to immediately and unconditionally free our brother, Dr. Darsi Ferrer.
Richard Adams, Jr.
Marlon Hill, Esq.
This extract provides links to our research on these "Civil Rights leaders," who generally have strong ties to Miami. Victoria Ruiz has worked for the hard right Congresswoman, Ileana Ros Lehtinen, who is responsible for freeing Orlando Bosch, the man responsible for terrorist acts that include the downing of the Cubana airline plane in 1977, which killed 76 civilians.
See the full Cuba Briefing Sheet, 11/30/09 PDF that accompanies the Acting on Our Conscience letter. This Briefing is analyzed in Acting on Our Conscience Briefing Sheet: roadmap for Diaspora support of Miami-backed dissidents Claude Betancourt, 1/2/2010. For a great background article, see A Worldwide Battle of Life and Death. Part I, 12/25/09 Alberto Jones
Justice Activists and Prison System
• Dr Darsi Ferrer Ramirez, director of the “Juan Bruno Zayas Health and Human Rights Center”, a civil rights organization that provides free medical attention for the country´s poor;
• Lariza Diversent, Esq., civil rights lawyer who specializes in defending “profiled” Black youth and pursuing lawsuits against the State in situations of proven racial discrimination, racial harassment, and racial abuses in general.
Designated US-based representatives of the two chief Cuban civil rights movements:
• Prof. Enrique Patterson, spokesperson for the “Progressive Circle Party” (PARP); Tel: (305) 7762948
• Ms Victoria Ruiz, spokesperson for the “Citizens Committee for Racial Integration” (CIR); Tel: (786) 3036067
The above persons and organizations are also in context at The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2008-2009
|NEWS RELEASE --- EMBARGO until Monday, November 30, 2009 at NOON.
CONTACT: Dr. David Covin
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Sacramento
Past President, National Conference of Black Political Scientists
firstname.lastname@example.org (916) 288 3060
AD HOC COMMITTEE FOR RACIAL AND HUMAN JUSTICE
PROMINENT BLACK AMERICANS CONDEMN CUBA´S CRACKDOWN ON BLACK CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS
In a landmark “Statement of Conscience by African Americans,” 60 prominent black American scholars, artists and professionals have condemned the Cuban regime’s stepped-up harassment and apparent crackdown on the country’s budding civil rights movement. This statement is the first public condemnation of racial conditions in Cuba made by black Americans.
Traditionally, African Americans have sided with the Castro regime and condemned the United States’ policies, which explicitly work to topple the Cuban government. Yet this landmark statement by prominent African Americans condemns the growing persecution waged by the Cuban government against Afro-Cuban movements.
It warns: “Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted.”
It also denounces the “callous disregard” for the “most marginalized people on the island.”
The statement is signed by scholar and Princeton University professor Cornel West; famed actress Ruby Dee; former Essence magazine editor and current president of the National CARES Mentoring Movement Susan Taylor; Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux; UCLA Vice Chancellor Claudia Mitchell-Kernan; Chicago´s Trinity United Church of Christ's pastor emeritus, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright; former Black Panther activist Kathleen Cleaver; retired Congresswoman Carrie Meek; professor emeritus University of Maryland College Park and Rev. Jesse Jackson presidential campaign manager Ron Walters; and film director Melvin Van Peebles.
The statement also calls for the “immediate release” of Dr. Darsi Ferrer, one of black Cuba´s most prominent imprisoned civil rights leaders who has been on a hunger strike to bring attention to the crisis. A physician, Ferrer has angered Cuban authorities by setting up independent “people’s clinics” housed in private homes and garages to attend to the growing numbers of impoverished blacks who no longer receive medical attention from the state. Ferrer was jailed on criminal charges four months ago and consigned to a maximum security prison for common criminals in the outskirts of Cuba´s capital Havana.
The U.S. State Department estimates Afro-Cubans make up 62 percent of the Cuban population, with many informed observers saying the figure is closer to 70 percent.
Afro-Cubans are experiencing strong and growing instances of racism on the island, with their 25-odd civil rights movements reporting a wide-range of discriminatory practices in hiring, promotion and access to Cuba´s socialized medicine and educational system.
Young black Cubans bitterly complain of aggressive racial profiling conducted by police, and Cuba´s jail population is estimated to be 85 percent black, according to black Cuban civil rights activists. Some 70 percent of Afro-Cubans are said to be unemployed.
In such conditions, a vigorous rebirth of Cuba´s black movement, banned in the early years of the Cuban Revolution, is occurring. Cuban authorities are responding with violence and brutal civil rights violations.
See Dr. David Covin for further information about the author of the above press release.
|TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA
HIS EXCELLENCY GENERAL RAÚL CASTRO RUZ
Palácio de la Revolución
Dear President Castro,
As long standing supporters of the Cuban Revolution and its government who have always upheld Cuba’s right as a sovereign nation to live free of foreign interference and admired its progress in health and education for its people, we are deeply concerned that the well-known director of the Juan Bruno Zayas Health and Human Rights Centre, Dr Darsi Ferrer Ramirez, was arrested, beaten and imprisoned since July 2009 on a charge of stealing two bags of cement.
Dr Ferrer, we understand, was participating in the organization of a peaceful demonstration in defense of the civil and human rights of Afro-Cubans when he was arrested and imprisoned in a facility reserved for common criminals. He deserves neither fate, certainly not for acting on the belief that while the Cuban Revolution has brought benefits to all the Cuban people of all racial backgrounds, there nevertheless remain racially motivated discriminatory practices against those of visibly African ancestry.
We from the Anglophone Caribbean understand that well. Our history was forged in the same circumstances of plantation slavery that created Cuba’s own society. We know first-hand the experience of being discriminated against and marginalised because of the colour of one’s skin, despite personal emancipation and freedom from the obscenity of slavery. It was precisely this experience that gave rise to the struggles of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, who captured the imagination of Blacks all over Africa and the Americas, including Cuba where he had more branches of his Universal Negro Improvement Association than anywhere else except the United States of America itself, with his message of racial pride and equality. And when Garvey died, his work still unfinished, the struggle passed to the Rastafari movement, whose radical belief in a Black God and bold accusations of racial discrimination even in a free and independent society earned its members many stripes.
But on one thing we are clear: that were the Rastafari denied their rights to assemble and to preach their version of truth about the peoples of African descent, there would have been no Robert Nesta Marley, possibly no reggae music as we know it, and no commemoration of the Act that made us a free people. Jamaica, the rest of the Caribbean and indeed the whole world are the richer for the witness they bore to the task of bringing respect and equality for all races, irrespective of the colour of skin.
So, Your Excellency, we do understand. The Cuban Revolution may well have liberated the structural exploitation of the Cuban people, Black and White, but the attitudes, some overt, some subtle, that have sought to justify the centuries of enslavement of Black Africans do not yield so easily. We are well aware of the testimonies of Cuban national and exile Dr Carlos Moore Wedderburn and others to these personal prejudices that continue to exist in Cuba, and we are not surprised.
What surprises us is the heavy hand of the State against those who dare to speak out against the continued racial prejudice in the society, warranting such a distinguished international figure as Professor the Honourable Abdias Nascimento of Brazil to call for the immediate release of Dr Ferrer.
We join Professor Nascimento’s call for the release of Dr Darsi Férrer and for the respect of his right and those of like thinking to freedom of assembly and to continue representing the plight of those suffering racial discrimination.
Rex Nettleford, Vice Chancellor Emeritus
Barry Chevannes, Professor Emeritus
Rupert Lewis, Professor of Political Thought
Maureen Warner-Lewis, Professor Emerita
26 November 2009
The authors are well known Jamaican intellectuals of considerable standing.
|The most critical issue regarding the recent charges of racism in Cuba is to have a full understanding of historic racial politics in the Cuban national context, including the complex ways that the African descended have and still do engage both "the national" and transnational simultaneously. We do not yet have this rich understanding (for Cuba as for many societies). Increasingly, scholars are making contributions in this regard yet much scholarly research still needs to be done for Cuba. I do think the letter from prominent African American artists and intellectuals could represent, in spirit, a defensible position of the ongoing attacks against the social and economic worth and political authority of the African descended in Cuba; yet to be revelatory the issues raised by these recent challenges to racism in Cuba must move politically beyond universalizing approaches.
Thus the charges concern me because, though they expose the inadequacy of formulating anti-racist criticism without a full historical understanding of the machinations of power in Cuban society, such charges do so unconsciously. In a/any society it is risky business to separate "race" and anti-black repression from class and foreign policy as well as other factors such as how political community has been conceptualized and how blacks have engaged political economies as well as the national/transnational legacies of black activism. When in history and regarding what issues/intents/purposes have the African descended in Cuba been incited to activism and, perhaps most importantly, how have they been empowered and disempowered on the basis of race historically speaking? How is/has "black activism" (been) defined in Cuba?
In fact, in the Cuban response to the African American condemnation letter, this critical point is raised. Endorsed by Cuban scholars and artists mostly of African descent, they argue that it is impossible to separate the machinations of racial power and societal racism from the revolutionary state's foreign policy initiatives and domestic programs regarding economic disparity, racial issues, and African-descended socioeconomic status. The Revolution's policies towards and relationship to Africa (Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Algeria, for example) are important considerations but so are the monumental changes regarding resource acquisition for black Cubans, on Cuban soil, that took place following the 1959 Revolution.
Likewise, we cannot evaluate public condemnations of Cuban racism or the island's socioeconomic disparities in a vacuum, without simultaneously considering the source of condemnation and who/what stands to benefit from such attacks (whether at individual or institutional levels), especially since African-descended people and the recognition of a centuries-old legacy of racial violence and exploitation stand precariously as the fodder of these attacks. Without grounding in history, observations of black oppression and struggles are staid and immaterial, and, ultimately, disempowering. If the Miami Herald is correct, Carlos Moore helped to initiate the letter from Abdias Nascimento and incited prominent African Americans to sign on to the project. Yet serious consideration needs to be given to Moore's motives, especially in light of his previous book, Castro, the Blacks, and Africa (1988), also a condemnation of the racial politics of the Revolution and Fidel Castro specifically, which has been rebutted consistently by scholars of Cuba, the African descended, and Africa, for its argumentation and scholarship.1 How are attacks against the Cuban government regarding race (while rooted in truths about Cuban black experience) also serving as a blanket dismissal of the Revolution, generally? If concern runs very high, what is proposed as a solution for anti-black racism? How can one read calls for justice that are not accompanied by serious discussion of what is to be done about racial injustice? Should the issue of anti-black oppression in Cuba be examined, dissected, renounced, and challenged in a multitude of ways? Of course. Are there widespread racialist practices alive and well in Cuba? Definitely (I have experienced such practices first hand). But these cannot be repudiated without considering black Cubans' variegated political opinions or, by leaving black politics at all levels undefined in Cuba and obscuring the historical trajectory of black Cuban activism.
Both the letters of condemnation and the Cuban response are part of an issue that deserves to move beyond reacting to mere sound bites. To approach it as such reverses the anti-racist inroads and gains made by the African descended in Cuban history.
Melina Pappademos, Ph.D.
1 Probably the best rebuttal to Moore is Lisa Brock and Otis Cunningham's 1991 response. Brock and Cunningham argue that, [In] "...Moore's relentless drive to prove the Cuban revolution to be racist, he denigrates the very black readership he has targeted by doing such poor scholarship on such an important subject as race and racism..." See Brock and Cunningham, "Race and the Cuban Revolution: A Critique of Carlos Moore's "Castro, the Blacks, and Africa" in Cuban Studies 21 (1991): 171-186.
|From: Makani Themba-Nixon
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2009 10:33 AM
Subject: The Praxis Project withdraws its signature of the letter to Cuban
government concerning the case of Dr. Ferrer
Here is my note I just sent to Dr. Carruthers FYI. I have requested that she forward our note to the other signers.
I think the letter raises important issues. we just have to figure out how to have this conversation in a way that does not become weaponry against Cuba, an important force in human liberation generally and African people globally in particular.
Please feel free to share with anyone you think will find it useful.
Dear Dr. Carruthers:
I hope this reaches you well. I'm writing you because I have had the opportunity to talk with several people and groups with whom we work closely and are very involved in this work related to Cuba. They have convinced me that, sadly, this letter and effort is being used as a way to help delegitimize important progress going on in the country. And as
organization, we certainly do not want to contribute to that.
I, personally, am a very strong supporter of the country, although I know as a person with family on the island, that racism is not by any stretch of the imagination solved. I also know that the progress made in Cuba is enviable by US standards. This does not mean that there should not be criticism and advocacy to push for even more progress. I just don't want any public statement that we sign to become fodder for attacking a nation and a revolution that has contributed so much to the world.
Certainly, we should have thought this through more carefully when we signed on but my focus was to be of support to the groups involved -- and to aid an individual who was under attack. Unfortunately, this effort is being used by enemies of all of us to attempt to undermine a government whose efforts have proven critical to the uplift of Black people, despite its shortcomings.
As a result, I am respectfully asking to withdraw Praxis' name from the letter. I'm not asking that you resend it or make any public statement to this effect. The letter is out and not much to be done about that. We will likely make a statement to friends expressing our love and solidarity for the signers but sharing our decision to pull back. Please feel free to share this note with anyone you deem appropriate.
I hope you understand our position. Thank you for all you do to make a difference!
Makani Themba-Nixon, Executive Director
The Praxis Project
Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE): Improving Access to
Healthy Foods and Safe Places to Play in Communities of Color 1750 Columbia
Road, NW Second Floor Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 234-5921
Fax: (202) 234-2689
Praxis prak’ sis
1. exercise or practice of an art, science or skill.
2. The practical application of theory; action informed by theory.
3. The synergy between theory and action; the highest form of practice. The Praxis
Project 1. An innovative not for profit institution dedicated to
capacity building, technical assistance, research, and training for
community-based policy change.
Raúl Castro on racism and sexism in Cuba: "Personalmente considero que es una vergüenza el insuficiente avance en esta materia en 50 años de Revolución" - "Personally, I consider the insufficient advance on this matter in 50 years of Revolution to be a disgrace" 12/21/09 Granma
Racist or Revolutionary: Cuba’s Identity is at Stake 12/18/2009 Defenders Online: Ron Walters, an eminent signer of the Acting on Our Conscience petition, defends his choice and claims that the Cuban government is not interested in tackling the problem of racism.
Cornel West and James Early: Cuban Racism, Tavis Smiley Radio Show, 12/09 James Early recommends AfroCubaWeb for information on AfroCuban approaches to race, identity, and racism.
Prominent black Americans condemn Cuba on racism 12/1/2009 Miami Herald: "The statement was largely driven by Carlos Moore, a highly regarded Cuban author and black-rights activist living in Brazil who has long criticized racial discrimination in Cuba. Moore persuaded Abdias Nascimiento, a founder of Brazil's black movement and longtime Castro supporter, to send Raúl Castro a letter earlier this year denouncing racism in Cuba, then appealed to friends and contacts in the black community to add their support. "Without this historic figure, no one would have listened," said Patterson, who predicted that other high-profile black Americans will soon add their signatures to the statement."
Líderes negros condenan el racismo en Cuba 12/1/2009 El Nuevo Herald
Prominent black Americans condemn Cuba on racism 12/1/2009 James
Early: [Early responds to the articles about Carlos Moore's letter campaign
among African Americans.]
Commentary: Is black America's honeymoon with the Castros over? 12/1/2009 McClatchy: By Carlos Moore "In a landmark "Statement of Conscience by African-Americans," 60 prominent black American scholars, artists and professionals have condemned the Cuban regime's apparent crackdown on the country's budding civil rights movement. "Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted," said the document, which also called for the "immediate release" of Dr. Darsi Ferrer, a black civil rights leader imprisoned in July. The U.S. State Department estimates Afro-Cubans make up 62 percent of the Cuban population, with many informed observers saying the figure is closer to 70 percent."
Obama's ex-pastor doesn't like Cuba, either 12/1/2009 Uncommon Sense: by Marc Masferrer, the great nephew of that quintessential Cuban hoodlum, El Tigre Masferrer.
on behalf of Dr Darsi Ferrer, Afro-Cuban activist.. 10/30/2009 NaijaBLog: INTERNATIONAL
PETITION ON BEHALF OF AFRO-CUBAN CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, DR DARSI FERRER, organized
by Carlos Moore RECENTLY
ARRESTED AND IMPRISONED BY THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT, organized by
Dr. Darsi Ferrer Ramirez, Cuban Political Prisoner of the Week, 10/18/09 10/18/2009 Uncommon Sense: Site in support of Dr. Darsi Ferrer, maintained by the great nephew of El Tigre Masferrer, Mark Masferrer. El Tigre was a Cuban paramilitary leader who went into exile and was jailed in a federal penitentiary for organizing the overthrow of the government of Haiti in order to use it as a base for attacks on Cuba.
Cuban Dissident Dr. Darsi Ferrer on HUNGER STRIKE 10/13/2009 Babalu: "Cuban dissident and human rights activist Dr. Darsi Ferrer - serving time in castro's gulag for having "construction materials" in his home - goes on hunger strike. The following is a letter from his wife Yusnaimy Jorge Soca via Marc Masferrer."
BUCL.org Joins Dr. Darsi Ferrer to Protest Apartheid-Like Policies in Cuba. 12/7/2007 Business Wire: " Dr. Darsi Ferrer is the Director of the Juan Bruno Zayas Center for Health and Human Rights in Havana, Cuba, whose mission is to ensure the policies of international agencies that guarantee health-related rights of all persons are recognized and adhered to in Cuba. Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty is a confederation of blogs and websites that pool resources and ideas for use in campaigns to raise awareness of the Cuban reality."
Darsi Ferrer from Cuba y los Elefantes 12/7/2007 You Tube
A Sincere and Painful Apology to the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus 5/20/2009 Black Agenda Report: "None of the Afro-Cubans who are attempting to earn world prominence by opposing the Cuban government have ever offered an aspirin to our group or others engaged in similar humanitarian endeavors, which makes their purported platform questionable at best… These are the real battles for justice, equality and the future of our nation, that all Cubans and Afro-Cubans especially should be waging, not siding with those who castrated our independence in 1898 or those who enabled this  massacre and kept us segregated, impoverished, ignorant until 1959 and today, are shamefully relying on the dark skin of some, willing to sell their intellect and soul to the highest bidder, by attempting to intimidate, blackmail or create a negative political scene against members of the CBC [Congressional Black Caucus], who have courageously stood by their brothers in Cuba for the past 25 years. " -- Alberto Jones, also posted on Norman Girvan and on AfroCubaWeb's Alberto Jones Column
Invoking MLK and Rosa Parks in Cuban Exile Politics,
Claude Betancourt, 5/30/09: Cuban Exiles Invoke US Civil Rights Struggle:
Brothers to the Rescue, Florida's MLK Institute for Nonviolence, and manipulating Cuban dissidents
The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro
James Early: Carlos Moore's Outcast Vision and Dangerous Deceit 12/28/2008 AfroCubaWeb
Race and the Cuban Revolution: A Critique of Carlos Moore's "Castro, the Blacks, and Africa" (1991), by Lisa Brock and Otis Cunningham.
Norman Girvan reprints the 1990 "Open Letter to Carlos Moore from Pedro Perez Sarduy" and gets some beautiful comments. 3/09 This letter was an early indication that Carlos Moore had problems telling the truth. We published it on AfroCubaWeb.
Abdias do Nascimento
Civil Rights Activist, Essayist, Author, Artist, Dramatist, Poet, Soldier, Director, Playwright, Painter, Actor, Politician, Historian, and Professor
Other resources on AfroCubaWeb
Cuba: Race & Identity in the News
The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2008-2009
Cuba's Plantocracy: Cuban American business and terrorism, 2005
The attempt to divide Cuba on racial lines, 7/9/01 Alberto Jones
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