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Miami leader on fact-finding trip concerning race in Cuba, 1/12/01

People to People Ambassadors Programs

Seattle-based, this organization organizes numerous tours of Cuba.

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Miami leader on fact-finding trip to Cuba, 1/12/01

Miami leader on fact-finding trip to Cuba
Miami Herald

Local Urban League President T. Willard Fair is making his first voyage to Cuba this week on an eight-day fact-finding mission meant to explore the status of children and race on the island.

Fair, 61, acknowledged in an interview that the privately funded trip organized with Cuban government cooperation could create unhappiness among some South Floridians.

But the prominent Miami leader said he chose to make the trip, which begins today, to better understand the political passions that drive Miami's exile community. He also said he consulted the United Way's board and about a dozen Cuban-American colleagues, including Miami-Dade Community College President Eduardo Padron, who supported the journey.

``We will spend several days interfacing with persons in the Education Ministry, the Child Welfare Ministry, taking some tours and having dinner in a home of a typical Cuban,'' he said.

In addition, the 27-member delegation of the Seattle-based People to People Ambassadors Programs will make stops in Havana, Cienfuegos and Varadero. Evelyn Moore, president of Washington's National Black Child Development Institute, is leading the mission whose price tag was $3,500 to $4,000 per person.

Fair said the tour will not likely include a face-to-face meeting with Elián González, the youngster who was the subject of a cross-Florida Straits custody dispute last year. But, he said, such a visit would give him a greater appreciation of the child's case.

``People don't understand the Elián debacle in my community, because they don't understand the trauma that's associated with being in exile; all they understand is that he ought to be with his daddy,'' said Fair, who is black. ``You have to understand the big picture in order to at least tolerate, if not accept, their reaction to his going back to Cuba.''

Fair said of particular personal interest to him was the notion that ``all the people who are back there happen to look like me,'' meaning island Cubans today are predominantly black while exiles are predominantly white.

``I'm going to check it out,'' he said.

``One of my real concerns is about the absence of race versus the presence of socialism: Is it accident or coincidence or by design? There are some very intriguing sociological issues and child welfare issues that tantalize me as a social worker in terms of the whole child development process.''

Fair, a big backer of Gov. Jeb Bush, said he was the sole South Florida representative on the trip, which he called ``highly structured in collaboration with the government'' of Cuba.

For the rest of this story, see


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