2/2021: Reaffirmations and Complexities

Guantánamo and the Literacy Campaign of 1961
WOLA and In These Times Matters

In the face of the rush of webinars, petitions, news stories and commentaries greeting the Biden Administration’s reclamation of the Obama-Castro US-Cuba normalization efforts, we are struck by two clear reaffirmations and two complexities.

Reaffirmations

Guantanamo Prisoners / Literacy Brigadistas:  (left) Scene to promote the Rally to Close Guantánamo and Return It to Cuba, February 2018. July26.org also sponsored programs on Guantánamo in July 2016, March 2017, and May 2017. Above right, a crowd of Literacy Brigadistas as seen in the documentary “Maestra,” shown in February 2018 as part of a program with Griselda Aguilera Cabrera, who was a seven-year-old teacher in the campaign and featured in the film, one of several July26.org Literacy Campaign offerings.

GUANTÁNAMO — Returning Guantánamo to its rightful home, ending the closest and most obvious example of U.S. imperialism, and closing the U.S. prison/torture center are two clear-cut steps that we have sponsored programs on previously, that have broad-based popular support, and that can exemplify the new president’s desire for unity and to be president of us all. Last month ended with a letter published in the New York Review of Books by seven former detainees who have written books about their experience. February 12 saw the release of The Mauritanian, a film based on the 2015 memoir, Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Salahi, one of the NYRB letter’s authors, about his experience being held for fourteen years without charge. (The film stars Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, and Benedict Cumberbatch and has received two nominations at the 78th Golden Globe Awards.) During the week in between, more than 100 NGOs Called on Biden to Close Guantánamo. The recent stories of plans to close the prison have given rise to other supportive and reinforcing efforts; Veterans for Peace has set a national program “Close Guantanamo Now! A Call to Action” for 3:00 EST on Sunday, February 21.

THE CUBAN LITERACY CAMPAIGN OF 1961 — A recent posting on the US-CubaNormalization.org’s Organizers Forum provided a link to an interview, just published, with a participant in the Literacy campaign, Rosa Hernández Acosta, who was 10 years old at the time.  Another resource for this year, the 60th anniversary of the campaign, previously remembered and celebrated by the Boston-Cuba Solidarity Coalition in the film showing last September of Cuba’s iconic singer/songwriter and international recording artist, Silvio Rodriguez, who was a brigadista in the campaign at the age of 14; the February 2018 program with Griselda Aguilera Cabrera, who was a seven-year-old teacher in the campaign, one of nine women featured in “Maestra,” the award-winning documentary; and a May 2016 program featuring the Luisa Campos, Director of the Literacy Campaign Museum in Havana and of the “Si, yo puedo” Global Literacy Campaign.

Complexities Continue reading

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Saving Lives, February 7, 2021

U.S., Canada, and Cuban Medical Collaboration
to Treat and Prevent Covid-19
Sunday, February 7th, 3:00 EST

  • Excerpts from Helen Yaffe’s documentary “Cuba & Covid-19: Public Health, Science and Solidarity” (full video here); speakers; regional breakout groups.
  • Sponsors include the U.S.-Canada-Cuba Saving Lives Campaign, cosponsored by July26.org. For additional information and registration for the Zoom program, see the full announcement.
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Cuba Poster Exhibit, January 2021

An international Cuban political poster exhibit
from the collection of Stephen Lewis
at the Walpole Public Library
143 School St, Walpole MA

January 2 through January 30, 2021
Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
Friday 10: a.m.-5:00 p.m. & Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Fully accessible. For library information call 508/660-7341
A sample of the approximately 40 posters here.

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Nalda Vigezzi Honored at National Network Winter Meeting

Nalda Vigezzi, July26.org member, organizer and spokesperson and the longest-serving co-chair of the National Network on Cuba (nnoc.info) in its history, from 2001 until two weeks ago, was given special recognition for her service and leadership at the end of this month’s two-day online gathering. As one of five co-chairs overseeing the on-going tasks and agenda of the national organization, Nalda’s leadership can be seen at nnoc.org, an early site covering 2004 to 2010, where you will find her listed as one of the then-four co-chairs introducing NNOC’s definition, principles and goals, and more.

This year’s closing session included a tribute to Nalda with a collection of photos of key occasions by colleague and comrade Bill Hackwell and the note “…it is hard to think of the NNOC without you in the organizing of it. All those great statements you wrote and so much more.” Nalda intends to continue working in solidarity with the demands for Cuban sovereignty while welcoming new organizations and leadership to the NNOC.

Photos from the tribute collection and the 2019 NNOC reception.
Click to enlarge.
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2020 Normalization Action Climax

November 13-15 Weekend of Action Against the US Blockade

The videos of the concert and all three sessions are available here.

The international concert and three session weekend is the culminating follow-up to the March 21-22 postponement of the International Conference on Normalizing US-Cuba Relations and the organizers’ series of webinars offered throughout the Pandemic:

For more program information and registration,
here or at US-CubaNormalization.org !

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Cambridge Seeks Cuba Medical Collaboration

Cambridge Passes Resolution Supporting US-Cuba Medical Collaboration and Ending the Blockade

On Monday October 5, 2020 the Cambridge City Council unanimously approved a Policy Order on Medical and Scientific Collaboration with Cuba that includes the call for “suspending relevant US economic and travel sanctions against Cuba.” Highlighted by leadership from long-time Cuba activist and educator Merri Ansara and Council member Dennis Carlone, the policy order focuses on the Saving Lives aspects of the collaboration.

The resolution emphasizes Cuba’s medical achievements and the need for co-operation and solidarity in combatting the world-wide pandemic; Cuban-produced drugs (Biomodulina T, Heberon Interferon Alfa 2B human recombinant, Itolizumab, and Jusvinza/CIGB 258) unavailability in the U.S. due to ongoing and increased restrictions against collaboration with and imports from Cuba; and the City’s history of medical collaboration with the island. As noted in Lee Schlenker’s article in Telesur, “Cambridge, Massachusetts Seeks Medical Cooperation with Cuba,” the City and its institutions, including Harvard, MIT and Cambridge Hospital, have a long history of direct medical and scientific exchanges of professors and students, as well as direct collaboration with Cuba, as the policy order points out. Letters from scientists such as MIT biomedical researcher Professor Jonathan King were a key part of the campaign.

With a sister city relationship in Cuba with Cienfuegos, following a January 2000 delegation led by Cambridge State Representative and Cuban-American Jarrett Barrios, the City joins the growing list of municipalities in the national campaign to pass local resolutions expressing grassroots support for US-Cuba normalization and calling for an end to the travel and trade embargo and other blockade sanctions, an effort that this year has emphasized medical collaboration in light of Cuba’s achievements in combatting the Pandemic.

According to Cambridge resident, campaign and July26.org member Marilyn Frankenstein, future plans for Cambridge include: getting more press and social media coverage; starting to put in place plans for medical collaborations between Cambridge and Cuban medical researchers; exploring other opportunities to educate about Cuba with a long range goal of organizing support for ending the blockade.

This is part of the “Honoring Cuba’s Achievements: Ending the Blockade and Saving Lives Together Campaign” that was kicked of at this year’s July 26th Celebration.  We are hoping to reach out to other cities and towns around the state.   If you’d like to help out, contact us at admin@july26.org.

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On This Month’s Webinars & Current Cuba Films

Webinars:

For the three U.S. -Cuba Normalization Webinars being held this month:
* On Cuban trained doctors – confronting COVID-19 in Cuba, abroad and in the US
* Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of President Fidel Castro’s Historic NY Visit
* Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Cuban Women’s Federation and 20 years of the US Women and Cuba Collaboration
see the bottom of the Zoom Support Page.

Films+:

(click to enlarge, l to r) René González of the Cuban Five, from Hubert Sauper’s Epicentro, iconic singer/songwriter and Cuban Literacy brigadista Silvio Rodriguez, Eliades Ochoa of the Buena Vista Social Club, from El Último Balsero (The Last Rafter), Author and Poet José Lezama Lima

* Interview with René González, a member of the Cuban Five who spent 13 years in a US prison and whose real life experience inspired the Netflix film The Wasp Network.                  “A very good interview.” — John Waller

* Epicentro — The blurb reads: “Epicentro is an immersive and metaphorical portrait of post-colonial, ‘utopian’ Cuba, where the 1898 explosion of the USS Maine still resonates. Continue reading

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July Programs

Programs preceding this event with information and registration links:
•  2 Day Concert For Cuba, Sat-Sun, July 18-19, 8:00 p.m.
•  Race Relations in Revolutionary Cuba: A Personal Story, Ths, July 23rd, 7:30 p.m.
•  An American Baptist in Cuba with Rev. Allan McClendon, Sun, July 26th, 11:00 a.m.

Honoring Cuba’s Achievements:
Ending the Blockade and Saving Lives Together
[Recording here]

a July26.org/Pastors for Peace OnLine Meeting
cosponsored by the First Baptist Church of Jamaica Plain
Tuesday, July 28, 7:00-8:30 pm
Register here

Featuring Stephanie Sarantos, Dr. Emily Brown, Merri Ansara (updated 7/23)
Hosted/Moderated by Lee Schlenker, July26.org & Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective
and Gloria Caballero, Ph.D. in Spanish & Portuguese Studies,UMass/Amherst, and presenter of the Tuesday, July 23, 7:00 webinar on “Race Relations in Revolutionary Cuba: A Personal Story,” cosponsored by July26.org.

This fundraising event for Pastors for Peace combines a rescheduling of our previously postponed March PfP Caravan program, our annual July 26 Cuba Revolution Day Anniversary event, and the premiere announcement of the campaign for a Commonwealth of Massachusetts Resolution to End the Blockade and Save Lives in light of Cuba’s medical achievements in combating the Covid-19 Pandemic around the world.

For our friends and those interested in the Boston area, in Massachusetts, in Connecticut and Maine and throughout New England. Featuring:

  • Stephanie Sarantos, updated IFCO/Pastors for Peace spokesperson, former Registered Nurse and improvisational dance instructor. Stephanie has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and is a founder and current staff member at The Clearwater School near Seattle, a radical model of education governed through student-staff participatory democracy.  Stephanie became a strong advocate for the people of Cuba through traveling on several Pastors for Peace caravans.
  • Emily Brown, MD, graduate of Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM) in Cuba and currently a second year resident in the UMass Medical School Family Medicine Program in Fitchburg. Emily was one of the presenters in Left Berlin’s May program on “Coronavirus and Internationalism: Solidarity á la Cuba.”
  • Merri Ansara, member of the first Venceremos Brigade to Cuba in 1969 and long-time Cuba activist, having worked there as a journalist, translator, urban planner and teacher. She was a founding member of July26.org and director and founder of Common Ground Education & Travel Services. Recently in Cuba, Merri is a leading organizer for a Massachusetts resolution to End the Blockade and Support the Saving Lives campaign.

Please register in advance for this meeting —
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0kcO-hrDsqHtDOfFVT1l91lgMkOpP1d1I8
First time Zoomers welcome — help available.

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NNOC on Police Murders

National Network On Cuba Statement on Police Murders

We share the anger and outrage over the murder of George Floyd and the murders of countless other people of color by an out of control and militarized U.S. police system.  The majority of these murders have taken place without being filmed and the majority of the names we will never know.  But we do know that they were victims of an unjust and racist system.  The United States has a violent history starting with the genocide of the Native population; a people who up to the present endure racist U.S. policies in areas of economic, health, and cultural well-being.

We stand with those seeking justice in the streets and note the multi-racial, multi-age, gender diverse make-up of the protesters.  We stand with those most impacted by the unjust criminal “justice” system, the unjust economic system, and the unjust health system.  It is people of color whose communities are negatively affected by decades of environmental racism leading to poorer health, by inferior educational systems, by lack of employment opportunities, by absence of transportation, as well as the well documented policy of police brutality.

We stand with those taking to the streets and condemning the United States government policy of encouraging violence by issuing statements threatening to unleash vicious dogs, to shoot looters, telling police to “not be nice”, to use the unlimited power of the military, to encourage people to use their 2nd amendment rights, etc.

We note the moral bankruptcy of a government that professes outrage at violence resulting from centuries of racism yet supports the presence of protesters with automatic weapons in the State Capital of Michigan, that ignores the terrorist attack on the Cuban Embassy in Washington by an individual with an assault rifle who is connected to the anti-Cuban reactionaries in the U.S., and that at every opportunity dehumanizes people of color.

The whole world is watching and reacting to the ugly reality of life for people of color in the United States.  While the U.S. imposes sanctions and blockades on countries such as Cuba; it deprives its own populace of the right to a peaceful, just, and equitable society.  Compare the streets of the United States with those of Cuba.  In the U.S., streets full of police in riot gear and weapons, in Cuba streets full of medical personnel testing and caring for their neighbors.  Compare the U.S. international presence threatening, sanctioning and waging war with Cuba’s international presence of hundreds of medical workers offering healing to nearly two dozen countries combating Covid-19.

We can all do more.  It’s not enough to not be racist; we must work toward becoming anti-racist. Again, we commend the crowds in the streets across this nation and join their demands for justice for all victims of U.S. perpetrated racist abuse.

June 1, 2020

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Late May News and Events

Lee Schlenker at the Community Church of Boston, Cuba and Africa webinar, more

The July26th Coalition is looking into local resolutions relating to Cuba.   Check out background information about this campaign.  We’re also talking with IFCO/Pastors For Peace about scheduling a Zoom Event in place of the postponed March 31 program. Contact us at info@july26.org if you are interested in getting involved.

Check out and link to The July26.org Facebook Event Page for updated information from the Boston-Cuba Solidarity Coalition and Activist Massachusetts for a calendar of related news and events.

Art above and below by Chaz Maviyane-Davies / maviyane.com
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