Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving in Guantanamo

The purpose of my recent trip to Guantanamo, Cuba, was to make clear to the U.S. government that to celebrate the tradition of Thanksgiving best, it needs to close Guantanamo prison it has held within the island of Cuba for over fifty years. This was the first Thanksgiving I spent away from family and friends in another country, protesting the vision for the world that Wall Street has. Protesting Guantanamo. It is the symbol of U.S. neocolonial rule that defies the sovereignty of Cuba. Kwame Nkrumah defined neocolonialism as the stage in which a state has all the trappings of political independence, but it is still economically dependent. Guantanamo is not only the site of continued U.S. neocolonial rule over Cuba, it is also the physical site of torture of one hundred seven detainees. The first two days of this conference included attending some very informative lectures as part of the Fourth International Seminary on the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases. At this seminary was Daniela Gonzalez who represented CODEP (Conseja de Defensa de los dererchos del pueblo or Defense Council of the Rights of the People) who pointed out the neocolonial relationship between the United States and Mexico. The current president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto has allowed privatization of natural resources, gas, electricity and public works. Gonzalez said that the neoliberals in the Mexican government has set it up in such a way where the indigenous cannot access their water. James Jordan also gave a very important talk on the theme of prison imperialism. He talked about plans by the U.S. government to make money of building prisons across the world. Columbian prisons are being used to train soldiers. Many historians have called Colombia a U.S. colony. The physical and psychological torture is widespread in jail. In his talk, Jordan said that the U.S. government cites “drug wars” as the reasons for a much larger investment in prisons, hower over 60% of those incarcerated are there for non drug-related offenses. U.S. funded prisons, Jordan summarized, are about social control, not fighting drug wars. Since 2000 he noted, the U.S. has been involved in prison construction in twenty five countries across the world. Another memorable speaker was the filmmaker and journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina who produced the important film The Blockade Against Cuba. He presented how sixteen thousand Colombian soldiers armed by the US government murdered peasants who wanted earth, health, and bread which helped the creation of FARC. Colombia is known as the Israel of Latin America and that there is a dirty war going on in Colombia that is funded by drug dealing and the hope that the drugs will eliminate the social movement. Ospina showed the Colombian government as the obvious aggressor in the war against FARC, and said Cuba was a site where they are supposed to have direct talks with FARC however, according to Ospina, they made no promises in Cuba to stop fighting FARC, and if they couldn’t promise the Cubans to stop fighting, they definitely unable to keep a peace truce with the people of Colombia. It was at this talk where I learned about the political prisoner Simon Trinidad from Colombia who is seen by the US government as a FARC sympathizer. On the third day of this trip as our bus went into the city of Guantanamo, I stopped at a tienda to buy for a few centavos a Granma newspaper. I noticed that one of the cover stories featured a mentor of mine, Nancy Kohn, saying that the United States is illegally occupying the naval base of Guantanamo. I was able to see an amazing dance troup directed by Xiomara Solis called “La Colmenita” perform Jose Marti’s poem “Guantanamera “ and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” We visited the town square of Caimanera, which has been called “the first anti-imperalist trench” because it was where on September 5, 1876, Antonio Maceo attacked the Spanish train between Guantanamo and Caimanera. We were given a police escort from a hill from which we were able to see the physical Guantanamo prison and the Guantanamo bay, then we were taken to the Caimanera town square where we had a public rally. At this rally I met some very special people : two English teachers and an elementary school natural science teacher. The next day we went to the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba which were seized by revolutionary forces on July 26, 1953. The attack was conceived by Fidel Castro Ruz who conceived the attack and who chose to begin the attack on the one hundredth birthday of journalist Jose Marti. The tour guide at these barracks was Odalis Jimenez and her tour was unforgettable. It gave a very comprehensive look as to exactly why the masses joined the Cuban revolution. I remembered a conversation with a Cuban history teacher Ilka who said that what took place at Moncada was remarkable because all the revolutionaries had were pistols compared to the technologically advanced weapons of Batista’s forces supplied by the U.S. When we left the museum and had lunch at a restaurant near Cespedes Plaza, a very beautiful Jamaican woman named Georgiana approached me, whose mother she told me worked at the Guantanamo naval base. She said her mother was from Jamaica and worked at the naval base in Cuba. When her mother died however, she was unable to collect the pension she was promised from the United States government, in part because of the embargo. I sensed a stronger connection in Cuba with the gods of the Santería religion namely Oshun, because it was the sight of the river that drew me to walk towards it from Cespedes Square, and when I did, I had a very dynamic conversation with a Jamaican woman. During this conversation, heavy rain began which led Georgiana to invite me to her home, meet her husband, her daughter, her grandson, and talk with another Cuban citizen, Robert Lewis Cobaer, whose work at the Guantanamo naval base was denied pension. In my first trip I learned that Santeria goddess of Santa Barbara played a key role in helping many revolutionaries defeat the U.S. imperialist forces. I have also seen first hand the instrumental role that women play all across the administration of the Cuban revolution today. They are certainly more involved percentage wise than women in the United States government in all levels of leadership. This was certainly eye opening. On our third day, we were invited to join a fast with the group Witness Against Torture to protest the opening of Guantanamo for torture and holding detainees without charge. This trip opened my mind about how endless the spiritual possibilities are in fighting neocolonialism. –RF.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An Oral History From My Grandfather

This is an interview with my grandfather about his growing up in Jamaica. He was born on January 17, 1930 in Cold Spring, Saint James, Jamaica. -RF.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Influence of Eduardo Galeano's "The Open Veins" On Me

Yesterday I just learned of the passing of Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015) in Uruguay. I have been deeply influenced by Galeano’s work "The Open Veins of Latin America" translated from Spanish by Cedric Belfrage. I consider the book a chilling alarm of modern technology’s ironic inability to end human suffering. I first read it about five years ago and I consider it a Latin American version of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth which was published about ten years prior. The book consists of three main parts: one, mankind’s poverty as a consequence of the wealth of the land; two, development is a voyage with more shipwrecks than navigators; and three, seven years after. I liked most what he wrote in Seven Years After especially in talking about how the best press he got from the book was “from the military dictatorships that praised the book by banning it” (265). I think his role as a writer in attempting to end human suffering by exposing the brutality of military dictatorships is unprecedented, remarkable, and a very important example for me to follow. I’d like to talk about key points in each of the three main parts that struck me. In his first section he writes that “the ultimate goal of the Latin American colonial economy from its inception” was to function “at the service of capitalism developing elsewhere.” The dominant classes he said “prevented the development of an internal consumer market” (30). He traces the colonial history of Latin America beginning with Columbus, and quotes Bartolomeo de las Casas: “He once remarked that the Indians preferred to go to hell to avoid meeting Christians”(42). Galeano here challenges the understanding that those who do bad on Earth will end up in hell. This is a broad reference to the indigenous fighter against the Spanish, In his Caribbean History text, Tony Martin quotes Hatuey saying “I’d rather go to hell than go to any place Christians are.” Hatuey challenges the concept of hell as an undesirable place and the notion that the Spanish colonizers were in any way humane or good Christians according to Europe’s own terms. Galeano traces the role that Spanish imperialism played in building English industrial capitalism: “Brazilian gold was channeled to London by licit as well as illicit methods…without this tremendous accumulation of gold reserves, Britain would not have been able, later on, to confront Napoleon” (56). He traces the key role that Latin America played in English being an imperial power. This included the creation of a sugar monoculture today whose detrimental effects can still be felt today. However Galeano is clear on the key role that the monoculture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had in amassing British capital: “Caribbean sugar plantations, condemned as they were to cane monoculture, were not the dynamic center of development for the “thirteen colonies solely because of the impetus the slave trade gave to naval industry and to the New England distilleries; they also provided a large market for the export of foodstuffs, timber, and sugarmill implements, lending economic viability to the farm and budding factory economy of the North Atlantic” (82). I don’t know another writer who can sum up the instrumental role of the Caribbean in U.S. history in this succinct way that Galeano does. In Spanish. Also in this main part he describes Cuban ingenuity in rejecting the monoculture imposed on it by Spain and the United States and discusses the important gains since its revolution: “Cuba was crippled by its dependent status, and walking on its own feet has not been easy. Half of its children did not go to school in 1958…Cuba now has the lowest percentage of illiterates and the highest percentage attending primary and secondary school in Latin America. Medea Benjamin today asked a very important question regarding the U.S. decision to remove Cuba from a list the State Department created called “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” She asked if by removing Cuba from that list if the State Department was really accepting Cuba as a sovereign nation or if they are trying to undermine and overthrow the revolution by different means. The need to defend the socialist character of Cuban revolution is clear to Galeano when he writes in a way that personifies it: “the Revolution is forced to sleep with its eyes open, and in economic terms this also costs dearly. Constantly harassed by invasion and sabotage [which Benjamin described] it does not fall because—strange dictatorship!—it is defended by people in arms” (77). And although I support the Cuban government defending itself, I also witnessed first hand the machismo and the policed culture of Black men on Havana streets that this defensive posture creates. And it concerns me. But before I critique the Cuban government for its machismo and policed culture, I have to critique FIRST the machismo and policed culture created and enforced by the ruling class, most of which Galeano names in his book, later in his first part when he describes the monoculture of Brazilian coffee: “In July 1968 Brazilian coffee cost 30 percent less in the United States than in January 1964 but U.S. consumers did not pay less: they paid 13 percent more. Thus in the 1964-1968 period middlemen kept the 13 percent as well as the 30 percent feathering their nests twice over. Who are the middlemen? Six U.S. concerns control more than a third of the coffee that leaves Brazil, and another six control more than a third of what enters the United States: these firms dominate the business at both ends” (100). Galeano’s discussion of middlemen here reminds me of the spending waste associated with private property and capitalist ownership, and why Obama’s Affordable Care Act needed a government run public option to avoid the fraud and the abuse by these middlemen that are represented by the private insurance companies. In terms of the banana industry, Galeano describes how U.S. businesses dominate the economies of Central America to maximize their profit: “the United Fruit Company swallowed up its competitors in the production and sale of bananas and became Central America’s top latifundista [landowner] while its affiliates corner rail and sea transport” (107). I last remember seeing a reference to United Fruit in the work of Assata Shakur. This reminded me of how Assata Shakur described the Judge presided over the unfair trial that falsely accused her of shooting a New Jersey state trooper. He was “the kind they could send to wipe out the “natives” in Africa, make Central America safe for United Fruit Company, or run a sterilization center in Puerto Rico.” Both Galeano and Shakur write about the ways that United Fruit company essentially took over and colonized, as a U.S. private entity, the economies of Central America. They exert control by installing leaders that serve their interests. Like the Freedom newspaper that brought the case of Paul Robeson to worldwide attention, Galeano acknowledged the socialist character of the Guyanese government led by Cheddi Jagan in the 1960s and how as he writes “the CIA played a decisive role in Jagan’s defeat.” Galeano made an important connection between multinational corporations funding military dictatorships: “in Venezuela, the largest U.S. military mission in Latin America sits on Standard and Gulf’s great petroleum lake. Argentina’s frequent coups d’etat erupt before or after each offer of oil concession.” Hugo Chavez came from the Venezuelan military that protected the interests of Standard Oil. So despite his deep popularity, it was difficult for Chavez to refine or develop the socialist character of his nation, where the private sector to this day, still has more money than the public sector because of the oil resource and the machinery infrastructure needed to refine it. In his third section, “Seven Years After,” Galeano writes in 1978 that “in Venezuela the economy of waste and extravagance continues intact. The neon-lit center is as resplendent as ever with the squandermania of a multimillionaire class” (268). I vehemently reject Obama’s March 7th declaration that Venezuela is a national security threat and I stand with the Venezuelan people in rejecting that idea. I am glad to see that the State Department has backtracked and no longer deemed this a threat. And I also raise the warnings that Galeano raises about using natural resources to meet the increasing needs of the people around it. The popular quote of Galeano’s read by Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now speak to the ways that any natural resource needs to be used to alleviate poverty instead of making the rich richer: “The lake is a forest of towers. Within these iron structures the endlessly bobbing pumps have for half a century pumped up all the opulence and all the poverty of Venezuela. Alongside, flames lick skyward, burning the natural gas in a carefree gift to the atmosphere. There are pumps even in houses and on street corners of towns that spouted up, like the oil, along the lakeside-towns where clothing, food, and walls are stained black with oil, and where even whores are known by oil nicknames, such as 'The Pipeline,' 'The Four Valves,' 'The Derrick,' 'The Hoist.' Here clothing and food cost more than in Caracas. These modern villages, of cheerless birth but quickened by the euphoria of easy money, have discovered that they have no future. When the wells die, survival becomes something of a miracle: skeletons of houses remain, oily waters lick abandoned shores and poison the fish. Mass firings and growing mechanization bring misfortune, too, to cities that live from exploiting still-active wells. (158-159) Galeano shows how, like gold, the discovery of the natural resource of oil causes more poverty than the alleviation of poverty. He wrote that “petroleum has not only sparked coups d’etat in Latin America: it set off a war—the Chaco War of 1932-1935—between South America’s two poorest people… It was a quarrel between two [U.S.] corporations, enemies and at the same time partners within the cartel, but it was not they who shed their blood. In the end Paraguay won the war but not the peace” (163). In this section of the book he is very optimistic about the kind of society Chile will become in 1971 when this book is first published: “nationalization will put an end to a state of affairs that had become intolerable for Chile, and prevent repetition in copper of the plunder and descent into the abyss of the nitrate cycle.” Unfortunately, for the same reason that petroleum set off the war between the poorest, the copper plunder ends with U.S. corporations working to topple the Marxist Chilean leader Salvador Allende, as Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick write about in their history: “prodded by Chase Manhattan Bank’s David Rockefeller and former CIA director and ITT board member John McCone, Kissinger instructed U.S. Ambassador Edward Korry and CIA station chief Henry Hecksher to stop Allende [who]…said ‘We are potentially rich countries, yet we live in poverty.’ Allende took his own life with a rifle…Pinochet seized power…Kissinger saw to it that the United States quickly recognized and provided aid to the murderous regime”(S&K, p.372). Unfortunately nationalization did not put an end to the state of affairs that had become intolerable for Chile. It invited the U.S. to topple it. In his third section, Galeano writes that “infant mortality, substantially reduced during the Popular Unity regime, rose dramatically with Pinochet” (271). However what inspires me is that Galeano writes with the hope that nationalization can in fact do that. It reminded me of what I read in Julio Garcia Luis’s edited collection published by Ocean Press called Cuban Revolution Reader: A Documentary History and how the revolution nationalized the U.S. companies that had, before the revolution, pocketed the profits of companies. Galeano’s writing underscores the importance of this revolution. In Galeano’s second section called “development is a voyage with more shipwrecks than navigators,” talks about Paraguay in the nineteenth century and how it was ruined by imperialism: “the woes of the Paraguyans stem from a war of extermination which was the most infamous chapter in South American history: the War of the Triple Alliance, they called it. Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay joined in committing genocide. They left no stone unturned, nor male inhabitants amid the ruins. Although Britain took no direct part in the ghastly deed, it was in the pockets of British merchants, bankers, and industrialists that the loot ended up. The invasion was financed from start to finish by the Bank of London, Baring Brothers, and the Rothschild Bank, in loans at exorbitant interest rate which mortgaged the fate of victorious countries…our bourgeois of today are agents and functionaries of prepotent foreign corporations. Truth compels us to admit that they never did anything to deserve a better fate” (188, 208). Richard Philcox’s English translation of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth which was published about a decade earlier says that the “vocation” of the national bourgeoisie is to “serve as a conveyor belt for capitalism, forced to camouflage itself behind the mask of neocolonialism…the national bourgeoisie sells itself increasingly openly to the major foreign companies.” (100,117) Galeano later writes that “foreign oligopolies, with their ultramodern techonology steadily and not very secretly took over the national industry of all Latin American countries, including Mexico, by the sale of manufacturing techniques, patents, and new equipment” (212). He writes that the creator of the IMF has essentially created a Capitalist Manifesto that says that poor countries are poor because they are meant to be poor (220). This I think is one of the strongest points in his book and it really bothers me. It essentially says that God has ordained the English ruling class to rule the world forever, and I just don’t agree with that. Especially as a child of Jamaican immigrants that the IMF is so harshly destroying with its policies of austerity. I guess that cabal thinks that austerity just might prevent another influential thinker like Marcus Garvey who inspired the parents of Malcolm X. I don’t think austerity would stop the influence of another thinker like Marcus Garvey from emerging in the world. When Davie Ann Tucker asked President Obama about the whether the IMF could write off Jamaica’s debt on April 9th this year, Obama said basically that the IMF shouldn’t write off the debt and that the IMF policy should happen. Galeano’s writing has essentially taught me that Obama agrees with the IMF’s Capitalist Manifesto that countries that are poor deserve to stay poor and countries that are rich deserve to stay rich. Classic Darwinism. That depends on systemic imperialism, sexism, racism, and capitalism. Galeano talks also about the assumptions of the USAID program and how they ban trade “with Cuba and North Vietnam and make the administrative tutelage of AID technicians obligatory.” This “tutelage” involved forcing governments to pass laws that made foreign companies exploitation of their land and resources easier. In Toni Cade Bambara’s “Vietnam Notebooks,” she writes about what North Vietnam’s socialist government achieved: “through the efforts to emancipate the woman, progressive legislation that benefited everybody immediately occurred such as social security and free medical care” (Savoring the Salt, 106). By this logic according to Galeano, USAID would tutor countries how to repress women and deny medical care and social security to all its citizens. Galeano’s point on page 235 about the World Bank, that it “channeled its loans toward birth-control promotion, education plans, agro-business, and tourism,” reminded me of how the Rockefeller Foundation document “predicting” Ebola virus outbreak in 2014 still is proof of how birth control promotion continues. Galeano writes that Latin America “is condemned to suffer the technology of the powerful, which attacks and removes natural raw materials, and is incapable of creating its own technology to sustain and defend its own development,” I think that this is too fatalistic, and I reminded of what I think is the BEST review of this book by Ernesto Verdeja for the Critical Sociology journal. Verdeja wrote that Latin America, in Galeano’s book “is portrayed as having no agency or capacity to resist foreign economic penetration. It is docile, pale body abused by a succession of foreign adventurers. The reality, however is much more complex…This functionalism fails to engage the legacy of leaders such as Zapata, Maximo Gomez, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and Tupac Amaru, or social movements within civil society and revolutionary struggles outside it” (177). I agree wholeheartedly with Verdeja’s point here and point to Costa Rica as an example of a nation that is not following the U.S. or Venezuela’s lead in its economic self determination. I do think it is more complex than Galeano’s narrative. I do agree with his last point however in his second section where he says that “for U.S. imperialism to be able to ‘integrate and rule’ Latin America today, it was necessary for the British Empire to help divide and rule us yesterday” (259). Any economic exploitation by the British empire is in part the fault of individuals unable to work together to prevent this “divide and rule” strategy that still is used among so many oppressed groups today, like the Somalis and the Kenyans in the tragic bombing of the university students for their religious beliefs, as Margaret Kimberley writes about most recently. I think it is the duty of anti-imperialists across the world, including the Black abolitionists like John Brown Russwurm who edited Freedom’s Journal to avoid the tricks that imperialists use to divide and conquer. The most important question he asks in the entire book is in the last section and gets to the heart of Angela Davis’s point that a capitalist democracy is an oxymoron. It is impossible for this country to proclaim democracy and be the world’s leading seller and exporter of guns. Galeano asks: “Do we perhaps understand that the militarization of poor countries’ regimes is one of the consequences of economic and cultural domination by the industrialized countries, where life is ruled by the lust for profits and the power of money?” The message to me behind this question is to not let the lust of profits and the power of money ruin our individual and collective selves. The King James Bible said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Galeano helps us see evil in U.S. imperialism. We are the better for his writings. –RF.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Paul Robeson's Words on Obama's April 9th Travels

(Paul Robeson painting by Robert Shetterly) Paul Robeson, like my beautiful grandmother, was born on April 9th. As President Obama travels across the Caribbean sea to Panama today, Paul Robeson’s words that he spoke at a rally on June 19, 1949 for the Congress of African Affairs ring incredibly true, and speak to the successful 2015 efforts of the people of Latin America to get the U.S. government to backtrack on their efforts to deem Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security because of their successful work with the PetroCaribe program that allows Caribbean and Latin American countries low cost oil. The following are Robeson’s words: “Almost every Negro in Princeton lived off the college and accepted the social status that went with it. We lived for all intents and purposes on a Southern plantation. And with no more dignity than that suggests—all the bowing and scraping to the drunken rich, all the vile names, all the Uncle Tomming to earn enough to lead miserable lives [describing it in terms that recalls Michelle Robinson Obama’s Princeton senior thesis that questioned the obligation of Black Princeton graduates to the Black citizens of Princeton”]… There, in my childhood, I saw my father choose allies. To him, it was the Taylor Pines’ of the Wall Street millionaires. They helped the church. They spread around a little manna now and then—that was an age philanthropy. But I recall that my father could never think of attacking these men for the conditions of those times. Always one had to bend and bow. That was forty years ago. Those present-day sycophants of big business, these supposed champion of Negro rights, can’t grow up to the knowledge that the world has gone forward …They can’t image that our people, the Negro people, forty millions in the Caribbean and Latin America, one hundred and fifty millions in Africa, and fourteen million here, today, up and down this America of ours, are also determined to stop being industrial and agricultural serfs…And you stooges try to do the work of your white bourbon masters, work they have not the courage to do. You try to play the role of cowardly labor leaders who are attempting to do the same job in the ranks of labor….Let them get their crumbs from their Wall Street masters. Let them snatch their bit of cheese and go scampering rat-like into their holes, where, by heaven, the Negro people will keep them, left to their dirty consciences, if any they have…As a consequence of my activities for Negro freedom, I had 86 concerts cancelled out of 86…I finished my professional tour at its height and announced that never again would I sing at a five dollar top, that I would sing at prices so that workers could come in comfort and dignity. I did this because I belonged to working people…as English workers came to understand that if cheap labor could be obtained in Africa or the West Indies or in Southeast Asia, their living standards in England would suffer accordingly. This is a lesson white workers in America must increasingly learn. For the tentacles of American imperialism are stretched far and wide into colonial countries: Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Trinidad, Panama…American big businss tells all of Western Europe what to do, what it can produce, where it must buy, with whom it can trade. And finally with the Atlantic Pact, the western Europeans are told that they must be ready to die to the last man in order to defend American Big Business…The Marshall Plan means enslavement of our people all over the earth, including here in the United States on the cotton and sugar plantations and in the mines of the North and South. And the Atlantic Pact means legal sanction for sending guns and troops to the colonies to insure the enslavement and terrorization of our people. They will shoot our people down in Africa just as they lynch us in Mississippi. That’s the other side of the coin. For who owns plantations in the South? Metropolitan Life—yes, the same Metropolitan Life Insurance Company that owns and won’t let you live in the Stuyvesant Town flats in New York. It is such giant financial interests that are getting millions from the Marshall Plan. They enslave us, they enslave Western Europe, they enslave the colonies. Many of our Negro leaders know this. But some of these so called distinguished leaders are doing the dirty work for Stettinius, aiding his scheme for the exploitation of Liberia and its people, or are serving as errand boys for Forrestal’s cartel interests, even though the chief has now departed. And there are a few other of these so-called Negro leaders who are too low and contemptible to give the courtesy of mention. Are these financial big boys America? No! They are the former enemies of Roosevelt. They were the ones who were glad when Roosevelt…At the Paris Peace Conference I said it was unthink able that the Negro people of America or elsewhere in the world could be drawn into war with the Soviet Union. I repeat it with hundred-folk emphasis. THEY WILL NOT. …To fulfill our responsibilities as Americans, we must unite, especially we Negro people. We must know our strength. We are the decisive force. That’s why they terrorize us. That’s why they fear us. And if we unite in all our might, this world can fast be changed. Let us create that unity now. And this important, historic role of the Negro people our white allies must fully comprehend. This means increasing understanding of the Negro, his tremendous struggle, his great contributions, his potential for leadership at all levels in the common task of liberation…let this be a final answer to the warmongers. Let them know that we will not help to enslave our brothers and sisters and eventually ourselves. Rather we will help to insure peace in our time—the freedom and liberation of the Negro and other stuggling peoples, and the building of a world where we can all walk in full equality and full human dignity” (p.201-211). From the book Paul Robeson Speaks edited by Philip Foner (New York, Citadel, 1978)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dear President Obama, Before You Go to Jamaica

This is a photo of a young man who lived in Jamaica named Denlyn who was reportedly killed because of his sexuality. Dear President Obama: Good day. My name is Dr. Rhone Fraser. On behalf of the Caribbean Alliance For Equality (CAFE) and in light of your upcoming visit to Jamaica tomorrow, I am writing to ask that in order to stop the egregious human rights abuses that the government of Jamaica is condoning against its LGBTQI citizens, that you evaluate the need for an economic boycott of the tourist economy in Jamaica. You are the very first president to acknowledge and legitimize gay rights, and you mentioned the struggle at Stonewall in your second inauguration speech. I am writing to ask that you put your vocal support of LGBTQI rights to practice by holding leaders who ignore human rights abuses against LGBTQI citizens accountable. The government of Jamaica for centuries has completely ignored the murders of its LGBTQI citizens. It still follows outdated buggery laws that criminalize sex between same gender loving individuals. The government still condones the oppressive practice of corrective rape against lesbians. President Portia Simpson-Miller said she will review the buggery laws but to this day, has made no effort to discourage or prosecute murders of LGBTQI individuals. On July 21, 2013, Dwayne Jones, a transgender citizen was murdered in a fashion similar to the way that Emmett Till was murdered in 1955. On August 18, 2011, O’Shane Gordon was murdered by machete for his sexuality. Despite repeated lobbying attempts, the Jamaican government will only respond to a boycott of their most lucrative industry which is the tourist industry. As you visit Jamaica, please think about the murdered LGBTQI citizens who were denied their right to life that so many citizens are allowed in the United States. You made clear that the United States is a partner in creating a healthy democracy. Please arrest Jamaica from taking tourist dollars and refusing to prosecute or discourage murders of its LGBTQI citizens. Sincerely, Rhone Fraser, Ph.D. General Secretary Caribbean Alliance For Equality

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In Memoriam Tim Carpenter (1959-2014)

(Tim Carpenter here with his daughter Sheila) Today would have been the 56th birthday of Tim Carpenter, whose work with the Progressive Democrats of America truly inspired me. He was its national director until his passing last April from cancer. He represents everything that is SALVAGEABLE in the Democratic Party, at a time in my life when I am believing more and more that the Democratic Party of today cannot be saved. I remember getting their emails around the time that I moved back home to Florida in 2004, and was completely unsure about what I wanted to do with my life. I remember reading Tim’s emails and getting a sense of direction. His firm belief that the Democratic Party could in fact be saved and used to serve the people is what inspired me. I remember using the capwiz petitions to send letters to my elected officials disapproving of their continued military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember using their DataBank server grids to know which congressperson voted for the war. I think Tim Carpenter was instrumental in teaching me that the internet can be used as a watchdog against elected officials serving the interests of the ruling elite. In The Nation’s respectful obituary to him, he is described as never being “a member of the Democratic Party establishment. He was a thorn in its side, declaring, ‘I’m not satisfied with the party as it is. I want the party as it should be.” He helped radicalize me into believing that revolution can only come about by being involved inside and outside the electoral process. Tim Carpenter taught me how to be involved inside the electoral process. I remember attending the 2009 Progressive Democrats of America National Conference at the University of the District of Columbia, where I met Barbara Lee for the first time. So much was happening in my head and my mind: it was around that time also that I knew what it felt like to be in love with someone. I was very supportive of the goals of the Progressive Democrats of America. I led chapter meetings at Temple University for years up to the important healthcare debate in 2009 when PDA fought to include the public option as part of the national debates. I had so many “Healthcare Not Warfare” bumper stickers. When I think about Tim Carpenter, I think about his belief in the electoral process, despite it being so easily corrupted by moneyed interests. I think about how vehemently he fought against the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that granted Fourteenth Amendment rights to corporations. I was most humbled by how much Tim respected my work when he and David Swanson showed up to Temple University to have a discussion about David Swanson’s book Daybreak. I remember feeling so completely validated by Tim Carpenter when I was so disappointed that more people did not show up to David Swanson’s Daybreak book talk in Anderson Hall of Temple University on November 4th, 2009. I remember former Philadelphia Mayor John Street showing up to this book talk. Tim reassured me that the event was a success even though I thought it was a failure. That was so validating. I will never forget that. I will also not forget him giving me a copy of Jeff Cohen’s book "Cable News Confidential" when I went to DC on a canvassing trip for PDA. I appreciate his supportive role in my time as a chapter member of the Progressive Democrats of America. I have connected with so many life changing events and people as a result of his leadership of PDA. The work of Tim Carpenter has created a base that helped elect Donna Edwards. I see how the Democratic Party machine assigns those popularly known as “progressive” to the most mundane, soul-destroying fundraising tasks of the party, to remind them and every educated observer that the Democratic Party is ultimately under the thumb of the almighty private capital. This is what Obama’s 2009 bailout proved to us, and Obama’s making the Bush tax cuts permanent for the top 2% of income earners. Tim Carpenter taught me, like Manning Marable wrote in his biography of Malcolm X, the importance of being educated about the electoral process. Even though I learned the value of the electoral process, the administration of Barack Obama has showed me the ultimate futility of depending on it, and the Democratic Party for any real change. These institutions are fundamentally interested in window dressing. We need more people like Tim Carpenter to hold the Democratic Party accountable. It amazes me how deeply he truly believed in the function of our electoral process. Tim worked on conceivably every issue, from healthcare to the environment, to make the Democratic Party better. He forced me to learn how to critique the Democratic Party in a way that will expose its loyalty to private capital. I will always hold him dearly in my heart. His work is why the Democratic Party is remotely close to addressing the issues of working people. May he rest in power. –RF.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My trip to Cuba with CODEPINK

(photo of me and Medea Benjamin by Shahid Buttar) I had a powerful experience in my travel to Cuba this past week, as part of the CODEPINK delegation, “to Cuba, With Love.” The theme of this whole visit was to show Cuba more love than its been getting from our country. The delegation made clear that they hope this trip would accomplish three goals: one to take Cuba off of the list of nations that the U.S. has defined as “terrorist” nations. Two, to lift the fifty plus year old trade embargo that former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower imposed since 1959 because of their sovereign socialist revolution, led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, that ended the dictatorship of U.S. puppet Fulgencio Batista. Three, to close Guantanamo Bay prison which the U.S. military has used for over one hundred years to torture extradited individuals from mainly Arab countries that have been held there without charge. Guantanamo Bay prison is one of the last remaining bastions and symbols of the increasing police state that the United States is becoming. On our first night we met with Kenya Serrano of the Cuban Institute of Friendship With the People. She said that the closing of Guantanamo will be a historic justice. She also talked about the character of the Cuban parliament since their revolution: 45% of those in the Cuban Parliament are women. Medea Benjamin said that in the U.S. not even 20% of the U.S. Congress are women, and that we have a lot of work to do to get Cuba off of the terrorist list. Medea asked the President of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, what challenges between U.S.-Cuba relations exist from the Cuban perspective. Alarcon said that the U.S. government still has the same goals despite their announcement of wanting to establish diplomatic relations, but that they have other means of accomplishing their goals. This statement was an allusion to the efforts of think tanks like the National Endowment For Democracy that are currently spending millions of dollars to topple the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Obama’s federal budget that he drafted this month has more money than ever for the U.S. military while no more money was allocated to public schools. Alarcon said that we have to take on the challenge implicit in the decision to establish diplomatic relations. That we have to work at those decisions as civilized as possible. He said that Obama made an important decision to recognize the failure of the embargo. He said he decided to use his executive authority, like Eisenhower used his, to make the embargo more flexible. He said that more can be done, not just to reopen an embassy, and send an ambassador, which requires consent and advice of the Senate. It is also important to eliminate the economic embargo and the travel ban. Alarcon noted that “it is clear that a majority of Americans do not want a confrontation with Cuba.” Then he defined what Cuban values in the twenty first century are. He said that Cubans believe in the majority to have healthcare and education. Why should any state determine healthcare and education in any other country? He asks. He says that in the Cuban constitution, healthcare is a human right, and that the U.S. continues to support countries that do not recognize the right of women. Without naming such countries, Alarcon is referring here to Saudi Arabia which as a theocracy boasts some of the most oppressive sexist laws, such as those laws that forbid women from driving and from serving in the government. When the question and answer time came up, Kenya Serrano answered my question about whether the Cuban government recognizes same sex marriages. She said that the country does not yet recognize same sex marriages. In Cuba she said that such an idea is respected at an individual level, but not tolerated. In the United States, however, same sex marriage is welcomed in an increasing number of states. I spoke with several Cuban citizens about how public display of affection is not tolerated. I also spoke with several U.S. citizens about how LGBT rights is about much more than same sex marriage. It also includes a right to education and employment which in most cases makes the right to marriage moot. I think that the right to marriage for many of us have to take a back seat to the rights to employment and healthcare that the nation routinely denies to not only people of color but also LGBTQ individuals of color. I was very impressed with the fact that Cuba, unlike the United States, has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world (4.43 deaths per 1000 births). Alarcon said powerfully at the end of this talk that Cuban is not for sale, and that the notion of a country being for sale is a neoliberal policy. Cuba will welcome foreign investors, but on Cuba’s terms and not on the terms of the foreign investor. This reminds me of how democratic socialism operated in Jamaica, compared to the revolution that was pursued in Cuba. Kenya said that the internet is mainly for social use and that it is expensive for the Cuban government to get internet from Canada. This makes the internet on some level cost prohibitive to the majority of Cubans. However it has paid a lot from the Canadian government to secure internet use for its citizens. Serrano said that the Cuban government is committed to the protection of political prisoners like Assata Shakur. Alarcon added that Assata Shakur is a victim of racist U.S. policy and under a very serious threat by the U.S. government. I am grateful that leaders in the West recognize the sheer racism of the U.S. government towards Assata Shakur. After teaching the autobiography of Assata Shakur called Assata to two of my English classes, I completely opposed the idea of Eric Holder and Barack Obama sanctioning her being on the U.S. Most Wanted Terrorist List as of May 2, 2013, forty years after she was shot in the arm by a New Jersey State Trooper and wrongfully accused of shooting a state trooper. I am disappointed in my country for persecuting a woman, not for a crime she actually committed, but for her political beliefs. This goes against everything the United States claims to stand for. Alarcon said that the United States effort to improve diplomatic relations with Cuba may put Assata in a more dangerous situation. This is especially true after watching the leaders of South American nations in Oliver Stone’s film South of the Border who suggest a very real threat of assassination in the wake of “more diplomatic” relations. Alarcon vowed to help defend Assata Shakur from any increased threat to her life that this “improved” diplomacy might bring. I was able to give letters of support to Assata Shakur to U.S. citizens who strongly disagree with her being placed on the terrorist list. (Above is a photo of myself and Kenya Serrano of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People) Later that evening on Monday, February 9th, I visited the home of an LGBTQ rights activist in Havana and learned a perspective of Cuban life from an LGBTQ perspective that was more critical of the Cuban government. I was told about how the Cuban police use the charge of prostitution to silence, intimidate and jail Black Cubans. But I was also later told about how prostitution is in fact a serious issue that the Cuban government is seriously trying to curb. I was with a friend who said she observed the Cuban police arrest a young Black man for no apparent reason. The activists during this visit educated me immensely. One told me about an article in the Granma newspaper that featured an interview with Fidel Castro being asked about LGBTQ rights since the revolution. The activist said that when Castro was challenged about the persecution that LGBTQ activists face after the Cuban revolution, he admitted that the abuse of the LGBTQ community was not acceptable. But he also gave what these activists thought was a sorry excuse for an apology. The activists at this meeting agreed that while the Columbian police actually protect protestors, Cuban police do not. The police was seen as a tool of repression against the working poor, like its seen in the United States. They described CENESEX as a paradise that in reality does not exist. Activists explained to me that Cuba is still a homophobic country because of patriarchy and because of the machismo that was inherited since the Cuban revolution, seen in the images of Che, Fidel Castro, and Camilo Cienfuegos. While I read in Leslie Feinberg’s book “Rainbow Solidarity in Defense of Cuba” that individuals who want transgender operations can have then paid for by the Cuban government, I learned from these activists that there are actually very few who can have these operations at CENESEX. Those seeking these operations have to go through a lot of red tape that ultimately denies access people who are not very close in some way to people in CENESEX. In order to get through this red tape, applicants for this transgender operation in Cuba have to be in line with the Cuban Communist Party, and be part of the system and Afro Cubans are generally excluded from that process. Meanwhile later this evening, a second, different group met at the home of an older psychologist who works for CENESEX. I learned from this psychologist that the country has come a long way in approving transgender operations. On the day we visited the activist group, we learned that the police passed a law saying that LGBTQ individuals passed a law saying that LGBTQ individuals cannot assemble in certain places like Malecon, which was within feet of the Hotel that I was staying at. In the home of a CENESEX employee, I read and learned about their human sexuality primer, called in English “puberty” that described the possibility of a same sex relationship between two men and two women. There were some questions in this second group about whether this book in fact discussed the possibility of same sex relationships and before our second meeting was over, we in fact discovered that yes, this Puberty text which is available to all public schools in Cuba does in fact teach the possibility of same sex relationships. That alone puts it light years ahead of the Jamaican government which in its brazen ignorance is obviously hostile to the idea of teaching its youth about the possibility of same sex relationships. (This photo is a page of the Puberty text issued by CENESEX in Cuban primary schools) On Tuesday I visited two schools: first, the San Alejandro School of the Arts and the second was an Elementary school. The day we visited the Arts School, the students were taking an entrance exam however we were able to visit some of the art galleries featuring the memorable work of some students. One of the pieces featured was by Marian Rodriguez who showed me the stone on which she sketched. My limited knowledge of visual art prevents me from sharing the type of art that this is. I also appreciated visiting the Elementary School and to hear a poem about Jose Marti by an eight year old young man. I was struck by the fact that each school has an administrator that is a member of the Cuban Communist Party and makes some effort to enforce some standard of learning throughout the country. This made me think of the U.S. public schools and how a quality education depends on the income of the parents and not the level of commitment of the child. It seemed that a majority of the Cuban citizens had a deep awareness of their history and the importance of their revolution. The day we visited these schools we went to one of the many cooperatively owned businesses in Havana, El Jardin De Los Milagros. The government provides a tax cut from 29 to 13% to cooperatively owned businesses like these in order to encourage them. The food was remarkable. I have absolutely no complaints about the food in Cuba. If anything for me, it could have been a bit more spicy. The owner of this restaurant was a part of an Agricultural cooperative with thirteen other co-owners. What if small businessowners in the U.S. would form a cooperative and receive tax incentives? I think I had an important conversation at this restaurant about the way that the Cuban government’s role for the Cuban people is a like a father protecting a child from the potentially dangerous (as it was called on this trip) “tsunami” of imperialism. There were some serious critiques of the Cuban government that I heard, however in most cases, I either agreed or sympathized with the decisions the government took to defend itself. I think free market capitalism in theory might work, but in the United States, its coupling with mass incarceration and crippling austerity policies makes it extremely harmful and I think ultimately dangerous for countries like Cuba. In most cases what others call the repression of the Cuban government I would call a protective measure against the danger of Yankee imperialism. Later this afternoon we visited the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medica. We learned that this school has graduated 24,000 students from 88 countries including the United States. The students go through a six year program. The first three years are at a central location and the rest at other schools across the country. The first two years they are trained in Cuba and during the third year, they leave to work in a hospital in Cuba. At the end of their fourth year, they have to perform an exam. PANORAMA is the journal of the school. These doctors are trained to treat transmittable diseases like Measles. They have MRI machines, nuclear medicine, CTC scanners. We were given a tour of the school from its secretary. I had an important conversation with two medical school students about their time here. This routine reminds me of the role that American universities played for African intellectuals in improving the plight of their home countries. I am thinking specifically of Robert A. Hill’s article in the book Marcus Garvey And the Vision of Africa edited by Amy Jacques Garvey and John Henrik Clarke. He talks about the role that colonial education for intellectuals like Marcus Garvey, (and Hubert Harrison, Kwame Nkrumah for that matter) can play in advancing the anticolonial struggle. These two men took the colonial education they learned and applied it to improving the plight of their home countries. Unfortunately because of the West’s military superpower, anticolonial struggle has so far resulted in neocolonial leadership that still serves the interest of the West. It is clear that the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medica was interested in training doctors to serve their country, not to serve neocolonial, private capital interests. I had very interesting discussions with two medical school students about the helpful roles that Cuban doctors played in the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. (this is a photo with a medical student at Escuela Latinoamericana de Medica) There was some discussion in our casual conversations about two drugs made in Cuba that could help U.S. citizens if they were imported. One was a cancer vaccine and another was a diabetes medication. CODEPINK members on this trip were able to talk with a representative from the U.S. State Department in Cuba about whether these helpful drugs provided by Cuban medicine could be imported to the United States. The representative said no: only privately owned goods could be imported into the United States. When asked for his rationale for this restriction, the Representative, of what is called the U.S. intersection (an intermediate stage of a developing U.S. embassy) replied that the United States’ whole goal is to have the Cuban people wake up in the morning and not need anything from their government. Their policy which is to promote the private sector can be seen here. Jodie Evans of CODEPINK said that this kind of policy by the U.S. essentially creates INEQUALITY, which is exactly why Fidel Castro and Che Guevara led the socialist revolution that toppled the U.S.-appointed leader Fulgencio Batista in 1959 in the first place. This policy of not wanting the Cuban people to wake up in the morning and not need anything from their government is the red flag that Ricardo Alarcon warned us about in his Monday, February 9th talk to our delegation. My goal as part of CODEPINK is to call attention to, and to end the inequality and the brutal imperialism that the socialist revolution fought against. Haber Biotech is a Cuban state-run pharmaceutical company that will not be allowed to import drugs treating diabetes or cancer in the United States. The U.S. government enables and encourages this profiteering behavior by U.S. pharmaceutical companies that care more about profits than about people. It will take work to prevent the inequality that U.S. government “diplomacy” will create. I had conversations with other delegates about the different ways that the Cuban government can tax goods that they sell at a high rate and redistribute that revenue in order to continue the founding principles of the socialist revolution, which are detailed clearly in the book A Cuban Revolution Reader edited by Julio Garcia Luis. On the fourth day of the trip, I took a tour of Casablanca where I saw a monument of Jesus Christ done by Gilma Madera. This was the most powerful day of the trip, because I attended a talk about the work of filmmaker Gloria Rolando, who directed and produced the film Eyes of the Rainbow about Assata Shakur. (this is a photo with Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando) At this talk, we saw two at least two other films she produced, that she later discussed. One was Las Raíces De Mi Corazon (The Roots of My Heart) about Sara Gomez, a fearless Afro-Cuban journalist who fought the demands of Western industry to study and present stories about Afro-Cubans. The other was Los Hijos de Baragua about the migration of a family from Jamaica to Cuba. We saw another film on the 1912 massacre of Cuba’s Partido Independiente de Color (PIDC). I asked her before we saw this film if she interviewed Aline Helg about her book Our Rightful Share, and Gloria told me that she did. I was absolutely mesmerized and inspired by the art of Gloria Rolando. Her film on Gomez reminded me of my dissertation, which focused on radical journalists like Pauline Hopkins who sought to study and uncover for her readers the radical histories of Toussaint L’Ouverture and John Brown. We also discussed her very new film called My Grandmother which is dealing with her grandmother’s relationship with the Catholic order of nuns in Maryland. Very interesting. Rolando said that the Cuban revolution tried their best in many ways to abolish colonial oppression but the past of slavery is real. Another film by Rolando focused on the appeal of U.S. jazz and its icons like Cab Calloway to Afro-Cubans. On the next day, we heard the director of CENESEX, which is Cuba’s Center For Sex Education (Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual) who is Mariela Castro Espín. She said that a society of socialism is a society that lifts everyone, and that even though the Cuban revolution bought many important changes, “there is still generalized homophobia in society.” She acknowledged that sometimes the police mistreat citizens. I remember specifically meeting a young Afro-Cuban gay man who said that he knows he will be less harassed by the police compared to others because he has a Swedish passport. Like Serrano, she said that same sex weddings are not legal in Cuba, but that their process of socialist transformation in Cuba is not yet completed. I was personally impressed with the way that sexual education in Cuba teaches the imperialistic history to its citizens in a way to avoid it. It also teaches the history of gender roles. I am fondly reminded by Sarah Schulman’s book Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, that discusses the phenomenon of homonationalism (a term Schulman borrows from Jasbir Puar), which is using gay or queer identity to advance colonialism. Homonationalism is barely checked or critiqued in the United States much less challenged. I think Cuba guards itself from this mindless homonationalism by teaching the very important imperialistic nature of homophobia. In a formerly Spanish Catholic society I think homophobia will be very hard to eradicate, but even though the nation does not recognize same sex marriages, they have much more to teach the United States about how to meet the basic healthcare and educational needs of its citizens. Castro Espín said that our sexual parts should be instruments not of power but of emancipation. This reminded me of the film Goodbye Uncle Tom produced by two Italian filmmakers, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, who in a deranged way were able to force their audience to, contrary what Castro Espín says here, enjoy seeing men use their organs to rape or to use their sexual parts for instruments of power. It is a very disturbing experience but a very necessary one to understand the psychology of a rapist who thrives on imperialism. She said that women knew about their G-spot long before the German psychologist Ernst Grafenburg started writing about it. She said that all humans come from Africa, and the stereotypes used to essentially justify rape of oppressed women like Sarah Baartmen are wrong. Lymphomania and Homosexuality were wrongfully classified as pathologies. What matters more than a man’s penis is his mind and his spirituality. Teaching about contraception only is insufficient sex education, Castro Castro Espín. If we want to create a new society, she said we cannot use the historic ways of understanding sex. Castro Espín said that there a lot of individuals in the Cuban parliament that are sabotaging same sex marriage, even though the political will is there. She said that CENESEX so far has been able to complete 26 (twenty six) transgender operations. On Thursday, I visited the University of Havana, and got the contact information of some very important professors. I saw the spot where journalist Gil Noble was able to interview Assata Shakur and I took a photo of it. I was also looking for their library. I learned from filmmaker and very inspirational tour guide Catherine Murphy that the journal Afro-Hispanic Review published by Vanderbilt University is an important scholarly journal that reports historic trends in the Afro-Hispanic world. A final powerful message of this trip was a sit-down with a powerful political refugee from the United States, Ms. Nehanda Abiodun. She sat down with us and explained how she became a political prisoner. Her mother was a Baptist integrationist and her father a revolutionary nationalist. She met Malcolm X when she was eight years old. She attended Columbia University and started working at a methodone clinic. She said she later learned that methodone was more addictive than heroin. She worked at the Lincoln-Detox Acupuncture Center that Mutulu Shakur founded. She said that she had to leave the methodone clinic she was working at when one of her clients was struggling with illicit drug addiction. She was told by her superiors that if she did not raise her client methodone dosage, she would be fired. She refused, and was fired. She later said that former New York mayor Ed Koch closed the addiction clinic because he said it was “a breeding ground” for terrorists. She worked for a network of anti-drug defense centers set up in part by H. Rap Brown that was dedicated to weaning individuals off of drugs, and to providing political education. Eventually, because of her political beliefs and affiliations, she, like Mutulu Shakur, became targets of the COINTELPRO operation. By 1980, she was #3 on the Most Wanted Terrorist List. The government claimed she had stolen $4.8 million over several years. When I asked her what she had in common with Assata Shakur, she said that they are both committed to the freedom of their people, that they are extremely comfortable in Cuba, and that they will do what they can to help their people. When I asked her what the U.S. can learn from Cuba, she said that the U.S. can learn from Cuba how to be more humane. They know how to divide one egg among one million people instead of dividing over half of it to less than 0.1% of the people, like the U.S. has done with wealth. She said the Cubans have maintained a certain dignity and have not reneged on their principles of humanity. She said that we should all write Mutulu Shakur and thank him for trying to curb the deliberate effects of the U.S. government in making heroin addicts out of Black people, as Gary Webb wrote about in his book Dark Alliance. She said when Sekou Odinga was murdered tortured by U.S. authorities, he refused to speak and still could not be broken because he believed in his principles. Principles, Nehanda said, will maintain a relationship even in hard times. She said that the Cuban government saved her. They have also promised not to return any political prisoners. They forced her to sit down and to recuperate after the persecution by the U.S. government. This reminded me of Assata Shakur drawing similarities between herself and runaway slaves, on whom local sheriffs and patrollers put a bounty, like the outstanding $2 million the federal government promises to anyone who is able to capture her. Nehanda said that the reason Mumia is off of death row is because of the power of the people. She made very clear that her and Assata’s work with the Black Liberation Army did not start in the 1960s, or even the twentieth century for that matter. She said that the work of the Black Liberation Army started with the first Africans on the African continent who resisted. Nehanda’s words reminded me of the reality of Assata Shakur’s statement that Black revolutionaries do not drop from the moon. They are created by their social conditions. The United States ruling class and government that they operate through helped create political refugee revolutionary because they create a social conditions that creates drug addicts for the purpose of creating individual private wealth. That closes public schools and creates private prisons for the purpose of enriching individual private wealth. Her message was clear. This was an absolutely amazing trip. Special thanks to several individuals who made my trip to Cuba possible: my grandmother Maudlin, my father Anserd, my sister Marilyn Greene and her husband Dr. Quincy Greene, Dr. Elaine Terry, Dr. Heather Thompson, Dr. Lena Ampadu, Larry Robin, Amy Kietzman, Mr. & Mrs. Carlton & Arlene Brown, Andre Brown, Patrick Reid, Revan Sheriffe, Dana Shepherd, Evan Todd Green, and especially Ahmier Gibson. -RF.