NNOC Report of “Cuba Speaks for Itself” Event

Oct 2, 2018 by

Immensely Successful Cuban Solidarity Event in New York City for the President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, and the Cuban delegation to the United Nations

President Nicolas Maduro, of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela joined President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez of the Republic of Cuba at “Cuba Speaks for Itself” at Riverside Church in Harlem.

The “Cuba Speaks for Itself” Welcome hosted by the September 26 Welcome Committee, was made up of many groups including: Black Panthers Commemoration Committee; Campaign to Bring Mumia Home; Casa de Las Americas; Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism;  Communist Workers League; Cuba in Focus; Cuba Si Coalition; Cuba Solidarity New Jersey; December 12 Movement; Fuerza de la Revolucion; IFCO/Pastors for Peace; Informacion al Desnudo; International Action Center; July 26th Coalition; Malcolm X Commemorative Committee; Ministerio de Soliaridad con los Pueblos; Iglesia Santa Cruz; Holy Road; National Alumni Association of the Black Panthers Party; National Jericho Movement; National Network on Cuba; New York City Cuba Solidarity Project; New York Cuba Solidarity; Pathfinder Press; People’s Organization for Progress; Pro Libertad Freedom Campaign; Sisters Place; Socialist Workers Party; Universal Zulu Nation, Department of Community Affairs; Venceremos Brigade; Workers World Party.

On Wednesday September 26, the Riverside Church which opened its doors in 1930 and has a seating capacity of 2,100 exceeded this capacity and about 200-250 people were unable to attend.

In the build up to this program, ICAP’s Sandra Ramirez Rodriquez and IFCO’s Gail Walker championed the on-the-ground work, with a lot of love and support from the members of the September 26 Welcoming Committee and other Cuba solidarity workers.

Only minor problems and issues surfaced; for example issues of coordination, which emerged between the US Secret Service on one hand and the September 26 Welcome Committee and the Cuban Consulate on the other. But at the end of the day, the Committee learned from the Cubans that “we make it work with what we have.”

For the president of Cuba, it was a week of long hard work, involving speeches at the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Nelson Mandela Peace Symposium, meeting with US businessmen at Google’s NY headquarters including the leadership of Google, Twitter, Microsoft, VaynerMedia, Connectity, Mapbox, Virgin Group, Airbnb, Revolution, Udacity and Bloomberg. There was discussion by President Díaz-Canel about Cuba’s access to the internet through mobile phones and developing the culture of start-ups on the island according to the Miamiherald.com. Díaz-Canel told the US executives that “computerizing society” in Cuba was one of his government’s key priorities.

President Díaz-Canel also met with US members of Congress including Democratic Representatives Gregory Meek of New York, Robin Kelly of Illinois, Karen Bass of California, Kathy Castor of Florida, Ron Wyden of Oregon and others. He also met with US agricultural and religious leaders and the Cuban American community. At the United Nations he had meetings with other heads of state.

Throughout his visit he expressed a passionate desire for the US to respect South and Central America and the Caribbean as a Zone of peace as declared by CELAC (Jan 2014 – The Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) gathered in Havana, Cuba, made this declaration).

It must also be noted that an illustration of the growing strength of the US-Cuba solidarity movement is the simultaneous and successful achievement of two major national events taking place on the East coast. In the DC area the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) hosted a week long “Days of Action Against the Blockade”. And in Harlem, New York, the “Cuba Speaks for Itself Welcome Rally” at Riverside Church. Both successful events demonstrated the new developing strength of the solidarity movement and that the final days of the blockade are approaching.

The Cuba Speaks for Itself rally was moderated by Gail Walker and Frank Velgara. It opened with the traditional drumming and pouring of libation done by the “Healing Drum Collective”, and was followed by the playing of the Cuban National Anthem.

Words of welcome from the Committee were read by Gail Walker, and acknowledgement of the special guests continued the program. Some of those guests included: Leslie Cagan, former co-chair of the Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and one of the original founders of the NNOC; Congressman Charles Rangel, Former US House of Representative for New York 13th District; Rosemari Mealy, J.D., Ph.D., Professor City College of New York, author “Fidel and Malcolm X; Memories of a Meeting”; Rev. Luis Barrios, Pastors for Peace; Sally O’Brian, Host of WBAI “Where We Live” and longtime Cuban solidarity worker; Gloria La Riva, Party for Socialism and Liberation’s  2016 presidential candidate; Malcolm Sacks, coordinator of the Venceremos Brigade; and others.

Reverend Michael Livingston, Senior Executive Minister of Riverside Church gave the words of welcome from the church. He cited the historic role that the church had played in enlightening the community, including hosting President Fidel Castro Ruz in 2000. (In 1995 Fidel spoke at the Abyssinian Church of Rev. Butts, in Harlem) Reverend Livingston was followed by the Riverside Church Praise Team who appropriately sang, “We are the solders, we will fight, and we will win, Hallelujah”.

The ELAM (Latin American School of Medicine) scholarship was explained by Gail Walker, Executive Director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, which administers the scholarship. Gail noted that ELAM has graduated 179 students from the United States. She then introduced two ELAM graduates, Dr. Joaquin Morante, class of 2012 and Dr. Sitembile Sales, class of 2010. Both spoke in concrete terms of ELAM’s role in their life and development, and the significance of 179 US graduates. Dr. Morante said that since 2005, ELAM has graduated 28,500 students from 103 countries. The effect inside the US can be seen in the work of US ELAM graduates who are working to improve birthing outcome for at risk mothers, expanding healthcare for the homeless, and developing and improving primary services to transgender or gender non-conforming communities.

Before the doctors spoke, President Nicolas Maduro of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela entered the church, to a standing ovation. Frank Velgara introduced President Maduro after the ELAM doctors spoke. Maduro greeted the audience on behalf of the noble and revolutionary Venezuelan people. He said he came to this program for two reasons: 1. To “speak the truth of Venezuela and to expose it to the US people” and 2. “To come to this important cathedral in Harlem to bring my love and solidarity to all of you.” He then praised President Díaz-Canel and the Cuban people noting that: “We have been a victim of the anonymous imperialist aggression, however today on Sept. 26, 2018, I can tell you that the Bolivarian revolution is standing, alive and victorious.” Telesurtv.net added that “The U.S. doesn’t care about democracy. If it did, it wouldn’t threaten democratic countries with military intervention,” the Bolivarian president told the diverse crowd of listeners.

His presentation was followed by a selection from Cuban pianist Dayramir Gonzalez who shared a musical interlude.  Children then brought flowers and presented them to the President of Cuba.

Gail Walker offered an outstanding biographical introduction of President Miguel Díaz-Canel who spoke next.

Taking the Harlem stage in Riverside Church, President Díaz-Canel said: “Cuba is not a large or powerful country, not rich in resources, but it is rich in solidarity to its people”.

“Fidel Castro showed us that cooperating with other exploited counties was always a political principle and a duty of revolutionaries and humanity.”

“This is the commitment of those who have suffered and still continue to suffer injustice and exclusion as a result of colonialism, neo-liberalism, imperialism, and racism.”

“To honor that date, in memory of the founding fathers of our homeland … I come here to ratify the solidarity and unwavering commitment to justice and to achieve a better world which is, indeed, possible,” the Cuban president said, wishing long life for the Bolivarian revolution, Cuban revolution, and the solidarity shared between the U.S. citizens and Cuban people”.

Special thanks to videographer Jamila Allston and photographer Dennis Rodriquez Roman of the Pan-African Cultural Communications, who donated their services to the NNOC and whose images can be seen on the NNOC facebook page: www.facebook.com/CubaNetwork.


Submitted by Banbose Shango

NNOC co-chair


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