Two hundred people packed the People’s Forum in midtown Manhattan on Feb. 8 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.
Co-chairs Ike Nahem of the New York/New Jersey Cuba Sí Coalition and Manolo De Los Santos, executive director of the People’s Forum, welcomed the audience.
Santos pointed out that Cuba has defended Venezuela in the United Nations Security Council. “Dreaming of a better planet will only be possible under socialism,” he added.
Nahem welcomed the 50-person strong delegation from the Cuban Mission to the U.N. He noted that the “dusted-off war criminal Elliot Abrams” was one of the plotters against Venezuela.
People were encouraged to visit Cuba. Three groups will be going in the next few months: the May Day International Brigade; the 50th anniversary Venceremos Brigade that’s hoping to bring 300 people to Cuba; and the 30th Friendshipment Caravan of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO).
Gail Walker, IFCO’s executive director, described going to socialist Cuba as a “life-changing experience.” Walker has spent decades defending the Caribbean country. Her father, the late Rev. Lucius Walker, the founder of IFCO, was shot and wounded in Nicaragua by U.S.-financed contra terrorists.
Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of the New York State Nurses Association, also spoke up for Cuba. “Nothing like going to a country that spends one percent of what the U.S. does on health care but gives high quality care to all” was how she described the socialist country. Cuba has lower infant and maternal mortality rates than the U.S.
The union president told how she had testified at the U.N. about the colonial situation in Puerto Rico. Sheridan-Gonzalez also alerted the audience to a possible strike of 15,000 nurses.
Cuba’s ambassador speaks
People also came to say goodbye to Cuba’s ambassador to the U.N., Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo. She will now become Cuba’s deputy foreign minister.
Gail Walker introduced the ambassador. She denounced the U.S. government’s slander about Cubans lacking human rights. “We salute them [the Cuban people] for their acts of solidarity in defense of Venezuela,” said Walker.
Rodríguez Camejo thanked people for supporting Cuba against the blockade by being “in the streets” last October.
She paid tribute to Brooklyn-born Harry Reeve, who fought and died in Cuba’s first war of independence; the tobacco workers in Tampa, Fla., who supported the struggles in Cuba; and those who came out to Harlem’s Hotel Theresa in 1960 to welcome Fidel Castro.
The ambassador praised IFCO’s Pastors for Peace caravans in their “fight against the criminal blockade.” At one point the audience chanted “¡Fidel presente!”
Rodríguez Camejo gave support for her “sister country of Puerto Rico” and demanded an “independent state of Palestine.”
“We will not give in to the enemy,” declared the ambassador, who stressed that Cuba’s new constitution will confirm the country’s socialist character. She saluted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; Malcolm X, who met with Fidel Castro at the Hotel Theresa; the Rev. Lucius Walker; Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez; and the five Cuban heroes who spent years in Yankee jails for fighting terrorism.
Rodríguez Camejo ended her talk by declaring “Long live the revolution in Venezuela!” and “¡Socialismo o Muerte!”
The ambassador was given a book describing Cuba’s role in defeating apartheid. Two thousand Cuban soldiers were killed while fighting alongside Angolan and Namibian soldiers against the army of then-apartheid South Africa.
No wonder Nelson Mandela went to Cuba and embraced his comrade Fidel Castro.
Fallen warrior honored
Many veteran activists attended the meeting. Among them were members of the Universal Zulu Nation, which provided security for the meeting and gave a very impressive martial arts demonstration on the stage.
A delegation from the December 12th Movement, including Amadi Ajamu, Omowale Clay and Roger Wareham were there to support Cuba. D12 had organized a demonstration to defend Venezuela earlier in the week in front of the U.S. Mission to the U.N.
Juanita Young, whose unarmed son Malcolm Ferguson was killed by a New York cop in 2000, was there. Young, who has a been leader in fighting killings by police, traveled to Cuba with a delegation of other parents whose children had been killed by the cops.
Chairing the last part of the meeting were Joan Gibbs of the Cuba Sí Coalition and Sharon Shoatz. Shoatz’s father, Russell Maroon Shoatz, has spent decades in prison on frame-up charges, including 22 straight years in solitary confinement.
It was announced with great sorrow that Black liberation fighter Nehanda Isoke Abiodun had died in Cuba. Abiodun had been a founder of the New Afrikan People’s Organization and was an organizer for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
Pursued by the FBI, the revolutionary fighter found refuge in Cuba, just like her comrade Assata Shakur. For its global role as a territory liberated from the claws of imperialism and as a revolutionary haven for freedom fighters, Cuba has to be defended.
Long live the Cuban Revolution!
Photos by Anne Pruden