I had the honor of hearing Honorable Fidel Castro speak live twice in Cuba over 15 years ago and can say he will truly be missed. In honor of the death of this great revolutionary fighter on November 26, 2016, I am republishing my written appeal to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church as written in my 2002 book, “An Appeal to the African Church in America: Beware of False Profit$” pages 115 to 117. Rest in Peace Fidel and thank you for being a great friend to Mother Africa and oppressed people everywhere.
Oppose the United States Economic and Political Blockade and Embargo against Cuba!
The Church should forge a unified attack against the illegal and immoral economic and political blockade against Cuba and maintain a strong alliance with one of the greatest allies Africans have ever had.
First, Cuba has shown nothing but love and support for people of African descent on the continent and in the Diaspora. One of the first countries off the continent of Africa to come to the support of many of the liberation movements in Azania (South Africa), Namibia, Angola and Mozambique, was Cuba. Despite the long-lasting economic and trade embargo against Cuba initiated by the United States, Cuba still was able to come to the aid of our people in a time of need and support by supplying medical needs in the form of doctors, and military support in the form of soldiers. In fact, Nelson Mandela has said that outside of the continent of Africa, no other country has done more to help free South Africa from Apartheid than Cuba. It is all too clear that the United States not only supported the vicious and corrupt Apartheid regime, but also supplied the weapons used against our people. In a speech delivered by Mandela in July 1991, he states,
It was in prison when I first heard of the massive assistance that the Cuban internationalists forces provided the people of Angola, on such a scale that one hesitated to believe, when the Angola's came under combined attack of South African, CIA-finance FMLA, mercenary, UNITA, and Zairian troops in 1975. We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert are sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defense of one of us. We know also that this was a popular action in Cuba. We are aware that those who fought and died in Angola were only a small proportion of those who volunteer. For the Cuban people internationalism is not merely a word but something that we have seen practiced to the benefit of large sections of humanity. We know that the Cuban forces were willing to withdraw shortly after repelling the 1975 invasion, but the continued aggression from Pretoria made this impossible. Your presence and the reinforcement of your forces in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale was a truly historical significance.
Cuba has always been a friend to Africans in America, recognizing that we both have a similar history and struggle. Like the United States, Cuba's history is tarnished by the evil system of Chattel-Slavery, as they were controlled by Spain. This is why approximately 60 percent of the Cuban population are Africans, transported there by Spanish colonialists as cheap and exploited labor. The United States' embargo is not only an attack on Cuba because of its anti-Capitalist system, but also represents an attempt by the United States to disconnect Africans in America from Africans in Cuba. Africans in Cuba receive more liberties than Africans in the United States or any other place outside of the continent of Africa. In Cuba, health care, housing, food and education are all free. In fact, Cuba has also offered 500 medical scholarships to students of African and Native American descent living inside the US to study in a six-year program in Cuba.*
It is no surprise that Cuba was a supporter of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in the 1950s and '60s, and provided asylum to Assata Shakur, who was wrongfully accused of murder by the New Jersey police.
Another reason we should oppose this embargo is because it is another attempt by the United States to restrict our freedom to travel. The freedom to travel has always been linked to our quest for freedom and dignity, for it was our inability to leave the United States and return to our mother land that is at the heart of our struggle to be free. Additionally, one of the common denominators of those who spoke out against the economic and political system of Capitalism led by the United States is that they, too, were denied the opportunity to travel to countries that considered us allies. Paul Robeson, W. E. B. Dubois, Malcolm X., Kwame Toure, plus thousands of others were denied the opportunity to travel due to their dedication toward eradicating the different forms of oppression faced by the majority of people on earth.
Finally, the African church in America must speak out against the illegal embargo against Cuba not just because of Cuba's support of Africa or the many social strides she has made in the midst of such hardships, but because it is simply the right thing to do. The church has the historical responsibility to speak out against all forms of oppression. Not doing so is the same as the church supporting that oppression, which goes against the very principles the church claims to represent. The question becomes whether the church takes its direction from the God that it serves or from the United States, who believes it is God? The church should organize a delegation of clergy and members to travel to Cuba and see for themselves the great things that the mighty people of Cuba has been able to accomplish in such a short time and under great attack. HANDS OFF CUBA!
* Nelson Mandela & Fidel Castro, How Far We Slaves Have Come!, (New York, NY: Panthfinder Press, 1991), pp. 19-20.