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Celebrating 20 years of solidarity with the Cuban people
IFCO is pleased to announce the appointment of Ms. Gail Walker and Father Luis Barrios as Co-Executive Directors
versión en español sigue abajo
The Board of Directors of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) is pleased to announce the appointment of Ms. Gail Walker and Father Luis Barrios as Co-Executive Directors effective September 1, 2011. A welcoming reception is planned for October 28, 2011 in New York City – so make sure to save the date!
“After an extensive nationwide search, it is clear that the highest quality of leadership for IFCO was to be found within the organization’s ranks.” said Rev. Thomas E. Smith, Chairperson of the IFCO Board of Directors. We believe that Ms. Walker and Father Barrios bring a wide range of leadership, management and organizational experience to IFCO. We are confident that the new leadership will preserve and extend IFCO’s vision and mission.
Ms. Walker noted that “It is perhaps most appropriate that on the eve of the one year anniversary of the death of Rev. Lucius Walker, our founding Executive Director, that Luis and I take the helm at the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization and strive to continue and expand our work for social justice.
“IFCO is a dynamic organization that relies on the active support of individuals and institutions across the globe that are committed to building a better world.”We are counting on the ongoing support of our network of friends, and donors. We look forward to hearing your ideas on how to strengthen the work of IFCO as we move forward in this challenging political and economic climate.“
According to Ms. Walker and Father Barrios, projects such as the Scholarship Program for U.S. students at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana and the Friendshipment Caravans to Cuba will continue to be a priority. We are also looking at organizing humanitarian caravans to other regions of Latin America and the Caribbean. Fiscal sponsorship of grassroots organizations will expand to offer greater support of local, national and international organizing initiatives.
We are particularly interested in exploring how IFCO can expand its use of new media to address emerging social justice issues. We intend to increase our efforts to produce additional bilingual resources and materials
Father Barrios said “We are reaffirming our mission to practice our faith as a radical response to the multiple challenges we face today. It is an attitude of thinking, feeling, and acting against any process of oppression, exclusion, and exploitation. Because God did not create injustice.”
Ms. Walker, an award-winning radio producer, on-air host and journalist, holds an MA in Media Studies from the New School. With over 15 years of involvement with IFCO, including that of Communications Director in the 1990’s, she staffed more than 15 caravans of humanitarian aid to Cuba and Central America and worked extensively with marginalized communities including the Garifuna in Honduras and Nicaragua. Gail brings both a strong knowledge of the organization’s history and a deep understanding of community organizing and IFCO’s mission through her years as an activist and organizer.
Father Luis Barrios, Ph.D., is a professor of Psychology, Criminology, Latin American & Latina/o Studies and Ethnic Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of New York. He is a member of Ph.D. faculties in social/personality psychology at the Graduate Center-City University of New York. Fr. Barrios is also an Associate Priest at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in West Harlem, Manhattan and was an active member of IFCO-Pastors for Peace Board of Directors. He is a former prisoner of conscience from the School of the America Watch (SOAW) movement.
versión en español
La Junta Directiva de la Fundacion Interreligiosa para la Organización Comunitaria (IFCO) se place en anuciar el nombramiento de la Sra. Gail Walker y el Padre Luis Barrios como co-directores ejecutivos comenzando el 1 de septiembre de 2011. Una recepcion de bienvenida sera organizada para el 28 de octubre de 2011 en la ciudad de Nueva York.
“Despues de una extensa busqueda nacional, esta claro de que la mas alta calidad de liderazgo para IFCO estaba entre los mismos rangos de la organización.” dijo el Rev. Thomas E. Smith, presidente de la Junta Directiva de IFCO. Creemos que la Sra. Walker y el Padre Barrios traen una amplia gama de experiencia organizativa, de gestion y liderazgo a IFCO. Estamos confiados de que el nuevo liderazgo va a preservar y ampliar la vision y mision de IFCO.
La Sra. Walker señalo que “Tal vez fue lo mas apropiado de que ante el primer aniversario de la muerte de nuestro fundador el Rev. Lucius Walker, Luis y yo tomemos las riendas de la Fundacion Interreligiosa para la Organizcion Comunitaria luchando por continuar y expandir nuestro trabajo por la justicia social.
“IFCO es una organizacion dinamica que se basa en el apoyo activo de individuos e instituciones en todo el mundo que estan comprometidos con construir un mundo mejor. Contamos con el apoyo de nuestra red de amigos y donantes. Esperamos con interés escuchar sus ideas sobre la manera de fortalecer el trabajo de IFCO a medida que avanzamos en este desafiante clima político y económico."
Según la Sra. Walker y el P. Barrios, proyectos como el Programa de Becas para estudiantes de los EE.UU. en la Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina en La Habana y las Caravanas de la Amistad a Cuba seguirán siendo una prioridad. También estaremos viendo la organización de caravanas humanitarias a otras regiones de América Latina y el Caribe. El patrocinio fiscal de las organizaciones de base se ampliará para ofrecer un mayor apoyo a las iniciativas organizativas a nivel local, nacional e internacional.
Estamos especialmente interesados en explorar cómo IFCO puede ampliar su uso de nuevos medios para abordar los nuevos temas de justicia social. Tenemos la intención de aumentar nuestros esfuerzos para producir más recursos y materiales educativos bilingües.
El P. Barrios dijo: "Estamos reafirmando nuestra misión en la práctica de nuestra fe como una respuesta radical a los múltiples desafíos que enfrentamos hoy. Es una actitud de pensar, sentir y actuar en contra de cualquier proceso de opresión, exclusión y explotación porque Dios no creo la injusticia. "
La Sra. Walker, una productora de radio galardonada, locutora y periodista, tiene una Maestría en Estudios de Comunicación de la Escuela Nueva. Con más de 15 años trabajando con IFCO, incluyendo como Directora de Comunicaciones en la década de 1990, siendo parte del personal de más de 15 caravanas de ayuda humanitaria a Cuba y Centro América y ha trabajado extensamente con las comunidades marginadas como los garífunas en Honduras y Nicaragua. Gail aporta tanto un buen conocimiento de la historia de la organización, una profunda comprensión de la organización comunitaria y la misión de IFCO, a través de sus años como activista y organizadora.
El Padre Luis Barrios, Ph.D., es profesor de Psicología, Criminología, Estudios Latinoamericanos y Latinos / as y Estudios Étnicos de la Universidad John Jay de Justicia Criminal, Universidad de la Ciudad de Nueva York. Él es miembro de la facultad de doctorado en psicología social y de la personalidad en el Graduate Center-Universidad de la Ciudad de Nueva York. El Padre Barrios es también sacerdote de la Iglesia Episcopal de Santa María en West Harlem, Manhattan y fue un miembro activo de la Junta Directiva de IFCO-Pastores por la Paz. Él es un ex preso de conciencia del movimiento en contra de la Escuela de las Américas Watch (SOAW).
At 4:15 pm on August 1st 2011, the 22nd Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba successfully crossed back into the U.S., completing the “reverse challenge” border crossing. Although the Friendshipment is a year-round project, this border crossing wraps up this year's caravan. In the last month, the caravan traveled on 13 routes across the U.S. and Canada, where they stopped in 130 cities, collected 100 tons of humanitarian aid for Cuba, gathered 108 participants, challenged the blockade at the U.S./Mexico border, spent nine days experiencing Cuba, and now have returned successfully into the U.S.
This last challenge of the caravan was carried out to enthusiastic chants of “Cuba si, bloqueo no!”, “Cuba is not our enemy” and “Lucius Walker vive, la lucha sigue, sigue!” while banners read “Love is our License” and “We don't want to imagine a world without Cuba!” Immigration officials tried to question caravanistas about their stay in Cuba; caravanistas exercised their constitutional rights and politely but firmly refused to answer their questions. After the crossing was completed, the seven computers which were seized by U.S. officials when the caravan crossed from the U.S. into Mexico were returned, and a group of caravanistas promptly walked them back across the border into Mexico, from where they will be shipped to Cuba.
While in Cuba, caravan participants were able to see the island for themselves through an exciting educational and cultural program. This year's caravan was dedicated to celebrating and honoring the achievements of Cuba's young people, and the program of the Caravan in Cuba highlighted their daily lives and experiences, as well as visits to organic gardens, health centers, urban and rural communities and schools.
“Our late founder, Rev. Lucius Walker, always said that U.S. foreign policy is much too important to be left in the hands of the State Department,” said Ellen Bernstein, acting co-director of IFCO. “With this project, we are enacting a 'people-to-people' foreign policy that is based in mutual respect and solidarity. We will continue reaching out to our Cuban sisters and brothers, without asking permission from the US government; and we will continue working to build the better world that we know is possible.”
IFCO acting co-director Rev. Thomas E. Smith affirmed, “Our caravans will continue with this challenge as long as the cruel and immoral blockade continues, and until the Cuban 5 political prisoners held in U.S. jails are freed!”
The Caravan to Cuba's reverse challenge coincides with two other Cuba travel challenges returning to the U.S. The Venceremos Brigade will be returning to the US on August 1st via Canada and another large travel challenge group will also be returning to Puerto Rico today.
This year's caravan was also a tribute to the life and spirit of Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., the founding director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, who for 20 years gave prophetic and visionary leadership to our caravans to Cuba in defiance of the US blockade. Rev. Walker died peacefully in September 2010.
The Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), which has been working for racial, social, and economic justice since 1967.
Rev. Raul Suarez of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana
Havana, Cuba, Jul 31.- The director of the Martin Luther King Center received this Saturday the ashes of U.S. reverend Lucius Walker from the president of the Cuban Friendship Institute Kenia Serrano in the presence of friends and relatives of the former Pastors for Peace leader.
Rev. Raul Suarez received the casket containing the mortal remains of Lucius Walker, which will rest in Cuba at his own request, in a ceremony held at the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana.
Lucius Walker was fearless and restless fighter for progressive forces in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, and particularly against the U.S. blockade against Cuba and the imprisonment of five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters jailed in the United States.
The ceremony was attended by the members of the 22nd Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan, among who is the reverend’s daughter Gail Walker.
There were also members of the U.S.-Canada Venceremos Brigade and the Juan Rius Rivera Brigade, from Puerto Rico.
Cuban Vice President Esteban Lazo and president of the Cuban Parliament Ricardo Alarcon also participated in the meeting.
Rev. Suarez noted the presence of representatives of different ecclesiastic and religious institutions and said it showed the commitment of Christian faith to peace, justice and solidarity, as Lucius advocated.
“Being his ashes in Havana is not only a guarantee, but a promise of thankful and eternal love from all the Cubans,” Rev. Suarez said. (ACN)
Plaque Dedicated to Rev. Lucius Walker Unveiled in Havana HAVANA, Cuba, Jul 28 (acn)
A plaque dedicated to Reverend Lucius Walker was unveiled on Thursday at the Jose Marti Anti-Imperialist Tribune located in Havana.
The members of the US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan paid tribute to the founder of Pastors for Peace in a solemn activity that also included the presence of the head of the Religious Affairs Department of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, Caridad Diego, president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, (ICAP) Kenia Serrano, the Director of the North America Department of ICAP, Esperanza Luzbert among other Cuban authorities and US activists in the Cuban capital.
Esperanza Luzbert said that it was strange not to see Lucius Walker
stepping out of the airplane when the caravanistas arrived in the Jose
Marti International Airport, but she said “his spirit is with us and we
will continue and strengthen his example of peace and love.”
The ICAP representative added that “we have many things to thank Lucius for. The founder of Pastors for Peace said that he could not think of a world without Cuba, and we now say we cannot think of a caravan without Lucius”.
Luzbert reiterated that the struggle to end injustice in the world must
continue and “we will pay tribute to Reverend Lucius Walker here at the
Jose Marti Anti-Imperialist Tribune each year, “Lucius Vive, la lucha
sigue” (Lucius Lives, the Struggle Continues”.
On behalf of the caravanistas, Board Director of the Inter-Religious
Foundation for Community Organization, (IFCO) Reverend Tom Smith said that “Lucius will always be among us. Our tribute to Lucius will be to continue fighting for an end to Washington’s blockade against Cuba and work even harder to demand President Barack Obama to release the Cuban Five imprisoned in the US for fighting terrorism.”
Also present at the tribute were three US medical students that recently graduated from the Havana based Latin American School of Medicine, ELAM who said that Reverend Lucius Walker was an inspiration to them and in his honor they will serve the poor community in US.
Among other plaques dedicated to renowned US figures found at the monument are: Malcolm X, Henry Reeve, Frederick Douglas, John Reed, Martin Luther King Jr. and others that have fought for freedom and justice.
This 22nd caravan arrived in Cuba after touring some 130 cities and
collecting over 100 tons of humanitarian aid for the island. Read more >