|All Day Conference on
Cuba and the Blockade
On Friday September 18, the final chapter of the Days of Action began early in the Shallenberger Auditorium of the Calvary Baptist Church in the downtown area of the capitol. The all day conference entitled, The U.S. blockade Against Cuba: why it’s wrong and what we must do to end it, was opened with a greeting from Rev. Joe Glaze, Pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church. Opening the plenary was well-known lawyer José Pertierra who addressed the current stage of relations between Cuba and the U.S. by urging the audience to continue to fight for a complete end to the blockade.
Gail Walker of IFCO/Pastors for Peace and Alicia Jrapko from the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity for the Peoples co-chaired the conference throughout the day.
During the Conference the organizers emphasized the work, the example and the solidarity with Cuba of Rev Lucius Walker who passed away on September 7, 2010.
Speakers included attorney Robert Muse who specializes in laws pertaining to Cuba, the documentary film maker Catherine Muphy, Canadian authors on Cuba; John Kirk, Arnold August and Stephen Kimber, Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) graduate Dr. Melissa Barber, legendary leader of the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico Rafael Cancel Miranda, attorney for Oscar López Rivera; Jan Susler, longtime human rights activist Sonia Umanzor, seminarian Wesley Morris, and through a video the Rev. Raúl Suarez, Baptist Pastor of the Centro Memorial Martin Luther King, of Havana, Cuba.
The conference also had the intervention of two students of the Latin America School of Medicine Alberto Rodriguez Rivera of Puerto Rico and Guillermo Wanderley Ribeiro of Brazil, and recently graduated Dr. Adriano Belo Rodrigues Castanhola of East Timor, who in a workshop on health care in Cuba conveyed how their lives had been transformed while being trained for free to become doctors in Cuba. In response to the generosity of the Cuban government they pledged to return to their countries to fulfill their obligation to improve the health of the poor wherever needed.
A particularly special moment of the conference was the participation of the historic leader for the struggle for independence of Puerto Rico and former political prisoner in the U.S. Rafael Cancel Miranda who spared no time in explaining what patriotism, the love of homeland and humanity meant.
During lunch the powerful documentary Maestra, that interviews participants in the post revolution literacy campaign, was screened with the presence of its creator, Catherine Murphy. Netfa Freeman of the Institute of Political Studies, offered a tribute to Saul Landau, whose many documentaries added to a better understanding about the Cuban reality.
The different workshops were moderated by Nalda Vigezzi from the National Network on Cuba, Jennifer Bryant of the Venceremos Brigade, Berta Joubert-Ceci of the International Action Center, the Rev. Luis Barrios member of the Board of Directors of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, Nancy Kohn, from the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity for the Peoples and Ana Maria Cardenas from IFCO/Pastors for Peace.
As the conference started to wind down José Ramón Cabañas, the new Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba arrived and walked to the front of the room, while the large audience stood and chanted in unison Cuba Si! Bloqueo No! The ambassador spoke and answered questions for nearly an hour.
Coincidentally, the previous day, Cabañas had presented his credentials to President Obama officially becoming the first Ambassador of Cuba for over a half-century due to the hostile U.S. policy that has existed against Cuba for all that time.
While the Days of Actions against the Blockade, endorsed by over 70 organizations, were taking place in Washington DC, so were coinciding events in Brazil, El Salvador, Russia, Belgium, Sweden and Canada. There were 101 members of the Parliament of Brazil and 9 members of the Parliament of Sweden who sent letters to the U.S. Congress calling for the lifting of the blockade against Cuba.
The activities of the Days of Action in Washington made clear the urgent need to continue working for an end to the oldest unilateral blockade in history, especially as opportunities are now presenting themselves. The events were organized by a coalition of groups in the U.S., including the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity for the Peoples, IFCO – Pastors for Peace, the National Network on Cuba, the Institute for Policy Studies and the Venceremos Brigade.