“Only tyranny fears the full expression of liberty.” ― José Martí
This is my first chance to sit and read all the news since Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba on Wednesday.
Since my first trip to Cuba in 1999, I’ve worked to develop an analysis and understanding of the island that was not a static glorification of the revolution but a meaningful interpretation of Cuba’s legacy and what that means for all working people and people of color.
Over the years, attending conferences, debates, panel discussions, etc on Cuba-US relations, was to be a part of a very narrow and polarized dialogue. The politics around Cuba are extremely divisive, one reason why the US imposed embargo was able to survive for so long. (Even the word choice of blockade or embargo is enough to set off a never ending debate).
In 2011, when Jennifer Hernandez and I created UnBlock the Rock, it was largely, for me, a way to organize people who held widely different beliefs and would otherwise not work together towards a common goal. Jennifer and I hold extremely different views about Cuba, but we respect each other immensely and I consider her one of my closest friends. Again, for me, it was also a way to use our democratic right (duty?) to organize but in a way that wasn’t so not cool and depressing like many of the isolated movements I participated in.
The slogan of UBTR, “It’s our time”, reflected our belief that it was our time, us, people who weren’t 75 years or older, to determine what our world should look like and how we should interact with each other.
I’ve only read the US fact sheet “Charting a New Course in Cuba”. Sadly, the travel ban isn’t lifted, I’m not sure if the travel ban was codified into law under the Helms-Burton Act in 1996 and must be overturned by Congress or if Obama has the power to lift it entirely.
I’m not necessarily excited about the United States bringing our brand of democracy anywhere, where some get a little and most get none; our democracy which has had, somehow, the words “rectal” and “forced” attached to it lately; our democracy that can proudly boast more and more people sleeping in train stations while luxury rentals are erected symbolically right next to City Hall in Jersey City seemingly overnight at a frequency that rivals only the frequency with which our democracy shuts down schools and builds prisons for profit…no, none of that democracy being imported or force fed anally into Cuba does not excite me. The highlight of all this for me is Obama openly telling the Republicans to go fuck themselves, because, really, fuck them.
UBTR won. We brought Cuban heavy metal to the states. But our responsibility and right to determine what our world should look like and how we should interact with each other is urgent. And possible. Restored relations with Cuba and world wide demonstrations against police murdering black people and Ras Baraka mayoring in Newark and Pope Francis doing his thing are great conditions to be working under.
The most crucial thing, as I see it, is lifting the travel ban. Americans have no idea who Cuba is. Cuba has no idea who we are. It’s important we meet each other. It’s our time.
-December 20, 2014