CubaBrief: Remembering Bob Dole’s and Carrie Meek’s stands for a Free Cuba.

Today marks the day 125 years ago in 1896 when Lieutenant General Antonio Maceo Grajales died fighting for Cuban independence. His motto was: “My duties to country and to my own political convictions are above all human effort; with these I shall reach the pedestal of freedom or I shall perish fighting for my country’s redemption.” This sense of duty is found in two political leaders that passed within a week of each other: Senator Bob Dole and Congresswoman Carrie Meek.

Senator Robert Joseph Dole passed away on December 5th. He was 98 years old. Over the course of his life he had been a patriot, soldier, and statesman. He advocated for the freedom of Cubans with a clear eyed view of the communist threat posed by the Castro regime, and this is reflected in the Dole archives on Cuba. Throughout the 1960s he warned of the threat of Cuban communism, and on February 7, 1978 called on President Carter to close the Cuban mission, and freeze normalization talks with Cuba.

“Mr. President I sincerely believe it is time that we discard the illusion that Cuba is ready to take its place among the community of responsible peaceable nations. Despite the hopes of your Administration and, before that, of the Ford Administration, the regime of Fidel Castro has shown itself to be a client tool of Soviet interference on the African continent. It has shown itself to be an aggressive force of death and destruction in both Angola and Somalia, and there is no end in sight to the build-up of Cuban troops and advisers throughout Africa.”

President Carter pressed on with the normalization effort, but over time Senator Dole was proved right. Not only did the Cuban troops’ role in Ethiopia end up assisting in a genocide, and a purge of thousands in Angola, but negatively impacted the United States. Fidel Castro personally drew up the list of murderers, rapists, and psychopaths he freed to seed the Mariel exodus, carrying out heinous crimes in the United States, casting a cloud over the 1980 exodus, and contributing to Carter’s 1980 loss to Reagan.

However, Senator Dole also addressed individual cases. Senator Dole shared a radio program called “Face Off” with Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy of Massachusetts. On May 4, 1987 Senator Robert J. “Bob” Dole of Kansas brought up the jailing of Andres Solares in Cuba. He had been jailed for writing a letter to Senator Kennedy. This type of attention provided protection for the Cuban political prisoner, and in the program Senator Kennedy also took up this case.

A few months later on September 10, 1987 the two Senators discussed the second anniversary of Radio Marti, and agreed on the importance of uncensored news reaching Cubans on the island. This bipartisan consensus can be heard on the radio program.

The New York Post in its obituary highlighted a photo of then Republican presidential hopeful Senator Bob Dole in Columbus, Georgia on February 26, 1996 telling an “audience that President Clinton’s sanctions against Cuba did not go far enough”, and, although he had resigned from office on June 11, 1996 to focus on his campaign, he underscored the point on September 26.1996 with an update on the Libertad Bill.

Senator Dole with Ambassador Kirkpatrick (1999)

Throughout both his tenure as a U.S. Congressman (1961 – 1969) and U.S. Senator (1969 – 1996) Robert J. “Bob” Dole understood the nature of the Castro regime, the brutal dictatorship imposed on Cubans, and the threat it posed outside of Cuba.

Congresswoman Carrie Mae Pittman Meek over the years.

Congresswoman Carrie Mae Pittman Meek passed away on November 28th. She was 95 years old. Over the course of her life she was an educator, civil rights leader, public servant, and stateswoman. She was the first Black person to represent Florida in Congress since the post-Civil War Reconstruction. Congresswoman Meek was the grandchild of a slave, the daughter of a sharecropper and one of the first Black Floridians elected to Congress following Reconstruction, and in 2009 she joined together with other prominent Black Americans to publicly condemn Cuba’s human rights record, and denouncing the dictatorship’s racism.

“As African Americans, we know firsthand the experiences and consequences of denying civil freedoms on the basis of race, and we certainly understand what racial discrimination is and does to people. We have not tolerated it for ourselves, and will certainly not acquiesce in its perpetration against any other people. For that reason, we are even more obligated to voice our opinion on what is happening to our Cuban brethren a few miles away. We support Cuba’s right to enjoy national sovereignty, and unhesitatingly repudiate any attempt at curtailing such a right. However, at this historic juncture, we also do believe that we cannot sit idly by and allow for decent, peaceful and dedicated civil rights activists in Cuba, and the black population as a whole, to be treated with callous disregard for their rights as citizens and as the most marginalized people on the island. Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted!”

Also from South Florida and signing onto the letter was former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Betty T. Ferguson. Enrique Patterson, an Afro-Cuban Miami author and professor, at the time described the letter as “historic.” In addition to Congresswoman Meek, and Betty T. Ferguson, signers included Cornel West, actress Ruby Dee Davis, film director Melvin Van Peebles, and Dr. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of President Barack Obama’s church in Chicago.

This letter is even more relevant today in the light of the 11J protests where Black Cubans came out to protest in large numbers. Congresswoman Meek and the other signers understood the real nature of the regime. Congresswoman Meek, although voting with Democrats on most issues, did not vote for normalizing relations with the Castro regime.

Congresswoman Meeks had a close working relationship with Cuban American colleagues both in Tallahassee and Washington DC. She moved to Miami in 1961, went to work in Miami-Dade College and by 1963 the institution was desegregated. She began her formal political career 18 years later in the Florida State House of Representatives (1979 – 1982), then moved on to the Florida State Senate (1982 – 1992), and finally the U.S. House of Representatives (1993 – 2003).

Her Cuban American colleagues celebrated Congresswoman Meek’s tenure in Congress. Today it was Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart and four years ago it was Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who paid homage to her in the House of Representatives.

Why was she so popular with her Cuban American colleagues? Because Congresswoman Carrie Meek never made the mistake of confusing the Cuban people with the dictatorship that oppresses them, and called out the Castro regime for its continuing racism.

Both Senator Dole and Congresswoman Meek were clear on the nature of the autocratic system in Cuba, and the need for a democratic restoration. Free Cubans are grateful for their service, and solidarity.


New York Post, December 5, 2021

Bob Dole, WWII veteran and three-time presidential candidate, dead at age 98

By Mark Moore

Republican presidential hopeful US Senator Bob Dole told an audience of mostly veterans in Columbus, Georgia 26 February that President Clinton’s sanctions against Cuba do not go far enough. J. DAVID AKE/AFP via Getty Images

Bob Dole, a decorated veteran who overcame near-fatal wounds in World War II to become a respected Senator and three-time Republican presidential candidate, died on Sunday.

He was 98.

“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years. More information coming soon,” the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced on Twitter.

Dole, who was born in Russell, Kansas, on July 22, 1923, left public service after his loss to Bill Clinton in November 1996 but remained active, appearing on television, serving on several boards and councils, practicing law and supporting Republican candidates.

During an appearance on the David Letterman late night show days after he lost to Clinton, Dole tried to laugh off his defeat.

Asked by the funnyman what he had been doing lately, Dole deadpanned: “Apparently not enough.”

In one of his final public appearances, Dole rose from his wheelchair to salute former President George H.W. Bush in December 2018 as he paid his respects to the fellow World War II vet and former political rival as the 41st president lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

Bush beat out Dole for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 1988, but Dole didn’t bear a grudge.

“This is a case where two political enemies became fast, fast friends, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Dole said at a commemoration of Pearl Harbor’s 75th anniversary in 2016.

Dole, who was wounded by German machine gun fire while fighting in Italy in April 1945, was a longtime advocate for the rights of the disabled – an issue of personal relevance to him.

As a 21-year-old platoon leader, Dole was trying to pull a radioman from the line of fire when he was struck in the upper back and right arm.

It took three years of treatment and countless setbacks before he was able to recover from the wounds, although he lost the use of his right arm and most of the feeling in his left.

Dole, who received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor for his actions, always carried a pen in his right hand to discourage people from trying to shake hands with him.

“Experiencing a disability yourself, you could almost walk around with a blindfold and pick out the other people with disabilities. … Having a disability changes your whole life, not just your attitude,” he said in an interview with Disability magazine.

Despite being beaten by Bush for the GOP nomination in 1988, Dole, who was the Senate Majority Leader at the time, strongly promoted his former rival’s agenda and helped assure passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

Dole was the son of father Doran Ray Dole, who ran a small creamery, and mother, Bina, who sold sewing machines. He had one brother, Kenny, and two sisters, Gloria and Norma.

The young Dole was a skilled athlete, competing in football, basketball and track in high school.

He played basketball for a year at the University of Kansas before entering the service in 1942.

His first foray into politics came after the war in 1950, when he won a two-year term in the Kansas House of Representatives.

By the time he finished his term, Dole had graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, with a law degree.

He then became the Russell County prosecuting attorney.

In 1960, he landed on the national political stage after winning election to the US House of Representatives where he served four terms.

Learning of the impending retirement of Sen. Frank Carlson, Dole set his sights on the US Senate.

He defeated Kansas Gov. William Avery for the Republican nomination and went on to win the seat in 1968 — the same year Richard Nixon was elected president.

He continued to be re-elected until he retired in 1996 after losing the presidential election to Clinton.

During his time in the upper chamber, Dole served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1971 to 1973, chaired the Senate Finance Committee from 1981 to 1985 and led Senate Republicans from 1985 to 1996, serving as Senate Majority Leader twice.

Along the way, he ran for president twice and vice president once.

President Gerald Ford picked Dole as his running mate in 1976 after Nelson Rockefeller said he would rather retire than run for a full term.

It was the first presidential election after Nixon stepped down in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Democrat Jimmy Carter ran as a reformer on a ticket with Walter Mondale as his running mate.

In a debate with Mondale, Dole blamed Democratic presidents for all of the wars of the 20th century — comments that many viewed as unduly harsh.

“I figured it out the other day: If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans — enough to fill the city of Detroit,” he said.

Carter defeated Ford, winning the popular vote by a margin of 50.08 to 48.02 percent.

Attempting to parlay his name recognition as Ford’s running mate, Dole entered the 1980 Republican presidential primary but soon dropped out after finishing behind Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Howard Baker in the New Hampshire primary election.

Reagan eventually won the nomination and the election with Bush as his vice president.

In 1988, at the end of Reagan’s second term, Dole announced his candidacy during a ceremony in his Kansas hometown.

Dole started out strong, finishing ahead of Bush in the Iowa caucuses, but then lost to Bush in New Hampshire.

It didn’t help that during a debate Dole appeared to lose his temper and snapped “stop lying about my record” to Bush, who portrayed his opponent in campaign ads as waffling on whether he would raise taxes.

In his third run for president, in 1996, Dole finally won his party’s nomination.

He and his vice presidential candidate, Jack Kemp, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, set out to stop Clinton and Al Gore from winning a second term.

Clinton’s campaign portrayed Dole as somebody who would work with Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich to gut the country’s social programs.

Clinton won with a decisive margin in the Electoral College — 379 to 159.

A year later, Clinton awarded Dole the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House.

“I had a dream that I would be, this historical week, receiving something from the president,” Dole said to the gathering. “But I thought it would be the front door key.”

After leaving office, Dole joined a Washington, DC, law firm, gave speeches, wrote several books and chaired the fund-raising effort for the  National World War II Memorial.

In 2003, he opened the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, an organization focused on creating bipartisanship in politics.

He was also a pitchman for a number of products, including Visa, Dunkin’ Donuts and Viagra.

In later years, Dole struggled with health problems.

He was treated for abdominal aortic aneurysm, had a hip replacement and was hospitalized for a bout of pneumonia after having knee surgery.

In February 2021, he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. 

“While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own,” he said in a statement at the time.

Dole married Elizabeth Hanford in 1975.

She had been Reagan’s Secretary of Transportation and later represented North Carolina in the US Senate from 2003 to 2009.

He divorced his first wife, Phyllis Holden, in 1972. They had one child, Robin, who was born in October 1954.

https://nypost.com/2021/12/05/bob-dole-wwii-vet-and-3-time-presidential-candidate-dead-at-98/

The Washington Informer, December 1, 2021

Carrie Meek, One of the First Black Floridians Elected to Congress, Dies at 95

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Carrie Meek, the grandchild of a slave, the daughter of a sharecropper and one of the first Black Floridians elected to Congress following Reconstruction, died Sunday at the age of 95.

Meek died at home in Miami after a lengthy illness.

As the former senior editor for The Miami Times, this writer had the profound honor of spending time with the former congresswoman on several occasions. She always took time to share words of wisdom and encouragement to members of the Black community who wanted to make a difference for their people, the city and the nation.

Amazingly, Meek entered politics at 66 when most people only had retirement on their minds. She won the 1992 Democratic congressional primary in her district in Miami-Dade County and moved on to Congress as she had no Republican opponent in the general election.

In January 1993, along with Alcee Hastings and Corrine Brown, Meek and her colleagues became the first Black Floridians to serve in Congress since 1876. She served as a staunch advocate for affirmative action, economic opportunities for the poor and the reduction of immigration restrictions on Haiti, the birthplace of many of her constituents. She would also become famous for her command of the English language, her ability to communicate with everyday people and her delight at bashing members of the GOP.

“The last Republican that did something for me was Abraham Lincoln,” she told the state delegation to the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Meek chose not to seek a sixth term in 2002. But her son, Kendrick, continued in her stead, winning her district and serving for four terms before his failed effort to win the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Before entering politics, Meek worked as a teacher and administrator at Miami-Dade College.

She was elected to the Florida House in 1978, succeeding pioneer Black legislator Gwen Cherry, who had been killed in an auto accident. She became one of the first African Americans and the first Black woman to serve in the Florida Senate since the 1800s.

Carrie Pittman, born to Willie and Carrie Pittman in Tallahassee on April 29, 1926, counted as the youngest of 12 children. Her father worked in Florida’s fields as a sharecropper while her mother worked as a laundress for white families.

She graduated from Florida A&M University in 1946 with a degree in biology and physical education. The university named its building for Black history archives in her honor in 2007. She also became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Meek’s survivors include three children, Lucia Davis-Raiford, Sheila Davis Kinui and Kendrick B. Meek, seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and a host of nieces and nephews.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

https://www.washingtoninformer.com/carrie-meek-one-of-the-first-black-floridians-elected-to-congress-dies-at-95/

From the Archives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 1978

CONTACT: JANET ANDERSON

BOB DOWNEN

DOLE TO CARTER: CLOSE CUBAN MISSION, FREEZE NORMALIZATION TALKS WITH CUBA

Washington, D.C. – Senator Bob Dole, in a letter sent today by President Carter, urged that the United States withdraw its mission from Havana, and request that the Cuban Government close its liaison office in Washington.  Citing the recent build-ups in Cuban forces in Ethiopia, and the new evidence that Cuban pilots are making air strikes against Somalia, Dole said “it is time we discard the illusion that Cuba is ready to take its place among the community of responsible, peaceable nations.” Dole called for an immediate “freeze” on moves to normalize American relations with Cuba.

”Despite the hopes of this Administration, and before that, of the Ford Administration, the regime of Fidel Castro has shown itself to remain a client tool of Soviet interference on the African continent,11 Dole contended. “It has shown itself to be an aggressive force of death and destruction in both Angola and Somalia, and there is no end in sight to the build-up of Cuban troops and ‘advisers’ through-out Africa.”

Dole said “The intentional, callous role that the Cuban government has chosen to play in the Ethiopian-Somalian conflict should render it ineligible for diplomatic or trade concessions from the United States. In the interest of American principle and international peace, I urge you to immediately suspend current normalization efforts with the Cuban government, and to withdraw the United States ‘interest section’ from Havana.”

Cuban Forces Increase Seven-Fold

Over the weekend, Administration officials revealed that intelligence reports indicate that Cuban pilots based in Ethiopia are carrying out air strikes in Soviet-built planes against targets inside Somalia. On Monday, State Department spokesman Hodding Carter III confirmed the reports, and visiting President Anwar Sadat of Egypt reiterated the charges in an address to the National Press Club. 

Administration sources now estimate the Cuban force in Ethiopia at more than 3,000, more than a seven-fold increase from the 400 Cubans believed to be in Ethiopia last November. Soviet forces in the area have grown from approximately 100 last November to a present strength of more than 1,500, and the Soviet Union is supplying arms for the conflict.

Attached is a copy of Senator Dole’s letter to the President.

                                                                                                                 – 30 –

February 7, 1978

The President
The White House
Washington D. C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The recent build-up of Cuban and Soviet forces in Ethiopia is a matter of grave concern. During the past three months, the size of the Cuban presence has increased more than seven-fold.  The Soviet Union continues to pour huge amounts of manpower, arms, and aid into the Ethiopian-Somalian conflict. There is no end in sight to this brazen and unwarranted interference by the two Communist nations in the Ogaden region conflict.

Mr. President I sincerely believe it is time that we discard the illusion that Cuba is ready to take its place among the community of responsible peaceable nations. Despite the hopes of your Administration and, before that, of the Ford Administration, the regime of Fidel Castro has shown itself to be a client tool of Soviet interference on the African continent. It has shown itself to be an aggressive force of death and destruction in both Angola and Somalia, and there is no end in sight to the build-up of Cuban troops and advisers throughout Africa.

In my opinion, and that of many of my colleagues, the intentional and callous role that the Cuban government has chosen to play in the Ethiopian-Somalian conflict should render it ineligible for diplomatic recognition or trade concessions from the United States. Therefore, in the interest of preserving American principles and international peace, I urge you to immediately suspend current normalization efforts with the Cuban government, and to withdraw the United States ‘interest section’ from Havana. I believe that action should be reciprocated by the Cuban regime, and that there should be a “freeze” on any further contacts until circumstances have changed significantly.

Thank you for your attention to this communication

 

Sincerely yours,

BOB DOLE
United States Senator

 

BD:bdk

This document is from the collections at The Robert J. Dole Archive and Special Collections, University of Kansas.  http://dolearchive.ku.edu

https://dolearchives.ku.edu/sites/dolearchive.drupal.ku.edu/files/files/historyday/originals/hd14_cuba_025.pdf

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, November 30, 2009

A DECLARATION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN SUPPORT FOR THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE IN CUBA

In a landmark “Statement of Conscience by African Americans,” 60 prominent black American scholars, artists and professionals have condemned the Cuban regime’s stepped-up harassment and apparent crackdown on the country’s budding civil rights movement. This statement is the first public condemnation of racial conditions in Cuba made by black Americans.

ACTING ON OUR CONSCIENCE

A DECLARATION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN SUPPORT

FOR THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE IN CUBA

Monday, November 30, 2009

We, the undersigned, join the growing international outcry against the unjust imprisonment by Cuban authorities of Dr. DARSI FERRER, an internationally known Afro-Cuban civil rights leader and courageous man who for 17 days has endured a hunger strike and placed his life at risk to draw attention to the conditions of racism and racial discrimination in Cuba that has hitherto been ignored.

We support the position of the Honorable Professor ABDIAS NASCIMENTO, historical leader of the Black Movement of Brazil, and others from around the world, who are demanding Dr. Ferrer’s immediate release from imprisonment.

Moreover, we also support the demand that Cuba recognizes Dr. Ferrer as a political prisoner, rather than a “common criminal”, as is now the case. (See Professor Nascimento’s Open Letter – attached). Dr. NASCIMENTO’s joint letter to the Heads of State of Cuba and Brazil, respectively General RAÚL CASTRO RUZ and President LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA, is unequivocal. He requests of Cuba’s President that he intervene to stop the unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights.

Similarly, he requests that Brazil’s President immediately prevail on the Cuban government to safeguard the rights of Cuba’s most oppressed citizens who, in this case, happen to be more than 62% of the total population.

Professor NASCIMENTO has been a long standing supporter of the Cuban Revolution and government, but he, like we, cannot be silent in the face of increased violations of civil and human rights for those black activists in Cuba who dare raise their voices against the island’s racial system. As of late, these isolated, courageous civil rights advocates have been subject to unprovoked violence, State intimidation and imprisonment.

As African Americans, we know firsthand the experiences and consequences of denying civil freedoms on the basis of race, and we certainly understand what racial discrimination is and does to people. We have not tolerated it for ourselves, and will certainly not acquiesce in its perpetration against any other people. For that reason, we are even more obligated to voice our opinion on what is happening to our Cuban brethren a few miles away.

We support Cuba’s right to enjoy national sovereignty, and unhesitatingly repudiate any attempt at curtailing such a right. However, at this historic juncture, we also do believe that we cannot sit idly by and allow for decent, peaceful and dedicated civil rights activists in Cuba, and the black population as a whole, to be treated with callous disregard for their rights as citizens and as the most marginalized people on the island.

Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted!

We call on the authorities and Government of Cuba to immediately and unconditionally free our brother, Dr. Darsi Ferrer.

Signatories

Richard Adams, Jr.
Co-Convenor Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly (WPBPA)

J.B. Afoh-Manin, Esq.

Roslyn Alic-Batson
Publicist

Marva Allen
Manager, HUE-MAN Bookstore & Cafe (New York)

Dr. Molefi Kete Asante
Historian, Author

Peter Bailey
Bethune-Davis Institute

Dr. Gloria Batiste-Roberts
President, National Association of Black Social Workers

Lili Bernard
Fine Artist

Marie Brown
Literary Agent

Khepra Burns
Author

Dr. Iva E. Carruthers
Professor Emeritus, Northeastern Illinois University

Dr. Kathleen Neal Cleaver, Esq.
Professor, Emory University

Clarence Cooper
Manager, Sylvia’s Restaurant (NY)

Dr. David Covin
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Sacramento
Past President, National Conference of Black Political Scientists

Evelyn Crawford
Audiovisual artist

Dr. Earl Davis
Former Director, Institute of African Studies, New York University

Ruby Dee Davis
Actress. 2007 Academy Award Nominee

Bill Day
Artist Photographer

Rev. Dr. Yvonne V. Delk (Ret)
United Church of Christ

Leonard G. Dunston
President Emeritus, National Association of Black Social Workers

Honorable Commissioner Betty T. Ferguson (Ret)
Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner

The Honorable Ambassador Ulric Haynes (Ret)
Former Executive Dean, Hofstra University (New York), member of the US Council on Foreign Relations

Nzinga Heru
President, Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations

Marlon Hill, Esq. Past President of the Caribbean Bar Association

Eugene Jackson, Chairman and CEO of the World African Network

Dr. Winston James, Professor, University of California at Irvine

Guy Johnson
Author

Leroi C. Johnson, Esq.

Dr. Ollie Johnson
Professor, Wayne State University

Dr. Joyce E. King
President Academy for Diaspora Literacy, Inc.

Dr. Arthur Lewin
Professor, Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York

Dr. Shelby Lewis (Ret)
Former Project Manager, Special Programs, United Negro College Fund

Dr. Ruth Love
Educator

Dr. Acklyn Lynch
Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Dr. Julianne Malveaux
President, Bennett College for Women

Honorable Congresswoman Carrie Meek (Ret)
House of Representatives of the Unites States of America

Dr. Claudia Mitchell-Kernan
Dean and Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies
University of California at Los Angeles

Dr. Michael Mitchell
Professor of Political Science, Arizona State University
Editor of the National Political Science Review

Dr. K. C. Morrisson
Professor, Mississippi State University
Past President, National Conference of Black Political Scientists

Melvin Van Peebles
Film director, playwright, and author

Lori Robinson
Editor, Vida AfroLatina.com

Dr. Mark Sawyer
Professor University of California at Los Angeles

Bernestine Singley, Esq.
Author

Dr. Ann Smith
President, The Gamaliel Foundation

Dr. Donald H. Smith.
Past President, the National Alliance of Black School Educators

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.
Pastor Emeritus, Allen Temple Baptist Church

Edward S. Spriggs
Former Executive Director of Hammonds House
Galleries and Resource Center

Susan Taylor
President, National CARES Mentoring Movement, Editor Emerita of ESSENCE magazine

Dr. James E. Turner
Professor, Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University

Makani Themba-Nixon
The Praxis Project

Patricia Valdés
Marketing Specialist

Dr Marta Moreno Vega
President, The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute

Dr. Ron Walters
Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics
University of Maryland College Park

Dr. Cornel West
Professor, Princeton University

Randy Weston
Musician/Composer

Al Whack
Executive, National Cable Communications (NCC)

Rita Coburn Whack
Broadcasting Producer

Antonia Williams-Gary
Miami Consultant

Dr. Conrad Worrill
President, National Black United Front

Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus, Trinity United Church of Christ


https://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/2009/12/declaration-of-african-american-support.html

The Miami Herald, December 1, 2009

Prominent black Americans condemn Cuba on racism

BY JUAN O. TAMAYO

A group of prominent black Americans has for the first time publicly condemned Cuba’s rights record, demanding Havana stop its “callous disregard” for black Cubans and declaring that “racism in Cuba . . . must be confronted.”

“We know first-hand the experiences and consequences of denying civil freedoms on the basis of race,” the group said in a statement Monday. “For that reason, we are even more obligated to voice our opinion on what is happening to our Cuban brethren.”

Among the 60 signers were Princeton professor Cornel West, actress Ruby Dee Davis, film director Melvin Van Peebles, former South Florida congresswoman Carrie Meek and Dr. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of President Barack Obama’s church in Chicago.

[ Full article ]

http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/cuba/racism-statement.htm


BBC News,  September 6, 2020

The orphans of Angola’s secret massacre seek the truth

Sita Valles and her husband were amongst those killed following a protest in May 1977

A massacre in Angola that followed a split in the governing MPLA party not long after independence has been shrouded in secrecy and fear for more than four decades. But some of those affected are coming together to demand answers and have been speaking to the BBC’s Mary Harper, some for the first time in public.

“My parents were last seen walking into the Ministry of Defence, hand in hand.”

That was more than 40 years ago, when João Ernesto Van Dunem was a three-month-old baby. He never saw his mother and father again.

He does not know where or how they were killed. He does not know where they are buried.

His parents – José Van Dunem, 27, and Sita Valles, 26 – together with other young Angolans, had accused the ruling elite of prioritising personal wealth and power over the good of the country.

João Ernesto Van Dunem was three months old when his parents disappeared

José Van Dunem, who was a senior military official, and a fellow MPLA central committee member, Nito Alves, who had been a government minister, led the criticism from within. This led to their expulsion.

There are many versions of what happened next.

The authorities accused what they described as the “fractionistas” or “splitters” of staging an attempted coup on 27 May 1977.

Members of the group said they did no such thing; rather they had organised a mass demonstration and a takeover of the radio station to call people on to the streets of the capital, Luanda, in order to pressurise President António Agostinho Neto to clean up his government.

President Neto, who had a close relationship with Fidel Castro, used Cuban troops during the purge

The result was bloodshed.

Mr Neto called in loyal sections of the army, supported by Cuban troops, and the massacre began.

Thousands, including many of the country’s young intellectuals and party activists, were imprisoned, tortured and killed.

Those in authority at the time, including Defence Minister Gen Henrique Teles Carreira, known as Iko Carreira, put the number at 300.

Amnesty International says 30,000 died in the purge. Some say as many as 90,000 were killed.

“The 27 May decapitated progressive thinking in the country,” says João Ernesto Van Dunem, now an economist at the Catholic University of Angola.

“I am sceptical that Angola’s authorities will tell the truth or see that justice is done.”

‘Witch-hunt’

In May 2017, four decades after their parents disappeared, 24 of the now adult children, including Mr Van Dunem, wrote an open letter to then-President José Eduardo dos Santos, demanding answers. They received no reply.

In January 2018, they set up an association of orphans, named M27.

The “M” stands both for “May”, the month of the incident that triggered the killings, and for “Memory”.

Members of M27 have a set of key demands, which they say will restore the dignity of the dead, and see them cast as victims not villains.

  • They want the remains of their parents recovered and death certificates issued

  • They want a list of all the people who were killed

  • They want a memorial built to honour them. And they want the truth to be told.

“Imagine what 40 years of silence can do to your mind. The killing of my father created this huge gulf between my motherland and myself,” says Henda Vieira Lopes, another member of M27, who works as a psychologist in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, Angola’s former colonial ruler.

“For a long time I did not want to return to Angola as I feared I would feel like an orphan in a strange land.”

Mr Vieira Lopes’ father, Elisiário dos Passos Vieira Lopes, worked in a hospital in the eastern province of Moxico. He says all of its staff were executed.

“It was a witch-hunt, like a fire in the savannah, running out of control.”

Silence, pain and mystery

Some members of M27 say one reason they have decided to break their silence after all these years is because they now have children of their own.

“My seven-year-old son has started asking questions about his grandparents,” says Mr Van Dunem.

“Where are they? Why did they die? Our aim is to prevent this heavy burden of unsolved questions being passed on to the next generation.”

Many older relatives of those who were killed, and who themselves survived the purge, do not want to talk about what happened.

“I was born on 15 May 1977, 12 days before the massacres began,” says Vania Mendes, a project manager in Sweden.

“The security forces came to our home in the eastern city of Luena and dragged my father out. He was never seen alive again.

“I grew up knowing nothing about what happened. The family never spoke to me about it. It was very hard to grow up in an environment of silence, pain and mystery.

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https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54025264