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Rev. Walker remembered at sendoff for Cuba Caravan

Published Jul 7, 2011 6:32 PM

Volunteers Johnnie Stevens and Alison Bodine
load medical supplies for Cuba at
Queens, N.Y., warehouse.
WW photo: Anne Pruden

The 22nd Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan sendoff on June 30 from New York’s renowned Riverside Church included a memorial tribute commemorating the life of the Rev. Lucius Walker, IFCO/Pastors for Peace founding director, who passed away last year shortly after returning from the caravan to Cuba. Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization.

Among the speakers at the sendoff were Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General and founder of the International Action Center; Dr. Luther Castillo, director of the First Garifuna People’s Hospital and member of the National Resistance Front of Honduras; Ninaj Raoul, member of IFCO’s board of directors and Haitian Women for Haitian refugees; Charles Rangel, U.S. Representative from New York City; Rodolpho Benitez Verson, deputy ambassador of Cuba to the United Nations; Ellen Bernstein, acting co-director of IFCO; Frank Velgara, of the July 26 Coalition and Puerto Rican independence movement; and Gail Walker, Rev. Walker’s daughter.

For more than 40 years Rev. Walker led Pastors for Peace through innumerable struggles for peace and justice “locking horns with the empire” in the U.S. and North America, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. Walker’s vision of a better world guides IFCO in continuing his legacy. The 22nd caravan will also witness the graduation of the 2011 class of doctors at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, which includes U.S. students. Half of this year’s caravan consists of people of color.

Rev. Walker believed there should be no barriers to friendship. To Cuba, only 90 miles away from the U.S., the caravan extends a hand of friendship and solidarity. Cuba is the only country in the world which U.S. citizens cannot legally visit. Additionally, Cuba’s economy and people suffer undue burden and hardship due to the decades of U.S. economic blockade, which has cost Cuba more than $100 billion in lost trade. Cuba absurdly remains on the U.S. “terrorist” list.

In an act of civil disobedience against the travel ban and blockade, Pastors for Peace challenges the U.S. by not asking for or accepting a U.S. government license. The caravan arrives in Cuba as ambassadors for a people-to-people foreign policy based on mutual respect. IFCO vows to keep the pressure on the U.S. government until the travel and trade blockades are lifted.

Beginning July 2 the caravan’s 13 routes will crisscross 130 cities in the U.S. and Canada. At each stop the caravan will collect donated construction supplies and tools, medical supplies and equipment, and educational and cultural supplies for Cuba. The caravan expects to reach the Texas/Mexico border on July 17 and from there go to Cuba. It returns to the U.S. on Aug. 1.