Venceremos Brigade: ‘From Harlem to Havana, Black Lives Matter!’

vb_0813By Ellie Dorritie and Cheryl LaBash
Buffalo, N.Y.

Chanting this year’s central demand, “Black Lives Matter!” the 46th Venceremos Brigade marched across the Peace Bridge from Canada into the United States on August 2 and proudly declared that they had been to Cuba in defiance of the still-continuing U.S. blockade and travel restrictions.

In their press release, the Venceremos Brigade explained:

“Although the recent negotiations towards normalizing relations between the two countries were announced by both President Raúl Castro and President Barack Obama on December 17, 2014, the travel ban and U.S. blockade against Cuba are still in place. The Venceremos Brigade, along with its sister organization IFCO/Pastors for Peace, continues to claim the importance of engaging in civil disobedience through public Travel Challenges as one of the most effective means of mounting pressure on the U.S. government to change these policies. The Brigade will continue to do so until both the travel ban and blockade have been eradicated, Guantánamo military base is returned to Cuba, U.S. government funding ceases to programs of USAID and other organizations attempting to create political unrest in the country, and the U.S. respects Cuba’s right to national sovereignty and self-determination.”

The brigadistas were all wearing those demands as they marched and participated in rallies on both sides of the international bridge.This year’s Brigade T-shirt features banners and flags declaring “Black Lives Matter,” “End the Blockade,” “Lift the Travel Ban” and “USA Out of Guantánamo.”

Television and print media coverage of the return of the Venceremos Brigade both before and after the event was plentiful and friendly. The Buffalo Channel 4 news report ended by indicating that people who are interested in participating in the Venceremos Brigade next year can find a link to the Brigade on the Channel 4 website!

When asked by Time Warner Cable News what she had learned from her trip to Cuba, Brigadista Latoya Strong responded, “When you put people over profits … you get a better quality of life than we have in the U.S. … where it’s based on your skin color, based on how much money you have.”

In Fort Erie, Ontario, on the Canadian side of the bridge, the Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association-Niagara organized a greeting and solidarity rally before the brigadistas marched over the bridge.

On the Buffalo, N.Y., side of the bridge, the solidarity rally and picnic were organized by Workers World Party, the Buffalo/WNY International Action Center and the WNY Peace Center’s Latin America Solidarity Committee Task Force.

WW photo:  Garrett Dicembre