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U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans activists launch initiative

Published Jan 21, 2007 7:45 PM

A call for Rainbow Solidarity for the Cuban Five is winging its way around the planet. On Feb. 6, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) activists working with the New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five issued the statement calling for a new trial and freedom for the five Cubans held in U.S. prisons.

The only “crime” of the Cuban Five is that they had infiltrated CIA-backed mercenary commando groups operating out of the U.S. in order to monitor and halt terrorist plots against Cuba.

The Rainbow Solidarity call concludes, “The Cuban people have the right to self-determination and sovereignty. The U.S. must stop targeting Cuba with its economic blockade and CIA-trained, funded and armed attacks by mercenary ‘contra’ armies operating on U.S. soil. These are all illegal acts of war. We call for a new trial and freedom for the Cuban 5!”

Within hours after the call for Rainbow Solidarity with the Cuban Five went out, close to 200 individuals and organizations that fight oppression based on sexuality, gender expression and sex had signed on, many adding enthusiastic comments. Most exciting to organizers was how many of the signers immediately volunteered to help send out the call.

Endorsers came from across the U.S. and around the world: Mexico, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Ireland, Wales, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Germany, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Portugal and Spain.

Signers span political spectrum

Early U.S. signers span a broad political spectrum. They include Teresa Gutierrez, a long-time leader in the struggle to free the Cuban Five; former political prisoner and leading prison abolitionist Angela Y. Davis; Leslie Cagan, who is national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice; LeiLani Dowell, national coordinator of FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together); Stephen Funk, the U.S. Marine who was the first imprisoned Iraq War conscientious objector; Bev Tang, organizer for Anakbayan, the youth group of Bayan; Gerry Scoppettuolo, co-founder GALLAN (Pride At Work, Boston); Lani Ka’ahumanu, BiNET USA; Atlanta community activist Pat Hussain; Camille Hopkins, director of NYTRO (New York Transgender Rights Organization) of Western New York; transgender activist Moonhawk River Stone; and Jesse Lokahi Heiwa, Queer People Of Color Action.

Activists Barbara Smith and Margo Okazawa-Rey signed on. The two were among the founders of the Combahee River Collective, a group of Black feminists of all sexualities who issued a historic 1977 statement against the “interlocking” system of “racial, sexual, heterosexual and class oppression.”

Former political prisoners Laura Whitehorn and Linda Evans added their names.

Playwright and performer Imani Henry and performance artist Holly Hughes endorsed. So did renowned lesbian cartoonist and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel and many political writers, including Minnie Bruce Pratt, Matt/ilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore, Eileen Myles, Sarah Schulman and Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Organizations signed on, including the Audre Lorde Project--a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit and Transgender People of Color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area; FIERCE!—a community organization for Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Queer, and Questioning (TLGBTSQQ) youth of color in New York City; QUIT! (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism); Trans Action Canada; LAGAI-Queer Insurrection; Stonewall Warriors, Boston; and Queers Without Borders, Hartford, Conn.

In addition, people of conscience across the United States and around the world of all nationalities, ages, sexes, genders and sexualities are adding their names, as well, to this call.

Organizations that are not exclusively LGBT signed on in the spirit of unity, including Anakbayan-Los Angeles; Bayan-Southern California; All India Anti-Imperialist Forum; Latin American Solidarity Committee, task force of the Western New York Peace Center; VIRTUAL u.s. Peace Academy at Seattle, Wash.; and The United Peoples, Denmark.

‘Your help is needed!’

Less than a week after the initial call circled the globe, the Rainbow Solidarity for the Cuban Five published its web page on the New York Committee to Free the Five web site. Visit: www.freethefiveny.org/rainboweng.htm

The introduction to the initiative and the call itself are up there in English, Spanish, simplified and traditional Chinese.

The introduction and call have now also been translated into Farsi, Portuguese, German and French and will be posted soon. More translations are planned for the Web site, including into Tagalog, Japanese, Korean, Italian and a video version in ASL (American Sign Language).

Readers are encouraged to visit the web site at www.freethefiveny.org in order to add their names and to help spread the news to others to do likewise. For more information on this struggle also visit: www.freethefive.org.

Those with ideas for widening and deepening the initiative are urged to e-mail organizers at [email protected].

As the web appeal concludes: Your help is needed to free the Cuban Five!