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‘Cuba: Estamos contigo!’

Rainbow solidarity for Cuban Five circles the globe

Lavender & red, part 110

Published Aug 27, 2007 8:27 PM

A multinational, multilingual group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) activists in the United States—the belly of the beast—issued a call in Spanish and English for Rainbow Solidarity for the Cuban Five in mid-January 2007.

The five political prisoners—Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González—are collectively serving four life sentences and 75 years in far-flung U.S. penitentiaries. The “crime” they were convicted of is having infiltrated CIA-backed fascist commando groups in order to halt terror attacks against Cuba from U.S. soil.

The Rainbow Solidarity call demands a new trial and freedom for these political prisoners, defense of Cuban sovereignty and self-determination, and a halt to the illegal U.S. acts of war against Cuba—including the economic blockade and CIA-trained, funded and armed attacks by mercenary “contra” armies operating from this country.

This initiative was consciously issued by LGBT and other activists battling oppression based on sexuality, gender expression and sex—one of the targeted progressive movements at whom the imperialist campaign to vilify Cuba had been aimed.

This was not the first act of solidarity with Cuba by left-wing LGBT activists in the United States—not by a long shot. But the response to the Rainbow Solidarity initiative—swift and dramatic—signals a new day for LGBT support worldwide for Cuba.

Within hours and days after the call went out over the Internet, hundreds of individuals and organizations signed on to the call, posted on the www.freethefiveny.org web site (look for the rainbow).

Most exciting was how many of the signers immediately began forwarding the call to their lists.

Volunteers from around the world translated the introduction and call for Rainbow Solidarity to free the Cuban Five into simplified and traditional Chinese, Tagalog, Farsi, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Portuguese, Italian, Danish, Japanese, French and German. More translations in the works or planned include Swahili, Urdu, Indonesian, Arabic, Korean, Bengali and a streaming video in ASL (American Sign Language).

International endorsements flooded in from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, occupied Palestine, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Wales and other countries, and from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Individuals and groups from every state in the continental United States signed on as well—from southern Florida to the Pacific Northwest, Southern California to Maine.

All told, they form an extraordinary and broad arc of a united front. A frequently updated list of signers is posted at www.freethefiveny.org.

Many names on the growing list will be recognizable as well-known LGBT activists and others battling oppression based on sexuality, gender and sex, including women’s liberationists.

This roster also reveals that many of these activists are also some of the hardest-working organizers in movements here and around the world against imperialist war, neo-liberalism, neo-colonialism, national oppression, racism, police brutality, prisons and the death penalty, sweatshops and capitalist globalization.

These are also leading activists in the struggle for immigrant rights; women’s liberation, including reproductive rights; jobs; labor union, tenant and community organizing; education; health care and affordable housing; freedom for all U.S. political prisoners and for prisoner rights; liberation of oppressed nations; support for Cuba, and the revolutionary movement to overturn capitalism and build an economy based on planning to meet peoples’ needs.

Expansive political spectrum

Early signers include Teresa Gutierrez, a longtime leader in the struggle to free the Cuban Five; former political prisoner and leading prison abolitionist Angela Y. Davis; Leslie Cagan, 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 of GALLAN (Pride At Work, Boston); Lani Ka’ahumanu, BiNET USA; anti-imperialist activist Joo-hyun Kang; 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.

Rauda Morcos, general coordinator of Aswat-Palestinian Gay Women, signed on. The Puerto Rican Alliance of Los Angeles and its coordinator Lawrence Reyes have endorsed.

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.

Louisville, Ky., filmmaker and activist Sonja de Vries, director of the documentary “Gay Cuba,” and Walter Lippmann, editor-in-chief of CubaNews, signed on. Other activists and organizations working in defense of Cuba added their weight to the call, including Cuba Education Tours, Vancouver, B.C., Canada; Fairness Campaign, Louisville, Ky.; Simon McGuinness, secretary of the Free the Miami Five Campaign, Ireland; Brigitte Oftner, coordinator of the Austrian Free the Five committee; Viktor Dedaj, webmaster of the Cuba Solidarity Project; the Cuba Edmonton Solidarity Committee in Alberta, Canada; the Swiss Cuba Association; Deutsche Kommunistische Partei Cuba Arbeitsgruppe, Germany; and No War on Cuba, Washington, D.C.

Also QueerToday.com and its founder, Mark Snyder; Gordene MacKenzie, GenderTalk Radio and director of Women’s Studies, Merrimack College, Beverly, Mass.

Organizations include the national organization Pro-Gay Philippines; 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); LAGAI-Queer Insurrection; Stonewall Warriors, Boston; Greek Homosexual Community, Athens, Greece; Queertoday.com, Boston, Mass.; and Queers Without Borders, Hartford, Conn.

The Queer Caucus of the National Lawyers Guild; Stephen Whittle, professor of equalities law and the British organization Press for Change at the School of Law at Manchester Metropolitan University, endorsed. So did Barbara Findlay, co-chair of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Issues Section, BC Branch, Canadian Bar Association, and the law office of Lenore Rae Shefman, San Francisco, Calif.

Many transgender and transsexual organizations and individuals strengthened the initiative, including Trans Action Canada; three national Italian trans groups: Coordinamento Nazionale Trans FTM, Movimento Identità Transessuale and Crisalide Azione Trans; playwright and performer Imani Henry; Matt/ilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore, editor “Nobody Passes,” San Francisco, Calif.; Cianán Russell, chair of the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance; and the Winona Gender Mutiny Collective.

Endorsers include The National Lavender Green Caucus; Doug Barnes and the Freedom Socialist Party; Starlene Rankin, Green National Committee delegate of the Lavender Caucus of the Green Party of the United States; Orange County Peace & Freedom Party, Anaheim, Calif; and the LGBT Caucus of Workers World Party.

Among the signers are individuals and organizations whose activist work includes the struggle against women’s oppression: Brenda Stokely, a leader of the Million Worker March Movement and NYCLAW; transnational feminist theorist Chandra Talpade Mohanty; Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center; Women’s Fightback Network, Boston, Mass.; Melinda Clark, local co-founder of Code Pink in Willits, Calif.; Welfare Warriors, Milwaukee, Wis.; League of Women Voters in Montenegro; and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) chapters in Washington, D.C.; Rome, Italy; and the Canadian Section in British Columbia.

Many labor activists have added their names and/or the endorsement of their unions, including Pride at Work/GALLAN Boston, Mass., AFL-CIO; Bus Riders Union/Labor Community Strategy Center, Los Angeles, Calif., and Guyanese-American Workers United, New York, N.Y. From Canada, Canadian Union Of Postal Workers, Calgary, Alberta; Canadian Union of Public Employees, Toronto, Ont.; and Hospital Employees’ Union, Burnaby, B.C.

There’s no end in sight to this rainbow.

Grassroots diplomacy

The Rainbow Solidarity for the Cuban Five initiative is also giving voice to individuals who, living in capitalist democracies, have little political input except to be asked to pull a lever for a big-business candidate.

The Rainbow Solidarity call has become a poll that reveals a new grassroots sentiment as signers eloquently register their outrage at the continued imprisonment of the five Cubans and at Washington’s economic and political blockade of Cuba and other illegal and covert acts of war.

Rebecca writes from San Diego, Calif., “Free the Cuban Five!! No more political prisoners!”

David from New York state stresses how biased the trial venue was for the Five: “Five Cubans who were trying to stop the ultra-right terrorist groups in Miami from carrying out violent actions against the people of Cuba. Miami is the one city in the U.S. where the Five certainly could not receive a fair trial.”

Paul says: “As a gay man in South Florida who calls for freedom for our brothers, the Five, I am delighted to see this initiative. THEY MUST BE FREE!”

Tighe supports the five as “those most important defenders of everyone’s right to live without fear of terrorism. The patriotic Cuban Five [are] illegally held political prisoners in a country with the most of its own people behind bars.” Barry, who grew up in Miami, adds the need to organize to close down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo and free all those held there.

“T.” from California, comments: “These five men, fighting against terrorism, have been imprisoned by the U.S. government—‘MY’ government! Jailing heroes and supporting terror, while pretending to do the opposite, is sadly all the public can count on from ‘our’ hypocritical, double-speaking, global corporate-run excuse for a ‘by and for the people’ government.”

Brian states from Newport, Ore.: “I am enraged by the hypocrisy of five innocent men being held in prison under harsh circumstances while known terrorist Luis Posada Carriles goes scot-free. While Bush and cronies spout off that no nation that harbors terrorists will be tolerated with one face, they set a convicted terrorist murderer of at least 73 innocents free with the other, while holding five innocent men in prison.”

Adela, from the Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre Inc. in Queensland, Australia, states, “I want to express my solidarity with the Cuban Five and the Cuban people and Fidel.”

Richard, from Madera, Calif., says succinctly, “It’s way past time to change our policy toward Cuba and the Cuban people.”

Jerry, from Athletes United for Peace, U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities, Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, writes: “These people were trying to prevent an act of terrorism. The country that claims to lead the ‘War On Terror’ is imprisoning them.”

Marcos writes from Bielefeld, Germany, “Free the 5 Cubans now, stop the war on Cuba and the rest of the world!”

Richard, in Jacksonville, Ill., says, “Close Guantánamo, human rights are for humans everywhere.”

Ray from Farmington, Conn., suggests, “Put Cheney and Bush in jail instead of the Cuban Five.”

Yancy, from the LGBTQI Desk of Bayan USA, affirms: “Mabuhi ang panaghiusang international!!! Long live international solidarity!!”

Solidarity is not charity

Eric from Milwaukee reminds, “Ah, the things we gain from solidarity.”

By defending Cuba against imperialist warfare, LGBT activists and organizations in the U.S. and other imperialist countries are breaking with their own ruling classes and extending their own unilateral declaration of peace to a socialist country.

By rejecting anti-communism, the movement against sexual, gender and sex oppression is combating capitalist ideology—a giant step towards liberation.

Cuba has much to teach those who yearn for the right to live and love without fear or censure about what it takes to begin the process of literally eradicating white supremacy, patriarchy and prejudice against same-sex love and gender/sex diversity; what it takes to create a new woman, a new man, a new human being, and new forms of communist comradeship.

The Cuban people fought back against enslavement for half a millennium. For the last half century they have resisted the most powerful slave-master in history, just 90 miles from their shores.

The famous labor union song poses the question sharply: Which side are you on?

Rainbow Solidarity answers: “Cuba, we are with you. Cuba, estamos contigo.”

This is the last segment of the Cuba mini-series within the ongoing Lavender & Red Workers World newspaper series, which can be read in its entirety online at: www.workers.org.

Next: An anti-imperialist perspective on ending oppression based on sexuality, gender and sex.

E-mail: [email protected]