Unity and diversity at Tribute to Fidel

A moving Tribute to Fidel was held in Philadelphia on Jan. 28 at the Church of the Advocate, bringing together around 175 people, both long-time activists and people new to the struggle. Cuban leader Fidel Castro died Nov. 26 at the age of 90.

The Philadelphia Tribute to Fidel Organizing Committee included current and former members of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party; Coalición Fortaleza Latina Pennsylvania; International Action Center Philadelphia; the MOVE Organization; political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal; Mundo Obrero/Workers World Party of Philadelphia; Party for Socialism & Liberation, Philadelphia Branch; and the Philadelphia Coalition for REAL Justice.

Coming one week into the Trump administration, the event and the unity demonstrated by the organizers were timely. While Trump is working overtime to build walls and divide people, socialist Cuba, under Fidel Castro’s leadership, is exemplary in unifying people well beyond its borders, despite the continuing U.S. economic blockade.

With music, spoken word, great food and amazing speakers, tribute was paid to Fidel as well as the Cuban people. American Sign Language and English-to-Spanish interpreters were included. Video images and Cuban music were interspersed between speakers. The audience was diverse in race, age and gender.

Community activist Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture and Berta Joubert-Ceci, a member of Partido Mundo Obrero/Workers World Party, facilitated the program and gave opening remarks.

Joubert-Ceci also represented the local Puerto Rican community organization Comité Boricua Filadelfia-Camden. She paid tribute to Cuba’s long-time solidarity with Puerto Rico and spoke of the coming release of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. A full-size cutout of Rivera adorned the wall next to a full-size poster of U.S. political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Speakers included Mexican immigrant rights activist Carmen Guerrero, with the Coalición Fortaleza Latina Pennsylvania, who helped lead demonstrations against Trump earlier in the week. Transgender IAC activist Mattie Boyd spoke about Cuba’s positive role in the struggle for LGBTQ liberation.

Shani Akilah, of the Black and Brown Workers’ Collective, spoke on Cuba’s support for the Haitian people. Akilah’s grandfather was born in Cuba and later moved to Haiti. Karla Martin, representing PSL, addressed Cuba’s solidarity with Chile and other South American countries.

Ramona Africa, minister of confrontation for the MOVE organization and sole adult survivor of the 1985 government bombing of MOVE, challenged the audience to stand up in future struggles, as her family had to do to survive.

Palestinian writer and human rights activist Susan Abulhawa spoke of Cuba’s solidarity with the Palestinian people who have been without a country after Israel seized their homes in 1948. Abulhawa read from her poetry collection, “My Voice Sought in the Wind.”

Gail Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, described her organization’s solidarity with Cuba since 1960. IFCO, which has organized hundreds of trips to Cuba in violation of the U.S. blockade, was recently notified that the IRS revoked its tax-exempt status.

Kashara White of PSL spoke of Cuba’s defense of Black Liberation Army fighter Assata Shakur. MOVE organization member Pam Africa, who visited Cuba on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, described Cuba’s support for U.S. political prisoners.

Godfrey Sithole, from the African National Congress of South Africa, addressed the long-standing friendship between Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela and Cuba’s total support for the liberation struggle in South Africa and Angola.

The program concluded with former Temple University professor Dr. Anthony Monteiro calling on the audience to continue Cuba’s example of steadfast resistance when fighting the Trump administration. The event ended with a call to go to the Philadelphia airport to protest Trump’s outrageous ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

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