by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
When the United States and Cuban began the process of “normalizing” relations, supporters of exiled former Black Panther Assata Shakur worried that her political asylum in Cuba might become a bargaining chip. Cuban officials are quick to dispel such fears. “We made a decision to protect Assata in the past and that decision is not going to change. Thanks to our Revolution, the Cuban people will protect Assata Shakur," said Cuban member of Congress Kenia Serrano.
“Thanks to our Revolution, the Cuban People will protect Assata Shakur!”
by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
“Instead of Cuba becoming an international pariah the US now occupies that unenviable position.”
Kenia Serrano is an incredibly effective advocate and tireless warrior on behalf of the Cuban Revolution. As Director of the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos, (The Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, ICAP) an NGO established in 1960 and a Member of Parliament, she has played a leading role in forging international solidarity between the people of Cuba and other nations, from Vietnam to Guyana.
Serrano has fostered close ties between Cubans and African-Americans and other oppressed national groups. Glen Ford, BAR executive editor, and I met Ms. Serrano at ICAP during a recent trip to Havana organized by Code Pink to celebrate May 1st – International Workers Day. Her previous positions included: Researcher, Center for the Study of Youth in Havana, Director, International Relations for the Federation of University Students and, member of the Union of Young Communist.
Since 1960, ICAP has coordinated work brigades comprised of volunteers from around the world who work in solidarity with the Cuban people by engaging in light agricultural work and cultural activities. The work brigades provide an opportunity to interact with Cuban farmers as well as other workers. ICAP also arranges visits for delegates of international solidarity groups wishing to visit the island to express support for Cuba, demonstrate their opposition to the US imposed economic blockade, and learn more about the Cuban revolution. Today more than two thousand associations have expressed their solidarity with Cuba from 156 countries.
Despite the US embargo imposed upon Cuba, October 19, 1960, the accomplishments of the 1959 Cuban revolution are impressive, such as, accessible and free universal health care, free education from elementary school to the post-graduate level, high levels of political participation, low unemployment, currently standing at approximately 2 to 3%, affordable housing (with a commitment by the government to provide additional housing opportunities,) the elimination of illiteracy, a commitment by the government to address violence against women and protect workers rights.
“The sudden change of policy is fraught with suspicion borne of fatal US foreign policy adventures.”
ICAP is at the center of the international campaign to condemn the unilaterally imposed US economic, commercial, financial and media blockade of Cuba, the return of the territory occupied by the Naval Base in Guantanamo and led the fight to free the Cuban Five: René González, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and Antonio Guerreroâ” who were convicted in September 1998 for monitoring the activities of anti-Cuban terrorist organizations based in Miami, Florida.
US foreign policy towards Cuba has backfired. Instead of Cuba becoming an international pariah the US now occupies that unenviable position. President Obama recently noted:
“In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”
For many African-Americans on the left political spectrum, the sudden change of policy is fraught with suspicion borne of fatal US foreign policy adventures played out not only in Cuba but throughout Africa and Front Line Countries. As Glen Ford explores below, in a two-part interview with Kenia, can the Cuban Revolution engage Capital and survive?
“The state of New Jersey announced it was adding $1 million to the FBI’s $1 million reward for her capture.”
The interview starts with a dialogue on Cuba’s commitment to protect Assata Shakur. The FBI added Shakur to its Most Wanted Terrorist List, May 2, 2013. In addition, the state of New Jersey announced it was adding $1 million to the FBI’s $1 million reward for her capture. Shakur becomes the first woman ever to be placed on the list and only the second American to be added to the list.
Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, was a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. She was convicted in the May 2, 1973 killing of a New Jersey police officer during a shoot-out that left one of her fellow activists dead. She was shot twice by police during the incident. In 1979, she managed to escape from jail. Shakur fled to Cuba where she received political asylum. She once wrote, "I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the U.S. government’s policy towards people of color."
Ford: Many African-Americans have reservations about the normalization of US/Cuba relations in relationship to the status of Assata Shakur. Assata has been here (Cuba) since the 1980’s. The FBI has a price tag on her head. Could you give any comments that could reassure the African-American community that Assata’s status will be unchanged as Cuba moves towards normalization.
Serrano: The Cuba people are independent and we have decided that Assata Shakur deserves political asylum. And today when we are having a new moment in US/Cuban relations it is not in the conversation to renegotiate our principles. We made a decision to protect Assata in the past and that decision is not going to change. Our principles are not going to change and Assata is one good example of people in the US fighting for their political rights and we also wonder why other criminals that are free in New Jersey and not going to jail? Why are they so concerned about Assata? And why don’t they recognize that Assata Sakur is a freedom fighter and that she should be free? Thanks to our revolution, the Cuban people will protect her!
Ford: To your knowledge has the US side brought up the subject of Assata Sakur?
Serrano: We know from the media that the US, the Mayor in New Jersey has spoken about her a lot but of course we talk to the government of the United States. I personally do not participate in the conversations. Our Institute is a social organization. But the Cuban government represents the voices of the Cuban people. And the Cuban government and the Cuban people are all in agreement. We protect people like Assata Shakur. It is our right to decide who we should give asylum to in Cuba and nobody, not the US government – not any other government in the world should question that right!
Ford: Thank you.
Part II of the Assata Shakur interview will explore the Cuban perspective on the Blacks Lives Matter movement.
Black Code Alert: Tamir Rice Body Not Released to Family for Burial after Six Months: Killer Cops not Charged in Murder
In late November, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot, within 2 seconds by a Cleveland police officer after two officers responded to a 911 call that someone was brandishing a weapon in a park (it was an airsoft gun). Nearly six months later, his body has not been released to his family for burial nor has any charges been brought against the killer cops.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department's ongoing criminal investigation of the officers' actions have delayed the burial, the family says in a motion filed Monday.
“Because it is unknow [sic] whether there may need to be an additional medical examination; the body of Tamir Rice has not be [sic] put to rest,” says the motion, published by Cleveland.com. “Tamir Rice not being finally laid to rest prevents emotional healing and incurs a daily expense. The foot dragging of this investigation has now spanned three seasons."
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. She worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered South African vanadium mine workers. Marsha's successful lawsuit led to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). She is Director of Transparency and Accountability for the Green Shadow Cabinet, serves on the Advisory Board of ExposeFacts.com.and coordinates the DC-based Hands-Up Coalition.