February marked Black History Month, and in Vancouver Black History Month was alive with discussions, music, poetry and dance. Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) joined with the African Descent Society of BC (ADSBC) to participate in and organize events marking Black History Month.
Besides the fact that 40 – 60% of Cubans are of African descent, Cuba historically and today has many links with the African continent. From Cuba's war of independence to the Cuban Revolution, Afro-Cubans have been leaders in these struggles to move Cuba forward. Cuba's revolutionary internationalism has also extended to supporting revolutionary movements abroad, including in 1965 when Ernesto “Che” Guevara and a group of mostly Afro-Cuban soldiers went to the Congo to assist in training Congolese revolutionary fighters. Nelson Mandela, who was a close friend of Cuba and Fidel Castro, has attributed the fall of apartheid in South Africa to Cuba's contribution. In both 1975 and 1987 Cuba sent troops, as well as teachers and doctors, to Angola to fight off the invading South African apartheid army, resulting in a decisive victory in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale that dealt a major blow to South African Apartheid.
Today Cuba's role on the African continent is felt with their contribution of doctors, particularly in West Africa during the fight against Ebola. In Cuba itself, Afro-Cuban culture and heritage is being celebrated and promoted more and more, and Afro-Cubans have a large and increasing role in Cuban society and politics.
On Saturday February 4th, the African Descent Society of BC organized a Forum on People of African Descent with a walking tour and a full day of art, music, food, speakers and discussion at the Orpheum Annex. Cuba was represented with a presentation by Tamara Hansen, coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba and author of the book “Five Decades of the Cuban Revolution: The Challenges of an Unwavering Leadership” (Battle of Ideas Press, 2010”). Tamara's presentation, “Fidel, Cuba, Africa and People of African Descent” gave an in-depth picture of Cuba's role in Africa and the role of Afro-Cubans in Cuba. Tamara's speech can be read in Fire This Time Volume 11 Issue 2.
On Friday February 17th, VCSC and the ADSBC co-organized the event “Celebrating Cuba, Africa and People of African Descent” at Cafe Deux Soleils in Vancouver. The evening was emceed by Tamara Hansen and Peter Wanyenya, and started off with a welcoming of drumming and song from Indigenous elder and activist Kelly White. The audience learned about Cuba's connection to Africa through video clips on Cuba's brigade of doctors fighting Ebola in West Africa, as well as a music video from the Afro-Cuban Hip Hop group Obsesion. Angela Gilliam, faculty emerita at Evergreen State College provided a voice message on Cuba's impact in Africa and her first hand experience with Cuban doctors in Africa. Poetry was also featured in the evening, with the poem “Black Women” by renowned Afro-Cuban poet Nancy Morejón read in both Spanish and English, by Mayra Climaco and Azza Rojbi. The audience was treated to the beautiful singing of South African gospel singer/songwriter Jubulile, as well as a dancehall performance by Jenaye. Throughout the evening speeches were given by Mr.Kebede Abate, President of the African Descent Society of BC, Dr. Charles Quist-Adade, author and faculty of the Department of Sociology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Yasin Kiraga, executive director and founder of ADSBC. A main feature of the evening was several performances by the band Young Lions, whose music got people up on their feet and dancing throughout the night!
With these events, Black History Month in Vancouver was vibrant and provided everyone who attended a greater perspective on the history, culture and powerful role of Africa, people of African Descent and Cuba in today's world. For more events organized by VCSC go to www.vancubasolidarity.com
Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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