Vancouver, Canada may not have Cuba's hot sunshine, but Vancouver's beautiful July weather was warm and sunny enough for celebrations and events for Cuba out in the park! In one month, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) held not one but two BBQ events at Trout Lake Park in Vancouver, bringing together communities, families and supporters of Cuba!
On July 2nd, VCSC held a BBQ to kick off a fundraising campaign for the upcoming 7th International Che Guevara Conference (October 27 – 29, 2017). Besides raising funds for this major event, the BBQ was also a great opportunity to talk about Cuba with those attending as well as curious park-goers who stopped by to enjoy the event and to find out more information! The event began with a welcoming song from Eagle Eyes, a Sechelt Indigenous elder, who recognized the unceded Coast Salish territories the event was taking place on. Tamara Hansen, VCSC's coordinator and MC of the event, also spoke about the effects of the US blockade on Cuba and the importance of protesting this cruel and illegal policy, especially since just last month US President Trump announced he would be reversing some of the steps towards normalizing US/Cuba relations made under the Obama administration.
Participants enjoyed the sunshine and delicious BBQ to the music of CanAmerica, a live band made up of members from across Central America, whose infectious sound attracted more people to the event. Following CanAmerica's performance, local brigadistas who had been on the 2017 Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade to Cuba gave a report back from the trip. Brigadistas Agripina Suarez and Janine Solanki conveyed the warmth and excitement of their recent experiences in Cuba, and how they felt even more inspired by the Cuban Revolution by the end of their trip. Along with the report back was a message from Iris Cogger in Winnipeg, Manitoba, also a brigadista and a Canadian Network on Cuba executive committee member.
To wrap up the event, as one of the many things Cuba is famous for is salsa dancing, a salsa lesson from VCSC member Janine Solanki got enthusiastic participants up on their feet and dancing!
Just a few weeks later on July 29, VCSC held another BBQ celebration, this time to celebrate the anniversary of the July 26 movement and the gains of the Cuban Revolution. The event opened with a welcoming song by Eagle Eyes, and then continued with a talk from VCSC coordinator Tamara Hansen about the significance of the July 26 movement that the event was gathered to celebrate. The July 26, 1953 attack on the Moncada Garrison in Santiago, Cuba was meant to start off the Cuban Revolution, but was a military defeat for the young rebels, which included Fidel and Raul Casto. However, the July 26th movement that grew out of that defeat brought the Cuban Revolution to victory, which is why it is one of the most important days to celebrate in Cuba!
Once again participants enjoyed the tasty BBQ, and the event filled the park with the music of CanAmerica once again, as well as songs of social justice from Cree/Nishnawbe female hip hop and spoken word artist Okimaskwesis. This time the event was especially exciting for the many children who attended with their families, as they got to try swinging a bat at a piñata and collecting lots of candy!
This time the salsa lesson which wrapped up the event was taught by Janine and Jodie, and perhaps with all of these BBQs and salsa lessons Vancouver's Cuba solidarity community is improving their salsa dance skills!
July 30th - Poetry Event
The next day, on Sunday July 30th, VCSC joined with Proyecto Cultural Sur – Vancouver to hold a poetry event in defense of the environment and the sacred right to water. This joint event was held at the Seaforth Peace Park in Vancouver at the “Sopa Sur” monument erected by Latin American solidarity activists four year prior. The event was MC'd by Lucy Ortiz from Proyecto Cultural Sur – Vancouver and Tamara Hansen from VCSC , and was a beautiful gathering of the Latin American community and Cuba solidarity activists. Those in attendance held a toast to water and shared poetry, music and speeches about the importance of water and its many forms.
Beyond these great community events celebrating Cuba in the summer sun, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba has also been out at some of the many summer festivals in Vancouver, including having a busy information booth at the Commercial Drive Car Free Festival on July 9th. This event which sees hundreds of thousands of Vancouverites in attendance was a great opportunity to talk to more people about the gains of the Cuban Revolution!
Make sure to find out about VCSC's next events at www.vancubasolidarity.com, and find VCSC on Facebook or Twitter @VanCuba_VCSC
Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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