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      Mariela Castro's March: Cuba's LGBT Revolution

      By Janine Solanki

      Summer in Vancouver is the season of Pride, and Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) was a proud community partner of the 2017 Vancouver Pride events. VCSC took every opportunity to be a part of marches and parades, to setup info tables at events, and talk to people about the important leading role Cuba has taken in the fight for LGBTQ rights and fighting homophobia and transphobia. (Read the report on VCSC's participation in Pride events).

      Cuba's advancements for LGBTQ rights and against discrimination came as a surprise to many people who saw VCSC's banners and tables throughout the Pride season, which is why beyond participating in Pride events it was important for VCSC to organize an event specifically to talk about queer issues in Cuba, and to dispel the myths about Cuba spread by mainstream Western media.

      On September 14th, VCSC organized an event at the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, screening the film “Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution”. This impactful and beautiful film follows Mariela Castro and LGBTQ supporters throughout Cuba, speaking to members of the LGBTQ community and documenting the work of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX). Mariela Castro is a leading figure in the LGBTQ movement in Cuba, the director of Cenesex, as well as the daughter of the Cuban President Raul Castro. Following the film, a music video from the popular Cuban band Buena Fe was shown, which centers around a lesbian couple, and is a great example of LGBT issues becoming a discussion in Cuba even within music and popular culture.

      Next on the program, two members of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba, Azza Rojbi and Janine Solanki, shared their experiences from participating in Cuba's events for the International Days Against Homophobia and Transphobia in 2016. Azza and Janine narrated a slideshow of photos from the events, with many stories and information about LGBTQ rights in Cuba which they learned at the events. This included seeing the support and participation of Cuba's Central Workers Union as well as government ministers and other government officials at the events, the experience of Cuba's Conga against homophobia and transphobia which dances and marches through the streets of Havana, and learning about Cuba's laws against discrimination of anyone identifying as LGBTQ. And of course, the great experience of meeting Mariela Castro!

      The final portion of the evening was a discussion period in which many questions were asked about LGBTQ issues in Cuba, as well as the status of the US blockade against Cuba – which is still ongoing. VCSC considers the LGBTQ movement as an important revolution within the revolution in Cuba, and an aspect of the Cuban revolution that should be supported and learned from here in Canada. For more information on VCSC events, visit www.vancubasolidarity.com, follow on Twitter @VanCuba_VCSC or find VCSC on Facebook.

      Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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