Home | About Us | Archive | Documents | Campaigns & Issues | Links | Contact Us

      National Conference to Fight for the Full Normalization of Relations Between U.S. & Cuba A Great Success!

      By Tamara Hansen

      The “National Conference to Fight for the Full Normalization of Relations between the U.S. and Cuba” was held in New York City March 25-26, 2017. This twoday conference brought together people from across the U.S. and around the world to discuss how to push for the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, following the initial announcement of ‘the U.S.-Cuba thaw’ by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17, 2014.

      Of course, even now, over two years later, relations between the two countries are not fully normalized. Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo, Cuba’s Ambassador to the United Nations, explained at the conference, “Some progress has been made in bilateral relations, mainly in diplomatic affairs, dialogue and cooperation on various issues of common interest. However, these steps, together with the executive measures adopted by the previous US Government, although they are in the right way, are still insufficient. The reality is that the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba remains in force, including its extraterritorial scope, and continues to cause enormous damage and deprivation to our people and our economy. The reality is that the return of the territory illegally occupied by the United States Naval Base in Guantanamo is still pending, against the will of Cuban people.” These were some of the concerns the conference hoped to address through its plenaries, workshops, music, culture, and, most importantly, developing an action plan.

      National Conference for Cuba kicks off in New York City

      The night before the conference, over 200 people attended an evening of delicious Cuban food, drinks, and enjoyment at the Headquarters of the Cuban Mission to the United Nations. Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo, Ambassador to the United Nations for Cuba, warmly greeted and welcomed the crowd to the event.

      The next day the conference began at Fordham University in New York City.

      Throughout the weekend, over 300 people attended the conference representing at least 18 American states, 3 Canadian provinces, as well as England, Puerto Rico, and of course, Cuba!

      Saturday began with an opening by conference organizer Ike Nahem, organizer with Cuba Solidarity New York, long-time socialist and labor union activist. He introduced the MCs for the morning program, August Nimtz, Professor of Political Science and African and African American Studies, University of Minnesota, co-coordinator of the Minnesota Cuba Committee and Erin Feely-Nahem, organiser with New York/New Jersey Cuba Si Coalition. The opening plenary was a speech and dynamic discussion with Sandra Ramirez Rodriguez, Director of the North America Desk of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). The second plenary session discussed “Challenges to Implementing the Full Economic, Commercial, and Cultural Dimensions of Normalization.” It featured talks and discussion with: Dr. Rosemari Mealy, board member of IFCO/Pastors for Peace and the author of “Fidel & Malcolm X: Memories of a Meeting”; Ras Baraka, the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey; and Marietta Ulacia, Executive Director of the AfroLatin Jazz Alliance. Both of these plenaries were an energetic way to start the day with dozens of people actively participating with questions and discussion.

      The afternoon featured 20 workshops on many engaging themes, such as: “How the United States Occupied Guantanamo Bay and the Fight to Close It”, “Cuba’s Food and Energy Revolutions”, “Cuba and African Independence and Liberation”, “Democracy in Cuba”, “Cuban Medical Internationalism”, “Cuba’s Economy: Myth, Reality, and the New Economic Policies” and many others. Many in attendance at the conference found it difficult to choose between such a diverse and interesting array of workshops.

      Saturday evening was a lively public rally and cultural event at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Center. This was a moving event touching on many social justice themes from Cuba solidarity, to Venezuelan sovereignty, to Puerto Rican independence and political prisoners, to Black Lives Matter and the history of Cuban and American revolutionary heroes from Che Guevara, to Malcolm X, to Comandante Fidel Castro. The evening featured many exceptional speakers who shared their messages from the heart. The evening also featured food, drinks, live music, a live painter, and dancing.

      Sunday morning everyone came back to Fordham University to discuss an action plan for building Cuba solidarity in the United States and internationally. Conference attendees were welcomed by co-MCs Gail Walker, Director of IFCO/ Pastors for Peace and Isaac Saney, Cochair of the Canadian Network on Cuba. Before discussion, conference goers were treated to a video message from Gerardo Hernandez, one of the 5 Cuban heroes imprisoned in U.S. jails for over 16 years, reminding everyone of the important victory when he and the other Cuban heroes were released on December 17, 2014 and how our continuing campaigns for Cuba will be successful. The final addresses, by: Sandra Rodriguez Ramirez, Director of the North America Desk of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP); Miguel Barnet Lanza, Cuban novelist, poet, and president of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists; and Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo, Cuba’s Ambassador to the United Nations were received with great applause and standing ovations from conference goers.

      Highlighting Vancouver’s Participation Over 200 organizations and individuals from across the United States and around the world endorsed and supported the “National Conference to Fight for the Full Normalization of Relations between the U.S. and Cuba”. Of these groups, many participated in the ad-hoc US-Cuba Normalization Committee organizing calls leading up to the conference, including Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and Friends of Cuba Against the Blockade – Vancouver (FCAB-Vancouver).

      This was an important opportunity to connect with others from across the U.S. and around the world about how to strengthen and improve our international campaign against the U.S. blockade on Cuba, to demand the U.S. leave Guantanamo and to bring an end to U.S. regime change programs in Cuba. Both VCSC and FCAB-Vancouver sent representatives to the conference, who were invited to help organize and speak in two of the workshops, and passed an action proposal during the closing plenary on Sunday.

      Alison Bodine, an executive member of FCAB-Vancouver spoke during the workshop titled, “National Legislative Action to End the Embargo, Opportunities for Local Campaigns to Play a Major Role, and Lessons from Canada”. Overall, this workshop outlined the challenges the blockade creates for people living in Cuba, as well as for People in the U.S. wishing to engage with Cuba through either trade, cultural exchanges or sharing of educational and scientific knowledge. There was a discussion on the recent work with various municipal governments throughout the U.S., along with grassroots work happening in Vancouver, Canada. Peter Miller, from the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) and July26.org in Boston, organized this workshop to learn from the ongoing victories in the campaign to end the blockade on Cuba. The workshop also included insightful contributions from Tim Craine, the Greater Hartford Cuba Coalition; Andrea Fernandez Aponte, Latin America Working Group; and Pepe Rossy, Albany-Cuba Solidarity.

      Tamara Hansen coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba speaking at a workshop on the life & legacy of Fidel Castro Tamara Hansen, c o o r d i n a t o r of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and author of “5 Decades of the Cuban Revolution: The Challenges of an Unwavering L e a d e r s h i p ” spoke in the w o r k s h o p on “The Revolutionar y Legacy of Fidel Castro.” This workshop addressed the importance of C o m a n d a n t e Fidel Castro’s leadership in the Cuban re v o l u t i o n a r y process, plus his contribution to Cuba’s ongoing revolutionary internationalist legacy. Ike Nahem, one of the main organizers of the conference, as well as an organizer with Cuba Solidarity New York, hosted the workshop and spoke passionately about Fidel. Two other powerful speakers: Viola Plummer, chairperson of the December 12 Movement and Sasha Murphy, of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, also explained their sentiments about Fidel’s role in history and ongoing developments in Cuba.

      On Sunday at the closing plenary, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) put forward a resolution calling on the “National Conference to Fight for the Full Normalization of Relations between the U.S. & Cuba” to encourage groups and individuals to take action on the 17th of each month as a part of the International Campaign to end the U.S. blockade on Cuba, towards the full normalization (or normalization) of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Added to this resolution were that these actions also include demands for the U.S. out of Guantanamo and an end to U.S. regime change programs against Cuba. The resolution passed with groups and individuals committing to take on a more active role in mobilizing their forces on the 17th of each month for Cuba!

      Commitment to take action towards the normalization of U.S.-Cuba Relations During the final day of the conference other action plans and resolutions passed, to encourage everyone to integrate the lessons learned during the conference in the work they are doing in their communities. Most of the joint sessions of the conference are available on YouTube and we encourage those who would like to see the videos to visit Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba’s website where we have posted a report and the video links. The official notes/resolutions passed have not yet been released, however when they are, we will post them on the VCSC website as well: www. vancubasolidarity.com

      Lift the Blockade on Cuba NOW!
      U.S. Out of Guantanamo!
      US Government Stop the Campaign of ‘Regime Change’ in Cuba and Immediately Stop Interfering in Cuba’s Sovereignty and Self-determination!

      Words from the Conference!

      Speaking on the importance of solidarity, Miguel Barnet Lanza, Cuban novelist, poet, and president of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists, said: “We Cubans are deeply proud of the solidarity expressed by people around the world to Cuba and particularly to the Cuban revolutionary process. Solidarity is one of the basic principles of the Cuban revolution led by Fidel and Raul. The word ‘solidarity’ carries the most sensitive feeling of Cubans who live on the island. We were raised under this concept, and it has been a daily practice for all of us. How can we analyze or discuss issues of the revolutionary life if we do not take into account what we have done all over the world, not to mention medical aid to poor people, education or political support to countries that have suffered criminal and illegal wars?”

      Speaking about taking action on the 17th of each month, Sandra Ramirez Rodriguez, Director of the North America Desk of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) said: “At ICAP we are organizing actions every 17th of each month actions against the blockade. [...] We call on you to participate in the Tuitazos (Twitter campaign) and just to post your ideas, your actions, whatever you are doing in your cities. [...] For example in Miami, I would like to acknowledge, that every two months they organize a caravan of cars, so they make a great noise in the main streets of Miami demanding the end of the blockade. [...] but you can decide what other things you can do in your cities.”

      Cuba’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo, explained in her closing remarks: “In today´s world, where so much injustice prevails, where racist and xenophobic attitudes have re-emerged with unusual strength, where inequalities are exacerbated, where an unjust economic order is fostered and where the intention is to impose on the peoples the philosophy of war, your work will not only benefit Cuba; it will transcend our borders and will be part of the struggle for that better world that we believe possible.”

      Follow Tamara Hansen on Twitter: @THans01

      Back to Article Listing