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Obama’s Cuban Revolution: What it Means for Afro-Cubans

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By Karen Juanita Carrillo
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

President Obama’s surprise announcement that the United States will normalize relations with the government of Cuba leaves many questions open about how race relations will fare on the island.

The 51-year U.S. embargo against the Caribbean island was meant to punish Cuba’s government for becoming socialist. But there has long been a belief that the radical government, led first by Fidel Castro and now by Raul Castro—with its emphasis on granting all citizens the right to good health, education, social security and employment— at the very least vastly improved the quality of life for Afro-Cubans.

Socialism did not end social inequality in Cuba, but Blacks advanced markedly in Cuban society from where they had been in 1959. Under the socialist structure, many Afro-Cuban families found themselves with access to education and employment opportunities that had been denied to them in the past. This change took place, in many instances, because after the Revolution, white Cubans fled the island in large numbers. Afro-Cubans were able to take advantage of their absence and had their own “affirmative action” advancements, with access to better jobs than in the past.

Even with the rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba, Raul Castro has made a point of telling the Cuban National Assembly that there are no plans to end the current governing structure on the island. “In the same way that we have never demanded that the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours,” he said.

Still, vast transformations are headed the island’s way, and many people want to ensure that Afro-Cubans share in any growth opportunities.

Afro-Cuban author Pedro Perez- Sarduy is hopeful about the coming changes. He believes they will help his community. “Cuba was a socially stratified society before 1959, which is what I tried to show in my novel, ‘The Maids of Havana’,” he said. “The revolutionary process neutralized that, but the inherited racist prejudices of our recent pseudo-republican past (from 1902 to 1958) were not eradicated completely.”

Perez-Sarduy is co-editor of “AfroCuba: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture” (2002). He notes, “We are very far from having a perfect society and aspire to get to that point. But racism is a disease that is very difficult to eradicate, because it is in the mind and in people’s attitudes… Each country has its own mechanisms for dealing with the scourge of racism, which was a result of the Middle Passage. In the case of Cuba, perhaps we will have to be more consistent in the fight to overcome the disadvantages the Black population faces in Cuba, and we must come up with more original ways of ensuring that balance. We were too complacent in those early years of the Revolution, when many leaders thought that with a few practical measures, racist prejudices would disappear. We were wrong. But since 1959, we have conquered many of the civil rights battles that the Black population in the U.S. has spilled and continues shedding much blood over. Our achievements include the free and universal right to education, health and sport; everyone gets an allowance so that they can attend cultural events; and we don’t need life insurance [because health care is guaranteed].

“We benefit from all of these achievements, these are our civil rights that have been and will be jealously defended. Now with the start of the International Decade for People of African Descent, I believe that for the

Black population in Cuba, the Cuban Revolution, with all its flaws, is our redemption and our ‘service’ (reparation). We will continue to try to perfect it because we don’t have another option, and we are determined to not give up, because our ancestors were killed and massacred so that we could have a future of dignity.”

Families Still Wait for Justice in Unsolved Civil Rights Murders

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By Avis Thomas-Lester
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Juanita Evangeline Moore hates Christmas.

It was on Christmas night, in 1951, when her civil rights activist father, Harry T. Moore, and mother, Harriette V. Moore, were mortally wounded when a bomb placed by racists exploded under their Mims, Florida, home. Sixty-three years later, Moore has given up hope that her parents will receive justice. She waited patiently as local law enforcement claimed to investigate the case immediately after the brutal attack. She kept an open mind in the wake of several inquiries over the years.

>She even grew hopeful a few years ago when she learned that the FBI had reopened the case under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act of 2007. She was praying that four men who were long suspected in the killings would be formally named as suspects when she received a letter from the FBI telling her that investigators had been unable to find anything that would help them to definitively identify the culprits.

Evangeline Moore is seeking justice for her parents 63 years after their murders. (Courtesy photo)

“I haven’t heard from them since. I guess I will never have closure,” said Moore, of New Carrollton, Maryland.

Moore, 84, is among hundreds of loved ones of men, women and children killed in decades-old civil rights cases who still yearn to have someone held accountable for the killings.

In 2007, at the urging of civil rights activists, Congress passed the Till Act, which was named for 14-year-old Emmett Till, a Chicago youth who, in 1955, was brutalized and killed by racists in Money, Mississippi, after he whistled at a white woman.

At a panel discussion Dec. 9 at the National Press Club in Northwest, relatives of civil rights murder victims described their efforts to see done for their loved ones. The event was sponsored by the Cold Case Justice Initiative of the Syracuse University College of Law, one of a handful of university-based programs where law students investigate civil rights murders.

“For years, I didn’t know anything about what happened. I guess my mom didn’t want us to know what went on because we still live in that town,” said Darlene Morris-Newbill, 41, whose great grandfather, Frank Morris, died after he was set on fire by racists in Ferriday, Louisiana, in 1964. The case was investigated by the CCJI and turned its research over to the Department of Justice, which said it was unable to determine or prosecute a culprit.

Speakers urged Congress to extend the Till Act, which is set to expire in 2017. Under the act, Congress appropriated funding to the DOJ to investigate unsolved civil rights murder cases and, whenever possible, to bring killers to justice.

The panel included Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas); Emmett’s cousin, Thelma Edwards, who still remembers the night he was snatched from her parent’s home at gunpoint; Paul Delaney, a former editor at the New York Times who wrote extensively about civil rights murders; and Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald, the Syracuse law professors who co-direct the CCJI.

Jackson-Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which pushed to bring the act to fruition, compared the families’ fight for justice to those of loved ones seeking justice in recent cases, such as the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, by George Zimmerman, and the killings of Sean Bell, Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police.

Racism by Design: 2nd Lawsuit for Little Haiti Apartments

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By Erick Johnson
Special to the NNPA from The Miami Times

For the second time, Design Place Apartments in Little Haiti has been sued for racial discrimination by Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence Inc. (HOPE), a housing watchdog group.

The latest suit filed Tuesday alleges that Design Place again turned away Blacks seeking apartments at the complex, located at 5175 NE 2nd Court. The complaint, filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, names SPV Realty, the owners of Design Place Apartments, as the sole defendant. HOPE has retained attorney Rachel Goldstein from the Disability Independence Group, an organization that advocates housing rights on behalf of plaintiffs.

Design Place had failed HOPE’s random housing test in 2012, was sued and settled a housing discrimination suit in 2013. In September, HOPE decided to follow up to see whether Design Place Apartments remained in compliance.

On Sept. 15, HOPE sent Alexandra Del Rosario, a Hispanic, to Design Place to seek a two-bedroom unit. She was told an apartment was available.

But an hour earlier, Zipporah Hayes, a Black applicant, was allegedly told by General Manager Frank Leonor that there were no two-bedroom units available.

In another test, Jason Rose visited the Design Place on Oct. 4. He asked about the availability of a two bedroom apartment that he needed to rent “as soon as possible.” Rose was shown a model two bedroom and told that it cost $1,700 per month but that none were available. When he returned home, Rose called the complex and was told that he would have to provide two pay stubs to show an annual income of at least $31,000 a year. He was also told that he would have to complete a background and credit check, a process that would take at least one week.

Nearly one hour after Rose’s visit, Christopher Marrero, a Hispanic, was told that two bedrooms were currently available for only $1,250 a month, according to the lawsuit. He was also told that there would be a credit check but the application process would take only 24 to 48 hours to complete.

HOPE seeks compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Hayes, Rose and another Black tester, Dietra Young. According to the suit, Young was also allegedly told that there were no two bedroom apartments available. Reyni Salnave, a Hispanic tester, went after Young and was allegedly was told apartments were available.

The suit accuses SPV Realty of violating the Fair Housing Act of 1964 by “denying Black persons the opportunity to rent available apartments while at the same time offering White persons the opportunity to rent available apartments.”

The suit also accuses SPV Realty of giving “false and inaccurate information” as Blacks were told a higher rent rate than whites.

The suit also demands the Court provide injunctive relief to other Black applicants who were unable to rent because of the alleged discriminatory practices.

The suit comes as HOPE settled another discrimination case Nov. 5 against Elite Riverview Apartments in Miami. Hope sued Riverview in May after Black testers were denied tours to view units.

In the new lawsuit, HOPE alleges that the defendant’s “discriminatory actions have interfered with the efforts and programs of HOPE which are intended to bring about equality of opportunity for all persons regardless of race and color.”

No one from Design Place was available for comment Tuesday.

Marchers Demand President Obama Address Core Racism, Police Misconduct

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By La Risa Lynch
Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Defender

CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) - The non-indictments of two White police officers in the killings of Eric Garner and Mike Brown left the nation reeling. Massive protests sprouted up in Seattle, Wash., Washington, D.C. and New York and Berkeley, Calif., blasting ongoing police brutality that seemingly targets young Black lives often with fatal consequences.

Chicago was no different. Protests and marches clogged downtown streets and snarled traffic on major thoroughfares including the city’s scenic Lakeshore Drive.

One of those protests landed at President Obama’s door.  Chicago activist Jedidiah Brown led a two-night rally near the president’s South Side home. There Mr. Brown demanded greater action from the nation’s first Black president to acknowledge what Mr. Brown called a war against Black and Brown lives.

“Warfare is typical over freedom or control, and we are in a war where we feel like it is time for America to stop the battles against Black and Brown peoples that don’t allow freedom to truly be experienced at its full capacity,” said Mr. Brown of the Young Leaders Alliance, a multicultural direct action group.

Mr. Brown called the war subliminal, but systemic that takes the form of mass incarceration of Black and Brown people, income inequity between Blacks and Whites, poor neighborhood schools in minority communities and the school-to-prison pipeline affecting Black neighborhoods.

Mr. Obama, he said, must address those issues. Holding White House summits on community-police relations, or sending outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to meet with select community leaders or even proposing buying body cameras for this nation’s police force is not enough, said Mr. Brown, who is also a pastor.

“We are not ignoring that he has made attempts. We actually applaud him for the steps he’s made. But we don’t need a Band-Aid,” said Mr. Brown, who said he was abused by Chicago police.

Mr. Brown said he was racially profiled in a 2008 traffic stop where police drew guns on him. He was charged with impersonating a police officer, an offense he later beat. At that time Mr. Brown said he was a registered security guard.

The demonstration near Obama’s home drew nearly 270 people over the two night period. Many of the protesters included mothers who lost loved ones to police involved shootings.

They signed a banner demanding a response from President Obama. That banner will travel to Ferguson, Mo., New York and then the White House collecting more signatures along the way.  Mr. Brown vowed to chain himself to a fence outside Mr. Obama’s home until he gets some kind of response.

“The fabric of American society has been conditioned to view the Black man as a subjugated individual that is less than and not worthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Mr. Brown said. “That’s why we have the concept of White privilege. There shouldn’t be any privilege. That right should be extended to all races.”

The protest in front of Mr. Obama’s house drew an eclectic mix of people—mostly young and multi-cultural. Many of the protests sweeping the nation follow that same demographic.

John Beacham, the Chicago coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, said many of the multi-ethnic participants recognized the oppressive tactics of the Ferguson police department used against protesters as wrong.

The police response to the protesters in the days following the Mike Brown no indictment decision has been criticized as overly militarized. Ferguson police squared off with marchers with drawn weapons and the use of tear gas.

“You don’t raise a rifle unless you are ready to kill people,” said Mr. Beacham, who is White and a member of ANSWER Chicago. That, he added, encouraged people of conscience to stand in solidarity with Blacks in their struggles for more police accountability and an end to racial oppression.

“If people stand up for their own lives and say, ‘We are not going to be killed anymore,’ people in the country understand that,” Mr. Beacham said. “People of conscious have to. It’s not a terribly complicated thing. What else is there for people of conscious to do than to rush out and join the protests, regardless of skin color.”

The ongoing demonstration brought much attention to the often hidden problem of police brutality in Black communities, said Tashika Eubanks, also with ANSWER Chicago. “There is no cut and dry” solutions in curbing police brutality, but the awareness the marches bring “continue to let America know that this is not OK,” she said.

“What America needs to realize in a lot of these communities—like how Mike Brown laid on the ground for four hours with no ambulance—that happens all the time. I’ve seen that my whole life living in Chicago,” said Ms. Eubanks, who at age 12 saw her brother killed in 1991.

“I think America had a chance to see that this happens every day. Police don’t always treat people like they are human,” she added.

“If we are not in the streets who is going to listen to us? Who’s going to know that we are there [and] who’s even going to know we have these grievances?” asked Todd St. Hill, 30.

Mr. St. Hill was one of eight young adults who traveled to Geneva, Switzerland in November. He’s part of the group We Charge Genocide, a grassroots inter-generational group that gives voice to young people impacted by police violence.

The group presented a report on police brutality experienced by Chicago youth to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. For its part, the UN chastised the U.S. government for a variety of criminal justice-related issues, including treatment of suspected terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. But it also singled out the Chicago Police Department for frequent “police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed Black individuals.”

Being in the streets, Mr. St. Hill said, works in concert with their presentation to the United Nations. He said the document they presented is important but it must be followed up by some action.

“I think the point that folks are trying to get across is that Black lives matter,” he said. “We are human beings. We deserve to be treated like human beings and we will not be silenced or remain silenced anymore. We need changes in policing.”

Study: Cuts Pushed by Funder Spurred Ebola Crisis in West Africa

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Spending cuts, pushed by an international lender, “weakened health-care systems in the West African region,” leaving the countries “underfunded, insufficiently staffed and poorly prepared.”

In a report published this month in the journal, Lancet Global Health, UK-based researchers blamed policies of the Washington- based International Monetary Fund that hobbled the development of an effective health-care system in the three affected West African nations. The number of people who have died of Ebola has crossed the 7,500 mark, with more than 19,000 infected.

“Even though the IMF provided financial support to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the lending comes with strings attached—so called conditionalities—that require recipient governments to adopt policies that prioritize short-term economic objectives over investment in health and education,” said the report’s lead author, Alexander Kentikelenis.

By reviewing IMF policies from 1990 to 2014, the researchers from Cambridge University, Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, identified three factors that weakened health-care systems. These factors were the IMF’s requirement for economic reforms, caps on public-sector wages and the decentralization of health-care providers.

Wage caps limit the capacity of these nations to hire and adequately pay key health-care workers, such as doctors and nurses, the researchers said. These caps are linked to the “brain drain” of health workers in countries that need them most.

The IMF push to decentralize health-care systems makes it difficult to mobilize coordinated responses to outbreaks of deadly diseases, such as Ebola, the researchers said.

“All these effects are cumulative, contributing to the lack of preparedness of health systems to cope with infectious disease outbreaks and other emergencies,” Kentikelenis said. “The IMF’s widely proclaimed concern about social issues has had little effect on health systems in low-income countries.”

An IMF spokesman denied the claims, calling them “completely untrue.”

In a letter to the Lancet, an IMF deputy director insisted that health outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa, including the three Ebola-hit countries “improved significantly” over the past decade or so, including improvements in mortality.

The deputy, Sanjeev Gupta, acknowledged that health-care systems were fragile in the three Ebola-hit countries. “The IMF recognized the urgency of the situation— and moved quickly to help, making available an additional $130 million to the three countries to fight Ebola.”

The money was approved in September of this year. The Ebola outbreak started in Guinea at the end of 2013 and intensified sharply from July, 2014.

The IMF, which lends money to financially strapped countries, came under strong criticism this year from African nations led by Nigeria’s finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Ikweala.

The minister cited the underrepresentation of African nations on the IMF board (2 seats for 45 African countries), and an almost insignificant number of Africans in high decision-making bodies and among staff.

“We welcome efforts to address diversity,” she wrote. “However further progress is needed.”

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