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Vol. 81/No. 12      March 27, 2017


Chicago fundraiser builds May Day Brigade to Cuba

CHICAGO — “Cuba has inspired revolutions around the world, and I hope we can do that here,” said Kofi Ademola, explaining why he’s participating in the 12th annual May Day International Brigade to Cuba to learn more about it. “Reading Che Guevara gave me context to see what the world could look like.” Ademola was part of the program at a March 11 potluck fundraiser for the delegation, which drew more than 50 people.

Steve Eckardt from the Chicago Cuba Coalition, who is national coordinator for the brigade, chaired the event. He noted this will be the first time there will be a U.S. contingent in the international brigade, encouraging others to sign up before the March 30 deadline.

The April 24 to May 8 brigade involves a week of meetings and discussions with militants in Cuban mass organizations in the countryside, presentations on Cuba’s revolution, economy and relations with Washington, and work in the fields for four hours a day.

Then brigadistas will join the annual mass May Day mobilization in Havana, followed by participating in an International Meeting in Solidarity with Cuba.

Visiting Cuba as a teenager in the 1990s “helped me understand the world outside my small corner,” said Aislinn Pulley, a leader of Black Lives Matter in Chicago who is taking part in the brigade along with other members of the group. “It helped me understand more what capitalism is and isn’t, and what socialism strives to be.” She described her experiences participating in volunteer agricultural work during that trip.

“The two main demands of the Cuban people are to end the blockade” and end the U.S. occupation of the Guantánamo naval base, said Howard Ehrman, a retired University of Illinois Chicago professor. He gave examples of the impact of the strangling economic sanctions that Washington maintains to this day as part of its decadeslong efforts to overthrow the socialist revolution in Cuba.

Ehrman introduced “Guantánamo is Ours,” a documentary film about the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, imposed by Washington on the Cuban people in 1903. Today the U.S. government has turned the base into a notorious prison for indefinite detention of those it chooses to label as terrorists.

After the international solidarity conference in Havana, participants in the brigade have the option to join a May 4-6 “Fifth Seminar for Peace and for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases” in the city of Guantánamo. The seminar will discuss ways to step up efforts worldwide to demand Washington get out of Guantánamo.

Other brigade members will travel to Villa Clara and Cienfuegos, for visits to area health centers and art schools, and for meetings with leaders of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.

The brigade is dedicated to Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara. Castro, the central leader of the revolution, died last November. This is the 50th anniversary of the death of Guevara, who was murdered by Bolivian government troops and CIA agents while leading a guerrilla column against the dictatorship there.

Many brigade participants will be visiting Cuba for the first time. “I’ve always been attracted to Cuban culture and the revolution,” Sally Cattouse, a graphic artist, told the Militant. “I’m interested in socialism as well, so this is the perfect group to go with.”

She picked up a copy of Soldier of the Cuban Revolution by Luis Alfonso Zayas, one of some two dozen titles on the Cuban Revolution by Pathfinder Press, to learn more about the revolution. Zayas joined the revolutionary struggle to bring down the U.S.-backed dictatorship in Cuba as a teenager and today is a general in Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.

“I was born in Pakistan,” said Shiffa Rizki. “With a Third World country you think of poverty, illiteracy, lack of health care — and Pakistan is like that. You see children in the street with no food or shelter. Cuba is a Third World country but it’s different.

“And Cuba is independent from capitalist domination. I want to see what that’s like,” she said. Rizki plans to read Pathfinder’s The First and Second Declarations of Havana, manifestos of the Cuban Revolution delivered by Castro to millions of Cubans in Revolution Square.

The potluck raised more than $700 to help defray costs for participants. And it helped lay the basis for organizing more activities in defense of the Cuban Revolution, against Washington’s embargo and its continuing occupation of Guantánamo.  
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