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Vol. 78/No. 22      June 9, 2014

Miners community center
hosts event to free Cuban 5
‘Five are fighting for us, we need to fight for them’
(feature article)
MOSTON, England — The Moston Miners Community Arts and Music Centre, housed in a building of a closed coal mine, is hosting a two-week showing of “I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived,” a collection of prison paintings by Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five. Some 35 people came to the launch meeting on opening day May 17.

“You can see that the paintings come from the heart, you can see their humanity through them,” said Paul Kelly, one of the speakers at the event, organized by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. “Real fighters for freedom in the West are often put away and locked up. During the miners’ strike here you could see the brutality of the state.”

Kelly worked at the Agecroft colliery in Salford outside Manchester and took part in the 1984-85 miners’ strike in the United Kingdom. “Miners were jailed and brutally beaten for fighting for jobs” during that strike, he said.

“Victory for us can only be in struggle, you have to fight, otherwise you can’t win. The Five are fighting for us, that is why we need to be fighting for them.” Kelly announced an upcoming fundraiser for the families of the 301 miners recently killed on the job in Soma, Turkey, as well as a miners’ memorial event on the 1984-85 strike where the paintings will be on display.

“This place was built for events like this that stand for the working classes and the way we all have to struggle for our rights,” Lou Beckett, 46, who runs the community center, told participants.

“I like people standing up and questioning authority,” Beckett told the Militant, pointing to a piece he painted on display at the center titled “Up on the Roof,” which depicts the 1990 Strangeways prison uprising in Manchester against abusive treatment and overcrowding. “I was a trade unionist all my working life in manufacturing,” he said.

A letter by Antonio Guerrero was read aloud by Jenni Ford, a member of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign who helped organize the event. She writes regularly to the Five. After describing some of the inhumane conditions prisoners face in the U.S., Guerrero ended his letter by saying, “Each day we are more determined, creative and serene.”

“I heard René González talk about Guerrero’s paintings at the international book fair in Havana in February,” said event chair Catharina Tirsén, who cited González’s comments at a Feb. 20 panel discussion at the book fair.

“As I studied Tony’s drawings and read the stories recounted by my brothers, the first thing I noticed was something that surprises people — not me, because I went through the same experience,” González said. “It’s the lack of anger, the complete lack of hatred or resentment when they talk about the conditions in the hole. You might wonder, how can that be? They really did treat us badly and did everything possible to make us bitter. …

“When you win you don’t have to become bitter. And that’s what happened — we won. We defeated them in the hole. We defeated them in the trial. And every day in prison my brothers are defeating the prosecutors, the judges and all those who organized the frame-up case against us.”

“In Cuba the Five are heroes, imprisoned for defending the revolution there,” said Tirsén. She encouraged participants to look over a “Who Are the Cuban Five?” display next to the watercolors. The display features a biography of each of the Five, the introduction by Mary-Alice Waters to the booklet on Guerrero’s paintings I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived, and a quote by Nelson Mandela on the decisive impact that Cuba’s 1975-91 internationalist combat mission to Angola had on the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and freedom from colonial domination throughout the continent.

Three of the Five — Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González and René González — were among the 425,000 Cubans who volunteered for the Angola mission, Tirsén pointed out.

“The reason the U.S. rulers don’t like the Cuban Revolution is because they are scared, they don’t want a revolution in their country,” said Steve Bennett, a well-known supporter of the local football team FC-United. The team was formed in 2005 by football fans opposed to the big-business domination of the game. Bennett and a few other supporters recently visited Cuba. “I have never seen anything like the May Day parade in Havana,” Bennett said, pointing to the mass mobilization on International Workers’ Day he saw there.

“I spent the odd night in a cell and know what it is like. This exhibit really appeals to my experiences,” Dominic Morrison told the Militant. “Prison doesn’t really help people, it stifles your life.”

“The paintings are really inspiring, it takes you into the world that is imposed on them for fighting for a better world,” said Adeeb Ahmed, another participant in the event. Ahmed and Morrison were amongst the three participants who picked up the book I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived, which many already had through the effort to promote the event. Two other participants bought subscriptions to the Militant.

More than a dozen people left their contact details in a visitors’ book, which allowed participants to comment on the showing and to get involved in the campaign to free the Five.

Starting June 23 the exhibit will be shown at the Manchester Central Library for three weeks. The Nexus Art Café in central Manchester is scheduled to show the paintings through August.
Related articles:
‘Cuban 5, like Cuban Revolution, stay solid’
Atlanta students comment on Guerrero’s prison paintings
Who are the Cuban Five?
Exhibits of paintings by Antonio Guerrero
‘5 days for the Cuban 5’
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