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Vol. 78/No. 22      June 9, 2014

‘Cuban 5, like Cuban
Revolution, stay solid’
(feature article)
SYDNEY — More than 200 people came to view Antonio Guerrero’s prison paintings May 9-11 at the StirrUp Gallery in the suburb of Marrickville. Organized by the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, the exhibit introduced many to the campaign to free the Cuban Five for the first time.

Shown together with Guerrero’s “I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived” collection was “Art From the Red Centre” — 20 Aboriginal desert-style dot paintings, which were auctioned to raise funds for an Australia-Cuba Friendship Society medical project in Cuba.

The purpose of the art showing is to advance the “liberation of the five Cuban heroes,” Pedro Monzón, Cuban ambassador to Australia, told the audience of more than five dozen people at the opening of the exhibit May 9. From the point of view of the U.S. government, Monzón said, “the Five committed the sin of helping stop terrorist attacks against Cuba organized from U.S. territory.”

Chela Weitzel, president of the Sydney chapter of the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, chaired the event. “Cuba’s internationalist missions have recently come to Australia,” she said, speaking of the adult literacy program organized with help from Cuban volunteer teachers in the remote Aboriginal towns of Wilcannia and Bourke in New South Wales.

The Cuban ambassador introduced Jack Beetson, head of the Literacy for Life Foundation, who complimented Monzón for his “extraordinary efforts” in getting the literacy program off the ground. Beetson, who brought three Aboriginal teachers involved in the literacy campaign in Bourke to the meeting, said 16 Aborigines had graduated from the program in Wilcannia and another 46 from Bourke and the nearby Aboriginal community of Enngonia.

Some 65 percent of the adult indigenous population are functionally illiterate, Beetson said. Thanking the Cuban government for its contribution to the literacy effort, he said the program is providing “something which the government-run school system has failed to deliver in 220 years.”

“To stick by those who stay solid is the most beautiful value. Solidarity takes guts,” Beetson said, noting that many Aboriginals have either spent time in jail or have a family member who has and can identify with the prison experience of the Five portrayed in Guerrero’s paintings. Staying solid, he said, is what the Five and the Cuban Revolution they defend exemplify.

Speaking for the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, Joanne Kuniansky explained how the Cuban Five were “railroaded to prison by the U.S. government and joined the ranks of 2.3 million working people in the U.S. behind bars, disproportionately Black and Latino, who know the true face of the so-called capitalist justice system.”

The speakers were followed by music by Papalote, a well-known Latin group. Yanna Durnan-Silva, 22, a nurse and Sara Brown, 24, a public relations worker, spoke to the Militant afterwards. “The impact of Cuba in Australia was inspiring,” said Brown. Durnan-Silva called it “the future of Aboriginal literacy.”

Over the next two days, more than 150 additional people visited the gallery, many from the surrounding community markets. On the last two days the StirrUp Gallery also showed Maestra, a documentary on the 1961 mass literacy campaign in Cuba.

After viewing the exhibit Felecia Smith, 36, a recent immigrant from Michigan in the U.S. said they reminded her “that the struggle is still going on between the U.S. government and Cuba.” Because “Cuba stood up and survived, it is an embarrassment to the U.S. government, given what the U.S. has done in South America over and over,” she said.

More than $5,000 was raised through donations and the Aboriginal paintings’ auction for the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society’s projects.
Related articles:
Miners community center hosts event to free Cuban 5:
‘Five are fighting for us, we need to fight for them’
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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