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At the US Interest Section Dr. Ferrer agreed to become a black cog in the long running campaign to create dissatisfaction and unrest there and in return was given supplies for his clinic and a CIA related email address

to go with his computer. In addition US personnel in Havana made phone calls to key contacts

overseas and in Miami to aid in the publicizing of Dr. Ferrer’s “movement.”



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The acrimonious debate on race in Cuba

By Jean Damu


Recently the cold war against Cuba was ratcheted up when an acrimonious debate broke out over the issue of racism in Cuba and for the first time the issue of Brazil was thrown into the mix.

The brouhaha began when scores of prominent African Americans, many of whom should have known better, put their names to a petition calling upon the Cuban government to release from prison a doctor whom they say is a leader of a “civil rights movement” in Cuba. 

The petition labeled, ”Acting On Our Conscience: A Declaration of African American Support for the Civil Rights Struggle in Cuba,”  refers to Dr. Darsi Ferrer as an “internationally known Afro-Cuban civil rights leader…who has placed at risk his life to draw attention to the conditions of racism and racial discrimination in Cuba that has hitherto been ignored” ( 

The petition signers say they support the position of Dr. Abdias Nascimento, the historical leader of Brazil’s Black Movement, in calling upon the Cubans to release Ferrer.

Several days later a “Message from Cuba to African American Intellectuals and Artists,” arrived from several prominent Afro-Cubans (  Understandably the Cubans expressed dismay and hurt that so many prominent African Americans would breech the long- standing solidarity between Black America and Cuba.

The Cubans recounted their long and proud record of fighting racism at home and abroad. They cited Cuba’s offer to send medical personnel to New Orleans after the Katrina disaster; an offer rejected out of hand by the Bush administration. Surprisingly the Cubans didn’t mention the ongoing program of training African American youths, free of charge, as doctors at their Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. The first class is scheduled to graduate this spring.

And even more recently a petition is currently being circulated countering the original petition.

These are the general boundaries of the debate. But the original petition begs numerous questions including, who wrote the original petition? who is Dr. Ferrer?

 Is there really a civil rights movement in Cuba or is the petition merely a grandiloquent expression of Afrogringoism? And finally, what is the relationship of Brazil to the discussion of race in Cuba? To begin with and in the interest of honesty it must be acknowledged the author of the petition is not an African American but rather the long time Cuban exile Carlos Moore. Moore, an ethnologist, has spent the vast majority of his adult life, nearly five decades, in exile from Cuba and consistently has used his considerable skills attacking the Cuban revolution on issues of race in formats designed to attract the attention of English speaking populations in the Western hemisphere in general and the US audience specifically (

The significance of Moore shaping his attacks to specifically English speaking audiences will be discussed below in comments relating to Brazil.  

Moore laid the groundwork for his petition campaign during his book tour in early 2009 promoting the publication of his latest work, Pichon: Race and Revolution in Cuba: a Memoir.

In this book Moore moves a considerable distance in temperament from an earlier book, Castro the Blacks and Africa, wherein he writes angrily of Cuban policy towards blacks and Africa in general to in his current work, “expressions of confessed hatred…to cover most of Cuba’s territory, culture and history.”  Or in Moore’s own words, “…let me start by telling the story of the conditions that led me to despise my own country to the point I idealized America.”

One has to wonder how many of those who signed his petition had read Carlos Moore’s autobiography?

The relationship between “Pichon” and the petition campaign is important because the memoir invokes the names of numerous personalities in his introduction as a backhanded form of endorsement. He lists them as “spiritual co-authors,” as if each and everyone would agree with his many wild and inaccurate assessments of Cuban life and culture.

One “spiritual co-author” who would have asked to have his name removed from “Pichon” was Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael.)

In the late 1990s while he was in Cuba being treated for cancer (free of charge) Ture had long conversations with this writer about his feelings and impressions of Cuba. When informed that Cuba had been ripped off by the Angolans with a shipload of rotten coffee that eventually had to be burned in exchange for military equipment used in the war against Unita and South Africa, Ture railed with rage at the incomprehensible act of ingratitude on the part of some Angolan officials.  During his lifetime Ture was a great supporter and defender of Cuba. 

The same can’t be said for Maya Angelou. In her most head scratching endorsement since her approval of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court, Angelou wrote the forward to “Pichon.”

But though it’s too much to expect that many of the petition signers would have read Moore’s autobiography they can’t be excused for not knowing who he is or what he stands for and that he is an active ingredient in our government’s long, long campaign against Cuba.

That’s who Carlos Moore is. But who is Dr. Darsi Ferrer?

That Dr. Ferrer is an internationally known Cuban civil rights leader there is no doubt. For those who do doubt rest assured the internationally known and respected defenders of human rights, the Wall Street Journal and Miami Herald say it is so.

There is only one problem—there is no civil rights movement in Cuba. This is not to say there shouldn’t be—but more on that below.

What there is, of course, is a dissident movement, a movement of dozens, perhaps hundreds of people who want Cuba to return to capitalism, to return to a government that would make a black civil rights movement not only necessary but urgent.

Today that is not necessarily the case.

Dr. Ferrer’s primary issue with Cuba appears to be that the medical care system there has deteriorated somewhat. So he established what he calls a clinic and human rights center and dispenses some medical care to those he says are marginalized, i.e., blacks, and those he says have diminished access to medical care.

This issue also raises many questions. Dr. Ferrer is black. If Cuba is the racist state he and Moore claim it to be, how did he become a doctor without paying one centavo in student tuition fees?

Second, 15 years ago Cuba entered what is euphemistically called “the special period.” That is when the former Soviet Union dismantled itself, re-instituted capitalism, and 30% of the Cuban economy evaporated overnight. Under those circumstances how could the medical care system not deteriorate? That’s the understandable reality but today if you walk into any one of the thousands of hospitals and medical clinics that dot the island’s landscape you will see that most of the medical technicians there are black.

Moving on, readers need to ask themselves another question. How in a state like Cuba do you go about setting up a medical clinic outside the national system? There is only one way. You do what so many other dissidents have done. In Havana you go to the US Interest Section that acts as the US Embassy in a country in which no formal diplomatic relations exist, and agree to cooperate with the enemy; which is what Dr. Ferrer did.

At the US Interest Section Dr. Ferrer agreed to become a black cog in the long running campaign to create dissatisfaction and unrest there and in return was given supplies for his clinic and a CIA related email address to go with his computer. In addition US personnel in Havana made phone calls to key contacts overseas and in Miami to aid in the publicizing of Dr. Ferrer’s “movement.”

Carlos Moore answered the phone. The Miami Herald and Wall Street Journal editorialized about the deplorable state of blacks in Cuba. Long time recipients of National Endowment for Democracy payments jumped into action to protest Cuba’s alleged mistreatment of blacks. And as we’ve already seen 60 prominent African Americans leaped into formation and signed the cold war inspired petition.

So what is real and what is not real?

After having said all that has been said and after paying tribute to everything Cuba has done to counter world wide racism, not least of all its construction of 26 schools in Cuba to educate 35,000 mostly African youth (free of charge) and after acknowledging Fidel Castro’s wonderful and heartfelt comments to the International Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, the truth of the matter is, and the Cubans will be the first to admit it, racism exists in Cuba, just like it does in every other country on the planet, particularly the United States.

Over the last decade and a half Cuba has rebounded economically to a large degree, but key aspects of socialism that alleviated many of the social and economic tensions that caused racism have been removed. Since then some visible aspects of racism can be seen.

For instance racial profiling is on the rise. Blacks are stopped for driving infractions or other slight social transgressions far more than whites. White females or light skinned black women are allowed to engage in “jinaterismo,” (quasi-prostitution) inside the tourist hotels far more than dark skinned women. Black caricatured dolls and figurines featuring black women with big lips, hips and a rag tied around their head are commonly sold in the tourist centers.  Cubans lamely explain that tourists expect to buy these things.

State television programming regularly schedule racist inspired novellas from Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico, in addition to the ones created in Cuba.

Furthermore, especially since the onset of the special period, the marginalization of Afro-Cubans has intensified primarily because those who left Cuba and send remittances to their relatives were overwhelmingly white in number. Most Afro-Cubans do not have access to resources available to white Cubans. Increased access to remittances on the part of whites continues to this day, even though the negative aspects of the special period have diminished.

So despite Cuba’s massive efforts to eliminate racism (last year’s elections to the National Assembly saw the number of black electors rise to 35 percent, about equal to the percentage of blacks overall) it needs to do more.

Which brings us finally to the issue of Brazil.

One of the most interesting conversations on race in Cuba took place in the late 1990s between a delegation of African Americans, led by Randall Robinson, the former director of TransAfrica, and Johnetta Cole, the former president of Spelman College and Cuban president, Fidel Castro. During that conversation, carried out under extremely friendly conditions, the idea of an affirmative action program for Afro-Cubans was put forward by the African Americans. Fidel allowed that he had often been stymied in how to advance the social conditions of blacks. Everything that had been implemented only worked to a degree. He was not against the idea of affirmative action. Clearly more needed to be done.

Here is where the situation gets dicey and here is why Carlos Moore’s pitch to Afrogringoism, a term first applied to several African Americans at the Durban Conference Against Racism, to describe their attempts to monopolize discussion on race, is essentially dishonest.

In the former Latin colonies, those of Spain and Portugal, slavery developed and was administered vastly different than the former British colonies. To one degree or another, in all the Latin colonies, because the colonists freely intermarried and/or cohabited with African and Indian females, the fiction of racial democracy developed.

In the former British colonies, especially the United States, no such fiction ever developed. And even though racial intermarriage existed far more than usually conceded, racial separation was, and to a large extent continues to be, the order of the day.

In the spring of 2008 the Brazilian Supreme Court entertained arguments why government sponsored quotas insuring that a certain number of Afro Brazilians be enrolled in the national college system be thrown out.

By and large this case was the same as the 2002 reverse discrimination case at the University of Michigan, where social conservatives argued that affirmative action was discrimination against whites.

In Brazil, however, it is the political left and numerous black organizations that oppose racial quotas.  One hundred thirteen organizations and individuals signed an “Open Letter” of protest to the Supreme Court arguing against the government’s affirmative action program. Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute could have written much of the letter.

The letter makes extensive references to the University of Michigan case and Chief Justice John Roberts opinion that says, “…the path towards the abolition of racially based discrimination is to end racially based discrimination.”

And “Of course there is racial discrimination in Brazil. Still Brazil is not a racist society. Since the abolition of slavery, instead of opting for the ‘one drop rule,’ Brazilians have worked out a collective system of identity based on the anti-racist notion of mixing which has produced laws that criminalize racism. In seventy years the Republic has not witnessed a single organized racist movement or any significant expression of racial hatred. Race prejudice is so shameful that it has hidden itself in a series of oblique and ashamed expressions that fear to come out into the open.”

It is clear from reading this letter and numerous other documents and writings relating to race in Brazil that in general terms there is a vast ocean of consciousness between many Afro descendants in the former Latin colonies and those in the US and others, most notably Jamaica.

The Brazilians’ comment about the “one drop rule” is fatuous and inspired the title of this essay. Brazil did adopt a one drop rule, but it is the exact reverse of the US rule. In Brazil if you have one drop of white blood you’re (historically anyway) considered white; and that is the basis of the racial democracy fiction that in decidedly racist terms was labeled “Lusotropicalism” in an earlier time.

Obviously thinking about race in Cuba and Brazil is not identical, but they are interconnected and one gives insight into the other. They both reside on the same side of the vast gulf of thinking on race that exists between Cuba and the US.

Carlos Moore is aware of these differences in thinking and perceptions and that is why all of his protests about racism in Cuba are directed toward English speaking audiences because he knows the development of black political movements in the former Latin colonies remains low and virtually non-existent in Cuba.

If Moore were honest he’d promote dialogue to break the information blockade that prevents African Americans from knowing what truly is happening in Cuba. He’d promote a hemispheric Black Consciousness Movement, a movement that took the form of the Black Power Movement in the US, to energize a movement to help dispel the centuries old fiction of racial democracy in the former Latin colonies. He’d address a need for a hemispheric reparations movement.

Instead of promoting racial solidarity and political progressiveness in the West, Carlos Moore has spent the last 50 years fighting communism and spitting on the only country in the Western Hemisphere to have spilled blood in the last 100 years fighting for the rights of Africa and black people.

Those who want to sign the petition opposing Carlos Moore’s petition can do so when it appears on-line at this newspapers website or other on-line locations. This story first appeared in the San Francisco Bayview newspaper.

Jean Damu can be reached at

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To: U.S. Citizens

Declaration of African American Activists, Intellectuals, and Artists

in Continued Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution


We, the undersigned, express our continuing solidarity with the Cuban Revolution.

Cuban expatriate Carlos Moore and the other signers of the December 1, 2009 ACTING ON OUR CONSCIENCE: DECLARATION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN SUPPORT FOR THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE IN CUBA do not speak for or represent the vast majority of Black radicals/progressives, nor the sentiment of the masses of African Americans in the United States. This December 1st Declaration ironically makes no mention of the 50 year US blockade against Cuba, and how it seeks to derail the progress made by Cuba thus far toward eradicating the racism created by its former colonizers - Spain and the United States.
We are disappointed that the signers of the Declaration, many whom have made important contributions to the African American struggles against racism and for democracy, connected their charge of racism to the claims of Dr. Darsi Ferrer Ramirez and Carlos Moore, two known opponents of Cuba's revolutionary system. Apparently, like many opportunists both Carlos Moore and Dr. Darsi Ferrer Ramirez, who resides in Cuba, saw the opportunity to solicit support for their position from this select group of high profile and "credible" sectors of the African American community. This action is divisive and misguided.
We, the undersigned, believe that the Carlos Moore originated petition is designed to create a wedge in the African American support base for Cuba. Moore's petition is also an attempt to dismiss Cuba as a modern example of how socialism is a practical system that ensures an equitable distribution of its resources for ALL Cubans.
For more than forty years, Carlos Moore has opportunistically roamed the globe spreading lies and slander about Cuba. Like Moore, Dr. Darsi Ferrer, who ran into trouble when he attempted to set up a medical clinic outside the state run medical system, has also sought to use race to undermine the gains, institutions and anti-racist direction brought about by the Cuban Revolution. In 2006, Dr. Ferrer went to the US interest-section and was given a US-monitored email account (i.e. access to a CIA manipulated portal). Dr. Ferrer's reactionary blog along with links to reactionary websites such as Capital Hill Cubans, Blog for Cuba and can be found at .
Moore, and the signers of the Declaration, ignore the decades-long struggle waged by the Cuban government against all forms of racism. This includes ignoring/denying Cuba's internationalist support of African, Caribbean and African American liberation struggles. Moreover, Moore and his followers ignore the historical and present-day fact that Afro Cubans have not been a mere passive force, but have been and are central in the struggles to make and advance the Cuban Revolution.
This attack on Cuba is an attack on a country that stood fast to its democratic, socialist, anti-racist and internationalist principles despite
the great pressures from US and world imperialism, which has forced other countries to abandon these positions.
It is clearly no coincidence that this attack on Cuba, comes at a time when so many throughout the US and internationally are being victimized by the policies and crises of capitalism and are seeing responses in Cuba and other countries throughout Latin America that seek to address the needs of the masses of people and not the banks and ruling classes as is being done in the US.
This attack on Cuba is an attack on efforts to forge Black and Brown working class unity as the cornerstone of the democratic and socialist revolutions developing throughout Latin America. It also furthers the US efforts to divide African Americans and Latinos as the major growing challenge to oppressive US domestic and foreign policies.
For five hundred years prior to the Cuban Revolution, racism was the norm in Cuban society. To expect that it would completely disappear even in fifty years is a pipe dream.
Indeed, as Fidel Castro, noted in 2003 in a dialogue in Havana with Cuban and foreign teachers:

Even in societies like Cuba, that arose from a radical social revolution where the people had reached full and total legal equality and a level of revolutionary education that threw down the subjective component of discrimination, it still exists in another form.

Fidel, as noted in the December 2, 2009 "Message From Cuba To Afro-American Intellectuals and Artists," described this as objective discrimination, a phenomenon associated with poverty and a historical monopoly on knowledge.
The criticisms about the presence of racism in Cuba are being addressed within the framework of the Cuban Government and civil society. There is and has been fierce debates and policy changes INSIDE these structures when it comes to eradicating 500 years of racism in Cuba.
Cuba's policies against any form of discrimination and in favor of equality are grounded in the Cuban Constitution. According to Afro Cubans:

As never before in the history of our nation, black and mestizo Cubans have found opportunities for social and personal development in transformative processes that have been ongoing for the past half a century. These opportunities are conveyed through policies and programs that made possible the initiation of what Cuban Anthropologist Don Fernando Ortiz, called the non- deferrable integration phase of Cuban society."(Message from Cuba to African American Intellectuals and Artists, 12/2/09)

The people of Cuba, in electing their representatives to the National Assembly, have chosen a very diverse group, including dozens of Black Cubans prominently working in many key roles. Indeed, the National Assembly of Cuba is so racially diverse that if Cuba was "suffering" from racism, how did these brothers and sisters get elected? Unlike when the Congressional Black Caucus was formed in 1970, this effort came out of the necessity here in the United States to continually defend the hard won Civil liberties and the rights to equal opportunities waged for centuries by African Americans.
Unlike the signers of the December 1, 2009 Declaration, we have not forgotten that in the struggles against colonialism and apartheid, when
Africa called, Cuba answered. Unlike other friends of Africa, Cuba provided assistance to the people of Southern Africa, without brokering one deal for access to resources or anything else. Cuba‘s solidarity with the people of Southern Africa in the 1987/88 Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola was the decisive turning point in the defeat of apartheid. We remember and applaud Cuba's provision of teachers,
technicians, doctors and other medical personnel along with free medical training to the young people of Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. During the past forty years, more than 35,000 African youth have been trained free of charge while studying in Cuban medical and technical schools as well as  universities.
We the undersigned believe that the true callous disregard for the rights of citizens is taking place here in the United States, with Hurricane Katrina being the most glaring proof. In contrast Cuba was among the first countries to offer human and material aid during this crisis in 2005, aid  that was in turn rejected by the U.S. government. The U.S. Government continues to spend billions of dollars on war abroad while neglecting African Americans and the poor who are generally subjected to substandard health care and education, the lack of decent and affordable housing, urban street violence and police brutality, crippling unemployment and jobs that people need to live decently.
Cuba is the ONLY country in the world to provide free medical training to United States students wishing to become doctors; providing full
scholarships that include tuition, room, board and ALL incidentals. Many of these students are African Americans whose dreams of becoming doctors in order to serve their communities would never have been realized.
We the undersigned call on African Americans to stand up in support of the Cuban Revolution and call on the U.S. Government to end its blockade on the Cuban people. We also call for African Americans to build a united front in the United States that addresses the ongoing historical callous disregard for the rights of African Americans and all people who are subjected to gross negligence in America.
We call on the signers of Carlos Moore's Declaration to withdraw their names as an act of solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and recognition of the valiant and consistent efforts by Cuba to eradicate racism.
In closing we reaffirm our respect for the Cuban people's right to self-determination and sovereignty.
We the undersigned STAND WITH CUBA!
Long Live The Cuban Revolution!
Abayomi Azikiwe—Detroit
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
S. E. Anderson—Brooklyn, NY
Activist/Educator/ Black Left Unity Network*
Kazembe Balagun—New York, NY
Writer/activist/ Outreach Coordinator -Brecht Forum
Amina & Amiri Baraka—Newark, NJ
Activists/Writers/ Educators
The Rev. Luis Barrios, PhD—New York, NY
Afro-Boricua- Human Rights Activist, Priest & Professor
Department of Latin American Studies
John Jay College of Criminal Justice—City University of New York
Judy Bourne, JD—US Virgin Islands
Activist Attorney
Jean Damu—San Francisco, CA
Lena Delgado de Torres, Binghamton, NY
Doctoral Candidate, Sociology Department
Binghamton University
James Early—Washington, DC
Board Member of TransAfrica, Institute for Policy Studies and US-Cuba
Cultural Exchange and Director of Cultural Heritage Policy at the Center for
Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution
Herman and Iyaluua Ferguson—North Carolina/New York
Activists/Educators /Malcolm X Commemoration Committee
Franklin Flores—New York, NY
Artist/Activist, Casa De Las Americas NYC
Joan P. Gibbs, Esq.—Brooklyn, NY
National Conference of Black Lawyers
Gerald Horne, JD, PhD—Austin, TX
Activist/Historian/ Author
Basir Mchawi—Bronx, NY
Chair of the International African Arts Festival
Rosemari Mealy, JD, PhD—Brooklyn, NY
Educator/Activist/ Author of Fidel and Malcolm X: Memories of a Meeting
Saladin Muhammad—Rocky Mount, NC
Black Workers For Justice
Tony Menelik Van Der Meer—Boston, MA
Activist/Educator • Africana Studies Department
University of Massachusetts Boston
Norman Richmond—Toronto, Canada
Activist/Radio Journalist
Prof. Harold Rogers—Chicago, IL
Chair, Emeritus, African American Studies Dept
City Colleges of Chicago
Aishah D. Sales—Peekskill, NY
Adjunct Professor Dept. of Mathematics Westchester Community College (SUNY)
William W. Sales, Jr., PhD
—Peekskill, NY
Associate Professor Africana Studies Department Seton Hall University
Brenda Stokely—Brooklyn, NY
Million Worker March Movement, Labor/Community and Anti-war Activists
Tim Thomas— Oakland, CA
Community Building Program Manager
Habitat for Humanity East Bay
Willie Thompson— San Francisco, CA
Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, City College of San Francisco
Askia Toure— Boston, MA
Tontongi— Boston, MA
Editor of the Review Tanbou, Boston, Massachusetts
Roy Walker—Chicago, IL
Advocate of Philosophical Consciencism
Michael Tarif Warren— Brooklyn, New York
Activist Attorney
Hank Williams— New York City
Freedom Road Socialist Org/OSCL and CUNY Graduate Center

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Full Episode: Cuba: The Next Revolution

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