Fidel Castro was an ally of some black revolutionaries
Fidel Castro holds a special place among African Americans for his support of persecuted black freedom fighters.
Let’s not forget that during his visit to New York in 1959 – fresh out of the revolution – he met Malcolm X and stayed at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem.
After being scorned by a posh downtown hotel, Castro stayed downtown, setting up his headquarters at the Theresa Hotel, where thousands of people welcomed him. In his autobiography, Malcolm X said that Castro “slew a psychological blow to the US State Department when it confined him to Manhattan, never dreaming that he would stay in uptown Harlem and do such a thing. impression among the negroes”.
The Cuban leader will later deliver a speech at the United Nations in which he expressed his support for the African people. And today Cuba has monuments to both Malcolm and Martin Luther King.
And Castro expressed his solidarity with black people through actions. He granted asylum to Black Panthers such as Assata Shakur and others – political prisoners who fled the oppression they faced in America, the “Land of the Free”, and who fell victim to the J. Edgar Hoover’s War on Black Liberation, on Civil Rights. groups and their leadership.
Additionally, Cuba under Castro fought apartheid in South Africa, going shoulder to shoulder with the white supremacist regime’s army to defend Angola in its war of independence.
“Who trained our people, who gave us resources, who helped so many of our soldiers, our doctors? declared Nelson Mandela during his visit to Cuba in 1991.
“The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the peoples of Africa. Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice, unparalleled in its principled and selfless character,” Mandela noted. “Cubans came to our region as doctors, teachers, soldiers, agricultural experts, but never as colonizers. They shared the same trenches with us in the struggle against colonialism, underdevelopment and apartheid.
“In Africa, we are used to being victims of countries that want to take our territory or overthrow our sovereignty. In African history, there is not another instance where another people stood up for one of our own,” the South African statesman said.
Cuba also sent soldiers to fight the American invasion of Grenada during the Reagan era. Of 800 Cubans, 59 were killed. More recently, Cuba sent doctors to Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Cuban doctors have been helping their Caribbean neighbor since 1998.
And today, Cuba offers free medical school to blacks and Latinos.
Meanwhile, while Fidel Castro was aiding African-American activists and providing resources to fight for African liberation and empowerment, where was the US government? America supported the racist South African regime and branded Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress as terrorists. And to this day, African Americans are fighting for their rights against a wave of racial backlash and white nationalism, with the government having nowhere to protect them.
This is not to romanticize Castro and portray him as a benevolent leader. After all, he was not elected, but rather a brutal dictator.
According to Human Rights Watch, the ill-advised US embargo against the island nation provided a pretext for Castro to maintain a system of repression that suppressed almost all dissent, even as other nations moved away from authoritarian rule. The group claims that “thousands of Cubans were incarcerated in appalling prisons, thousands more were harassed and intimidated, and entire generations were denied basic political freedoms” under his rule. And while Cuba has made progress in education and health care and achieved near-universal literacy, these have been undermined by repressive policies and periods of economic hardship. Additionally, Castro refused to recognize human rights organizations, labor unions, a free press, or independent political parties.
Now there are signs of change, and it is ironic that it was a black American president who took steps to normalize relations with Cuba.
In the meantime, those celebrating his passing should consider that Commander Fidel was a friend of black revolutionaries when no one else was there. At a time when the United States was waging war against people of color at home and abroad — and Malcolm X wanted the UN to prosecute Uncle Sam for human rights crimes — Castro was at the alongside those who fought against racial oppression and colonialism. And that’s more than you can say for some other people.
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