Thursday, December 8, 2016

¡Adios Hipócrita! A Farewell to the Revolutionary Who Failed his Revolution

It was in the early morning hours of the middle of the night when I received the same message from different notifications:

Breaking News: Cuba's Fidel Castro, age 90, has died, state-sponsored media reports.

Once again, the world focused its lens on the largest country of the Antillean islands. Hundreds of exiled Cubans and Cuban-Americans, accompanied by the mayor of Miami, assembled on the streets of Little Havana to sing, "¡Se Fue!"

He's gone. However, his shadow is not.

The Cuban Revolution's, and the subsequent Cuban government's, goal was detailed during Fidel Castro's 1953 trial for the attack on the Moncada Barracks, where he famously decried: "history will absolve me." However, scratch beneath the gilded surface of the story perpetuated by el Partido Comunista de Cubaand you will find a revolutionary who did not meet the expectations of his own revolution.

Fidel Castro governed as the illegitimate Head of State of the Republic of Cuba for 47 years after toppling the previous dictatorship before his. Under his rule, Cuba's government became one of the most repressive regimes to have survived both the Cold War and economic sanctions by the United States. Nevertheless, it was the Cuban Revolution that exported the mysticism of Fidel Castro throughout the world; he was seen as a symbol for the liberation of a country and defender of the poor and illiterate, as well as another Latin-American dictator practicing continuismo by silencing critics and repressing society. Despite the awe-inspiring victory of the the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro was nothing more than a hypocrite who manipulated Cuban socialist populism in order to reign over the country with an iron fist; yet, after his death, liberals in all shapes and forms expressed their ill-informed euphemisms over television, radio and Social Media. While some of the actions taken by Fidel Castro and his rebel guerrilla  army during the Cuban Revolution may inspire past, present, and future revolutionaries; praising Fidel Castro, in any way shape or form, simply illustrates a misunderstanding of the goal of the Cuban Revolutionary and the failure Fidel Castro was in achieving it. 

The campaign for digital sainthood originated on,
a state-sponsored news site commemorating the death of Fidel Castro.
The death of Fidel Castro spiked a resurgence of the romantic specter from a time long ago. Entertainment and news media outlets repeatedly announced his death while many users on social media expressed their misinformed feelings about the so-called revolutionary. The most egregious expressions of thought were found within the threads of #HastaSiempreComandante. In Cuba, the rallying cry  "Hasta Siempre Comandante" is used as a sign of blind allegiance to the Cuban revolutionary spirit. When translated literally, it reads: Until Forever Commander. Exactly what are we pledging allegiance to and why until forever, Comandante? The very thought is not allowed in Cuba today. Nevertheless, the online community, in its misguided idealism, paid homage to a dictator whose life span existed through two centuries and whose ego and misguided beliefs trapped Cubans in a Cold War-esque society where the military and police routinely implement state-sanctioned violence as a means of quelling dissidents. Beneath the gilded image of the Cuban Revolution lies a country tattered by the only brutal dictatorship in the world that the political left seems to have a peculiar relationship with.

The following are some odd examples I had the pleasure of encountering on Facebook:

The reason you might not know is because ability to criticize
your government is a privilege many liberal Americans 
seem to have forgotten does not exist in Cuba

The loyalist brainwashing is strong within this one

What "right idea" did Fidel Castro actually have?
The Cuban Revolution or the autocratic state that came after? 

It would erroneous to deny the fact that the Cuban Revolution was an extraordinary event; one whose fundamental goals included the liberation Cuba from the imperialistic influence of the United States. Cuba initially gained its independence from Spain after the Spanish-American War of 1898 after the United States intervened in the Cuban Struggle for Independence; the United States gained Cuba as one of the spoils of war after the Treaty of Paris. Soon thereafter, Cuba formally gained its independence in 1902 after the Platt Amendment was worded into the 1901 Cuban Constitution. The Platt Amendment was a law that restricted Cuba's ability to politically engage and trade with other nations; ultimately, a law that restricted Cuba's right to sovereignty by allowing the United States to interfere with Cuban Affairs without the consent of Cuba's elected officials.

Yet, despite that truth, many liberal Americans, from every walk of life,
continue to perpetuate erroneous facts about Cuba before and after the Revolution:
If you think the United States' use of imprisonment is "cruel and unusual,"
then wait until you've gotten a taste of how an autocratic state uses imprisonment.
Pre-Revolution Cuba was lauded for its socioeconomic accomplishments, an oft-glanced-over fact ignored by many liberals. In 1958, Cuba's per-capita GDP was $2,363, significantly higher than its largest neighboring country, the Dominican Republic, whose per-capita GDP was $1,320; the country spent more of its annual budget on education than the United States; and produced more doctors per 1,000 people than Norway or Sweden, countries hallowed as bastions for socialism. These accomplishments resulted in a progressive society that instilled envy within any observer. Nevertheless, every accomplishment achieved by Cuba was gained in lieu of insurmountably widening the gap between its urban and rural population, more colloquially: the haves and the have-nots.

As Americans, wherever we may find ourselves on the political spectrum or national identity, we must first seek the answers to a series of questions about any leader we choose to support or oppose.

Question: Should we praise Fidel Castro, one of the leaders of the
Cuban Revolution and who changed everything about life for the Cuban people?

Fidel, a lawyer, during his trial, sought to form "a rebellion against one single power, an illegal power, which has usurped and merged into a single whole both the Legislative and Executive powers of the nation and has thus destroyed [Cuba]." However, during the Cuban Revolution, and after, Fidel and his Cuban-flavored Gestapo routinely indulged in executing any naysayer without a trial. Fidel wanted Cuba to have "proclaimed the Constitution of 1940 the supreme Law of the State." Fidel, despite claiming an overwhelming amount of support, was in violation of various Articles from the same constitution he claimed to have wanted to be the "supreme" law. `

As we bid farewell to Cuba's most repressive leader and every liberal's revolucionario, I want to take a moment to outline how Fidel y el Paredón held constitution, the same one he so-eloquently praised during his defense, and blew a hole through some of the most fundamental rights the constitution was meant to enshrine:

Article 25 & Article 26 prohibit the use of death penalty except for the most egregious military offenses during a time of war and require the state to prove a defendant is guilty of a crime. 

Colonel Rojas, chief of police under Bastista and
victim of el Paredón and Ché Guevara's lawlessness
The public executions of Batista's former loyalists and top government executives was in direct violation of Cuban law. In his defense, Fidel told However, how couldn't have Fidel gotten away with murder? During  his defense, he cited evidence of the Cuban commoner's ignorance: "30% of our farm people cannot write their names and that 99% of them know nothing of Cuba's history." If his statistics were true, then that statistic should also apply to the Cuban legislative and judiciary branches of government who failed to stop his actions. However, the other branches of government did not fail to enforce the Constitution, Fidel and his goons mercilessly executed people without trial and with impunity. No dissenter was safe from el Paredón, even if you were told you were going to be. 

On Education

If an educated population is the cornerstone to any democracy, then the Castro's regime was a propagandist machine to ensure the population of Cuba was was both literate and understood that any criticism of socialism or the communist party was not allowed. 

1960's Cuban classroom 

The Cuban Literacy campaign inspired hundreds of teachers to travel into the rural parts of the country to educate its population. The literacy rate of the country soared to 99%.

An envious accomplishment.

Pre-Revolution Cuba emphasized education before Fidel. Article 48 of the Cuban Constitution made education compulsory for all children and even affirmed the right to obtain a state-funded scholarship to the population of Cubans who may have been hindered by structural inequalities. 

Education was a right in Cuba before Fidel; nevertheless, he inspired thousands of teachers to endeavor in the campaign to eliminate illiteracy.

Cuba, today, suffers from a lack of teachers, dilapidated schools, and overcrowded classrooms.  

The gilded image created during the 1960's doesn't exist today. If you believe teachers are underpaid in the United States, then you would never want to teach in Cuba, where teachers are paid a salary that equates to 
$25 dollars a month. 

If you are reading this, it is because you are literate and have the ability to construct and convey an opinion in favor or against it. In Cuba, you cannot criticize the government's shortcomings; what's the point of being "educated" if you aren't allowed to think?

On Healthcare

Child infirmary in Cuba
Despite all of the praise Cuba has received for its Healthcare system, it has also created a system that pimps out doctors to poorer countries, as well as communist Venezuela, for profit. This may have been a desperate attempt by the government to fight against the embargo's stifling effect on its economy; nevertheless, a pimp doesn't employ, a pimp enslaves. The country receives billions of dollars for its international doctor trafficking and pays its doctors between $18 and $67 dollars. 

What is the point of a free health care system when services are rendered on a for-pay-or-favor basis? What is the point of a free health care system when the healthcare professionals are extorted both within the country an internationally? What is the point of a healthcare system that favors tourism and not the actual Cuban citizens its meant to serve? 

¿Hasta siempre, Comandante?

Instead of remembering the hypocrite, the world should pay respect to dissidents who actually emulate the Cuban revolutionary spirit:

To Guillermo Fariñas, who for twenty-five years has held multiple hunger strikes and risked his life in protest against the Castro Regime. 

To Las Damas de Blanco, the brave women who place themselves at risk in order to stand up for their loved ones who have fallen victim to the Cuban Repressive Machinery.

To Eduardo Pacheco, who was hospitalized for refusing to pay respect for the remains of Fidel Castro.

Lastly, to every victim of Fidel Castro's regime.

There shouldn't be a debate over whether or not Fidel Castro should be remembered; the truth, as Malcolm X once stated, "is on the side of the oppressed." If the oppressed could voice their opinions, though many have tried and still try to do, they would say no. 

We, as culturally-aware citizens of the world, should respect that. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Day After...

Having to Answer to America's "Unwanted"

pic from
November 9, 2016

I am a civil servant.  My work as a Family Engagement coordinator at a small refugee center with a mission directed at educating and integrating refugees into the US school system is both personally and altruistically rewarding.  I had a meeting to enroll a Syrian family into an inner city school this morning, and the routine gathering and discussion became a battle between cultures, full of mistrust and anxiety. 

“Do you work for Trump?  Is that why you are trying to make this enrollment so confusing? I hope we get kicked out of this country so we can go back to Jordan!”

Monday, October 3, 2016

Progress Made, But We Cant Stop Here: Muslim Women in Media

Source: Playboy

Generally when you see a Muslim, particularly a women wearing a hijab in the media it is usually associated with some form of propaganda or 'terror' related accusation. Hijab is a target of islamaphobia and a hindrance to exercising freedom in a western patriarchal society.  Recently two very prominent veiled women Noor Tagouri and Amena Khan have been featured in two different very well-known brands. These promotions show great progress but also prove there is still a lot of work to do.

Friday, April 8, 2016

"Champion... Champion!"- Why West Indies' Cricket Triumph Should Excite the Global African Community

"You know what's wrong with our West Indians? No damn discipline. Look at this business this morning. That Hall and Trueman nonsense, kya-kya, very funny. But that is not the way the Aussies won tests." V.S Naipaul

The above sentiment, from 1963, might as well have been uttered in 2016. In fact, it has. The denigration of West Indian cricket's penchant to infuse residual African norms and uniquely island flamboyancy into the definitive imperial British 'gentleman's game'- all the while performing exceptionally- is as old and enduring as the game itself, in spite of an incredible cricketing legacy to show for all their 'indiscipline.'

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

From Jack to Cam- a Brief History of the Unapologetically Black Athlete

By Guest Blogger Jessica Newby

I've had this on my mind for a few days now and since it IS Black History month, I finally figured, what the heck? Mini history lesson/musings for y'all.
Let me just preface this by saying that I do not closely follow NFL football. (I'm more a college ball girl.) I didn't know very much about Cam Newton personally, or his career prior to this season. What I have been following and watching lately is the media firestorm that's been surrounding Cam Newton in the days up to and following the Super Bowl. I'm gonna say something about it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Anti-Heroes of the Year (2015)

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, alleged mastermind of the Paris Attacks, drags Syrian victims behind his truck
This is the type of list you hope that, at some point, you will stop making. It's not a particularly pleasant one. It is, however, the detestable gift that keeps on giving. Now on our third installment, this year has been laden with anti-heroics: from human error to pure evil, misfortune to villainy. Without further ado, here is our 2015 list of Anti-Heroes.

10) Brian Williams

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Of Grizzly Bears, Sandra Bland, Rape Culture, and the Absurd Politics of Respectability

Conventional wisdom dictates that when you run into a grizzly bear, your best bet is to remain calm and move ever so little. The same applies to most other large bears, and encounters with other potentially dangerous animals (snakes, large cats etc.) come with very similar advice: the reason being that these beasts, incapable of high level reasoning, act purely on the animal instinct that mandates the elimination of anything perceived threatening as a matter of survival. That's the basest natural element across the animal kingdom. The basest.