July 18, 2021


Fear of a Black Cuban Planet: Many Afro-Cubans are leading calls for change. Who's listening? (JASON JOHNSON, JULY 17, 2021, Slate)

Cuba's Communist regime has endured for over six decades and outlasted more than 10 American presidents, several of whom predicted and pushed for its downfall. But in recent days, a government that survived pressure from one of the most powerful nations in the world is facing its toughest fight--from its own people. From social media to the streets, Cuban Americans have added their voices to the call for a new government in Cuba, and many of them are challenging the historic American narrative about the country. One of these people is Amalia Dache. She's Afro-Cuban and a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania. She researches the role of race in higher education and student activism. She's also the author of the book Rise Up! Activism as Education. On Friday's episode of A Word, we spoke about the uprising and the myths and realities of racial equity in Cuba. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jason Johnson: When you talk to Cubans on the island and then look at the conversation happening in U.S. politics and media, what's the most critical disconnect or misunderstanding about the uprising?

Amalia Dache: So the Cubans--Cuban natives, Cubans who are dissidents of the revolution, which many of my family are, and Cuban Americans here--agree that Cuba has to change. Cuba has to be more democratic. Between both the island and the United States, that's the agreement with Cuban Americans and Cubans on the island. I mean, just engaging on Twitter, you will see people on the left and people on the far right both saying similar things, like "OK, is it possible that the CIA has been involved in the resistance in Cuba?" Have y'all not been following "Patria y Vida"? Have y'all been following Afro-Cuban artists? Have y'all not been following what they've been doing? No, they haven't. [..]

A lot of the protests there, protests in general, are generally led by young people. You've also studied uprisings in the United States and the protests that we've had over the years. What are some similar threads between the youth uprising in Cuba and what we've seen in the United States, not just last year, but over the last several years?

What's similar is that these youth, Afro-Cuban youth, have been leading. They live in the most marginal, oppressed, and repressed neighborhoods in Cuba. So where this resistance began was in one of the southern barrios of Havana, which is highly marginal, as far as race and as far as the economic situation. Because in Cuba, even though you have this totalitarian state and supposedly everyone's the same across the economic system, you still have neighborhoods, you still have barrios, that are worse as far as their housing, as far as who lives there across the demographics, and you do have predominantly Black and underserved and impoverished--within the scale of Cuban poverty--communities. So even in this kind of government, you still have a hierarchy of poverty and those who are highly affected are Black Cubans, and the youth are the ones that are coming out.

Posted by at July 18, 2021 8:34 AM