Day by Day Activities
Monday September 24
Orientation for grassroots advocacy visits against the blockade on Cuba took place at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. For the next two days several teams fanned out to various offices of members of congress to urge them to work on bills to end the travel ban and blockade of the island nation.
The advocates discussed strategy and priorities of how to approach what has been primarily an intransigent congress when it comes to Cuba. Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator of the International Committee stressed to the group that "we do not want to allow the narrative on the hill to be just coming from those who want to maintain a failed 57 year old policy."
Advocates came from Alabama, Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, California, Maryland and Washington DC.
Public Event in DC High School
Monday September 24
The first public event of the Days of Action was held at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School that featured the documentary "Maestra"; about Cuba's 1961 Literacy Campaign.
The filmmaker Catherine Murphy was present to lead a discussion with parents and students. Also there was Norma Guillard, a participant in the literacy campaign at the age of 14. After the discussion Netfa Freeman, a member of the International Committee introduced two US doctors who graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), Dr Elizabeth Arnold and Dr. Eduardo Alvarado. During the discussion, several parents reflected on their frustration with the difficulties and lack of support that they are receiving in raising their children in the U.S. educational system.
Solidarity with Cuba in the Halls of Congress
Tuesday September 25 and Wednesday September 26.
Advocates visited 23 congressional offices
Meetings with congressional members to discuss the path towards normalization with Cuba and the end of the blockade took place in all three congressional offices buildings today. All the meetings took place with members of congress or with their foreign policy aides.
A particular highlight was the meeting that was held with Congresswoman Karen Bass who had just returned from a meeting with Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel in New York City. She shared with the group her perspective on the upcoming mid-term elections and what it could mean for future Cuba-US relations. During the visit ELAM graduates Dr. Eduardo Alvarado and Dr. Elizabeth Arnold expressed their gratitude to the Cuban government for giving them the opportunity to become doctors without facing enormous student debt and to be well prepared to serve their communities.
Organizers of the advocacy effort were careful not to limit their discussions to only those friendly with Cuba but also included appointments with representatives who currently show little or no interest in improving relations with the island. The overwhelming majority of the people of the U.S. are for an end to the blockade and for peace and friendship with Cuba and it was that sentiment that was reiterated in all of the congressional meetings.
Films Depict Two Wings of the Same Bird
Wednesday September 26
A full house of people in one of the theaters of the Landmark multiplex cinema in downtown Washington DC came eager to watch the two films
Maestra, story of the Cuba's 1961 literacy campaign, and the U.S. premiere of
about the struggle for public education in Puerto Rico.
After the movies ended, a lively discussion took place with the directors of both documentaries, two doctors from the Latin America School of Medicine in Cuba. The two films meshed perfectly as they show two contrasting sides of education: one an example of failure and the other one of success. "Puerto Rico and Cuba are two wings of the same bird," said Norma Guillard, "but one wing is flying high and the other one is broken."
co-director Jinnette Moralez Diaz recounted the struggle taking place in Puerto Rico and was moved by Maestra and how the Cuban Revolution placed priority on education. In Puerto Rico teachers, students and parents are fighting just to keep schools open. The film shows how resilient the Puerto Rican people are; they were able to kick the US military out of Vieques and to bring back their political prisoners from US prisons. Morales said they will never surrender and will continue to fight to win this battle, as well.
Days of Action Ends with two University Events
Thursday September 27
The last events of the Days of Action Against the Blockade took place in two universities in the DC area. One at the University of Maryland, College Park Nyumburu Cultural Center and the other at Howard University, Ralph J Bunche International Affairs Center. At both events Norma Guillard, Dr. Elizabeth Arnold and Dr Eduardo Alvarado spoke. Miguel Fraga, First Secretary of the Cuban Embassy accompanied both events.
In the presentations, Norma Guillard elicited dialog with the audiences asking what the conditions are here concerning education. At the Howard University event community members explained about the lack of funding, oversized classes and the closing of schools in the area. This situation stands in sharp contrast with Cuba, whose government has an unshakable commitment to the education for all.
Photos: Bill Hackwell
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