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TransAfrica Forum

TransAfrica Forum's mission is to influence US policy on Africa and the Diaspora.  They are based in Washington, DC.  And TransAfrica has gotten into the Cuba issue.  The following lists some of the milestones in that process, going back in time:

TransAfrica has a cultural exchange program going with Cuba, one event being Afro-Cuban Jazz Pianist Jesus "Chucho" Valdez: A Public Interview, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on 3/29/00.

In July '99, TransAfrica's President Randall Robinson had an article published in Essence magazine, Why Black Cuba Is Suffering.

In June, '99, TransAfrica made available their Cuba Report on the TransAfrica website. This 40+ page report gives the results of the TransAfrica visit to Cuba in January '99.  It details the impact of the US embargo on the Cuban people.

On February 18, a six person Congressional Black Caucus delegation headed by Maxine Waters, (D) Los Angeles, arrived in Cuba for a visit that build on TransAfrica's work.

To open their media campaign, Randall Robinson appeared with some other TransAfrica folks on the TV talk show, "BET Tonight," 1/28/99 at 11PM on Black Entertainment Television.  The show's host, Tavis Smiley, was part of the delegation to Cuba.

On January 2, 1999, a group of about 20 members of the TransAfrica Forum went to Havana for the week to meet with AfroCubans and with Cuban government officials.  This may well be remembered as a significant milestone in African American - Cuban relationships.  TransAfrica has a media campaign to follow up on the visit.
Transafrica delegation goes to Cuba, seeks ties with AfroCubans, and meets with Castro
On Thursday, October 15, 1998, TransAfrica Forum's Arthur A. Ashe, Jr. Foreign Policy Library presented a panel discussion on Cuba as part of its evening lecture series, Viewpoint: Perspectives from Africa and the Diaspora.

Danny Glover en la Habana - Granma

TransAfrica's Web Site

TransAfrica discusses Cuba on "BET Tonight," 11PM Thursday Jan 28, 1999top

Randall Robinson and some other folks were on "BET Tonight" a talk-format news program on the cable station Black Entertainment Television. The show aired January 28th, at 11 p.m. The host, Tavis Smiley, was among the delegation that went to Cuba with TransAfrica.  Terrific presentation.  We are finding out if tapes can be bought.

"BET Tonight: Tavis goes to Cuba with TransAfrica to meet Fidel Castro and see the effects of the US embargo" -- from BET at

This is TransAfrica's opening shot in a media campaign around ending the Cuba embargo. See   for background on the TransAfrica visit to Cuba with Randall Robinson, Camille Crosby, Danny Glover, and Tavis Smiley.  The TransAfrica trip is receiving other media coverage : 2 pieces by Pixton (?) on CBS, a CBS Sunday Morning Show, a Newsweek piece, and a People Mag piece.


"Historical and Contemporary African-American/Afro-Cuban Relations"    -   October 15, 1998

The panel will be comprised of the following speakers:

- James Early. Director, Cultural Studies and Communication, Center for Folklife Programs & Cultural Studies, Smithsonian Institution

- Clarence Lusane. Assistant Professor of Political Science in the School of International Service, American University

- Lillian Pubillones Nolan. Program Director, Cuba Programs, Inter-American Dialogue

- Lori S. Robinson, Moderator. Contributing Columnist to "Emerge Magazine"

The event took place at the TransAfrica Forum Building, 1744 R st., N.W., Washington, D.C., October 15, 1998

Phone: 202 797-2301

Organized by Mwiza Munthali,   (email temporarily down, 1/25/99)

Transafrica delegation goes to Cuba, seeks ties with AfroCubans, and meets with Castro, 1/8/99top

By Andy Petit

According to Radio Havana, actor Danny Glover, producer Camille Crosby, TransAfrica Forum’s Randall Robinson and about 20 other African American film makers, writers, and intellectual  visited Cuba to strengthen ties with Cuban blacks and push for an end to the U.S. embargo. On January 7 they met with President Fidel Castro.

The members of TransAfrica Forum, a private Washington, D.C. policy group that organized this trip to the island, say the U.S. embargo prevents Cubans from getting food, medicine, and other essentials. TransAfrica was a key player in getting the embargo on South Africa enforced and in bringing about the Haiti intervention. They work to influence US policy on Africa and on countries of the Diaspora.

Randall Robinson, the TransAfrica's president, said "American policies, 40 years in application, have hurt ordinary men, woman, and children in Cuba, and AfroCubans particularly, and it's simply unacceptable." He thinks that the trade ban will end soon and that once it has, Cubans will need help adjusting to new realities. For example, he worries that as capitalism enters the Cuban economy, AfroCubans won't get their fair share of opportunities: "Already there is discrimination in the selection of people for some jobs, but I don't think there's any question that the Cuban government opposes practices of this kind."

Besides calling for changes in U.S. policy, TransAfrica delegates talked with Cuban officials to seek improved race relations on the island. They met with officials such as Regla Martinez, a member of the National Assembly, Cuba's legislature. Asked whether there was an overly high number of blacks in Cuban prisons, she told them that U.S. and Cuban perceptions of race relations are very different. "For you it may be important to count the number of blacks and whites in prison. For us it is not… every day I feel a kinship with blacks, whites, Chinese. To me, there is no difference."   This is a classic expression of a certain Cuban theme of racial equality which has a long history.  Interestingly enough, Fidel Castro did not evoke it two days later when the delegation met with him and discussed this same topic.

An estimated 70 percent of the Cuban population has some African heritage. Slavery was abolished in 1886, later than in most other places, and blatant racial oppression continued into the 1950s, when blacks were still prevented from going to all-white clubs, beaches and restaurants This overt racism was abolished by the Revolution in 1959. Blacks have benefited from the subsequent changes in Cuba’s education and health policies and have moved into many positions of power. The Communist Party leaders in Cuba's two largest cities – Havana and Santiago de Cuba - are currently both black, for instance, as are 6 of 24 members of the Politburo.  However, recent economic stresses have led to an increase in racial tension: salaries from the euro-tourism industry and remittances from the mostly white Miami Cubans have gone primarily to white Cubans and blacks have taken the rap, having to resort to street hustling to survive in the face of rising food prices.   This imbalance goes very much against the grain of the Cuban government and it is doing what it can to insure equal income distribution, but the stresses of the post-Soviet era with increased US sanctions make this difficult.

Fidel Castro was the first Cuban president to recognize the nation's roots, saying some years back that "we are a Latin-African people." He has also spoken out against racial prejudice, though of course discrimination hasn't disappeared. In Randall Robinson’s view, "it would be unrealistic to expect that one can erase this kind of long-standing social pathology in the space of 40 years."

Fidel Castro spent 2 1/2 hours on Thursday with the TransAfrica delegation. TransAfrica's president, Randall Robinson, said Castro talked about Cuba’s efforts to overcome centuries of slavery and segregation and also about how he thought more work needed to be done to end racism, straightforwardly giving as an example that black Cubans are over represented in Cuba's prisons.

Robinson observes that "whatever kind of race problem still exists in Cuba is dwarfed by the race problem that we have to contend with in the United States." Characterizing the embargo as unjust, unfair and cruel, he points out that even former Republican secretaries of state have been calling for a reassessment of the US Cuba policy. He added that "I think forces are gathering on all sides because the American people can see the essential silliness of this policy that has up until now been controlled by a small group of white, wealthy Cubans who fled to Miami 40 years ago.'"

Producer Camille Cosby, the wife of actor Bill Cosby, said she had long wanted to visit Cuba. "I admire the relationship that Mr. Castro has with African-Americans. Whenever he goes to America, he has made it a point to go to Harlem and interact with African-American people. It's nice to know that an international leader has that much interest in African-Americans."  Actor Danny Glover also admires the Cuban leader: "I would hope this particular journey, this delegation, will be the beginning of new times, of Americans listening to Cuban views."

Radio Havana Cuba asked Randall Robinson what the delegation plans to do upon its return to the United States:  "We will prepare a report with recommendations and make it available to the Congress and to the American people generally. We will appear on a range of television and radio programs to recommend and to urge that the embargo be lifted as soon as possible. We believe, and we are buttressed in this belief by recent polls, that the American people overwhelming support the lifting of the embargo."

Congressman Charles Rangel, the Black Caucus point person on Cuba, has also targeted the island as an issue for 1999, according to Emile Milne, his legislative assistant.

TransAfrica's email is:   (email down temporarily, fax at 202 797-2382)

TransAfrica's delegation to Cuba

Randall Robinson President, TransAfrica
Camille Cosby Producer
Danny Glover Actor
Bill Fletcher Education Director, AFL-CIO
Selena Mendy Singleton Senior Policy Advisor, TransAfrica
Tavis Smiley Host, "BET Tonight" on Black Entertainment Television
Bill Lucy President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists; International Secretary - Treasurer, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (
Carl Franklin Director
Johnnetta B. Cole President Emerita, Spellman College, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women's Studies, and African American Affairs, Emory University
Dr. Alvin Poussaint psychiatrist, Harvard Medical School
Dr. Tina Poussaint neuroradiologist, Harvard Medical School
Walter Mosley author
Gay McDougall Executive Director, International Human Rights Law Group
Ibrahima Gassama Associate Professor, University of Oregon, School of Law
Norman Francis President, Xavier University

Bill Fletcher Jr., is Education Director for the AFL CIO.  Before that he was a labor organizer with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.  For over two decades he has been involved in community based struggles: desegregating the construction industry, furthering the anti-apartheid movement and working against police abuse. He is the co-founder of the Black and Green Project which addresses the parallels between struggles of national liberation both of the Irish and African Americans.

See: A Moral Message by Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Note: TransAfrica's Board of Directors is as follows:

Edward Lewis - Chairman, TransAfrica Board
Publisher - Chief ExecutiveOfficer Essence Communications
New York, NY
Peter C. B. Bynoe
Rudnick & Wolfe
Chicago, IL.

Emelda Cathcart
Director, Corporate Contributions
Time Warner, Inc.

The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.
Paul, Weiss Rifkind, Wharton
& Garrison
New York, NY
Locksley Edmondson
Africana Studies and Research Center
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY
Sylvia Hill
Professor of Criminology
University of the
District of Columbia
Mr. Edmond J. Keller
Chairman, African Studies Center
University of California at
Los Angeles
Charles Ogletree
Professor of Law
Harvard Law School
Cambridge, MA
Mr. Bertram Lee
Washington, DC
Harriet Michel, President
National Minority Supplier Development Council
New York, NY

Randall Robinson's new booktop

defending.jpg (7394 bytes)

Defending the Spirit :
A Black Life in America
by Randall Robinson
List Price: $25.95
Our Price: $18.17

Availability: Usually ships
within 24 hours.

See extensive review.

Click for pricing & to order  ==>

defendpap.jpg (7528 bytes)

Defending the Spirit :
A Black Life in America
by Randall Robinson
List Price: $12.95
Our Price: $10.36
Availability: Usually ships
within 24 hours.

See extensive review.

Click for pricing & to order  ==>

Contacting TransAfricatop

TransAfrica Forum Building
1744 R st., N.W.
Washington, D.C.

Phone: 202 797-2301

Fax: 202 797-2382

Contacting AfroCubaWebtop

Electronic mail [replace _AT_ with @]

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