The signs of “White Only” or “Negroes get your food by the back door” have long been removed. But, the vestiges of racism remain, even in 2022. It is a systemic construct that will not disappear, at least not in my lifetime. Many of us have learned to navigate the treacherous waters that are prevalent in our day to day lives. This article is a prime example and a great lesson for those who might think racism went away when President Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation or when Dr. King gave his “I have a dream speech.”
The phrase “getting the American Dream” is tossed around as an achievable aspiration. However, history and current reality remind us that preamble wasn’t necessarily meant for us; those who are African American.
In the mid-80’s several well known fortune 100 companies were gobbling up mortgage lenders to create a subsidiary business for their well-heeled clientele who might one day become mortgage customers. American Express was a key sponsor with the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. Once the games ended key staff were directed to apply for post-Olympic employment opportunities with sponsors such as American Express. At the time, I had no clue what a mortgage banker was. My background was marketing. American Express had a subsidiary called Shearson-Lehman and their mortgage banking division was taking off. I jumped at the opportunity. I quickly learned how subjective staff charged with processing and underwriting a loan were; simply based on their upbringing or their societal perspectives. Of course since then a lot has changed but people are people and it is hard to strip away their biases.
Fast-forward to the article, many still swear racism is over and everybody is treated equal. The article points to a very clear, if not painful lesson that many have to endure. Just when you think you may have “made it” it is examples like this which remind you the work must continue to go forward to break the veil of prejudice and racism.
The “Great Scully” retired from the Dodgers in 2016. Die-hards like me knew at the time he was a bit ill, if not up in age. Selfishly we held out hoping he would physically be here forever or up to the end of our lives. He passed yesterday as the news came while we were watching the Dodgers v Giants game at Oracle Park. Coincidently, it was Oracle (at the time A.T.T.) where he called his last game in 2016.
Vin Scully was a genius. You can peruse the internet for all type of tidbits and facts. I’m 70 and in 1959 I believe I attended my first Dodger game at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. I vaguely remember but I learned about Vin by listening to games with my grandmother. Over the years, I was guilty as charged as I took many transistor or portable radios to the games I attended, just to hear Scully. Today’s announcer’s have a lot to learn…..if they are serious about their craft and strive for excellence? Unlike today’s parody’s, he wasn’t “just” a cheerleader for the home team or some partisan hack – he called the game as he saw it. Specifically in baseball, he knew what fans wanted to hear and in listening to games there are critical elements that supersede normal chatter. With Scully you knew he was consistent in making sure you knew the inning, the count and the score. Incredible.
Scully at the Shell station
As my working career was winding down I went to work with a fortune 100 company that had a campus/office space in Calabasas. The year was 2013 or 2014 and it was either February of March. While grabbing lunch I decided to get some gas as well so I headed down to the Shell station on Las Virgenes just south of the 101. After pumping my gas I noticed a lad behind me who was wrapping up pumping his gas. Lo and behold, it was the “Great Scully.” We exchanged pleasantries and as bad as I wanted to ask him for a picture, I refrained because in my gut I knew he treasured his privacy. We briefly chatted about spring training and the prospects for the upcoming season. That brief encounter may appear nerdy or inconsequential to some but for me it was priceless and something I will never forget.
Today I wanted to pay my respect so I trekked down to the ravine and was pleased to see other fans doing to same. Also I hustled over to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and there was Vin’s start on the north side of Hollywood, JUST EAST OF 6678 Hollywood Blvd.
On August 5th, 2022 the Dodgers returned home to host the Padres who made noise earlier in the week as the trade-deadline ended and they grabbed some extra talent in their bid to catch the Dodgers or at a minimum make the playoffs. A sold-out crowd packed into the Ravine as the team honored Scully with pre-game festivities, capped by a spectacular fireworks show. As a fete to Vin, the Dodgers rolled past the Padres 8 – 1.
The 92nd Major League Baseball All-Star game pulled out of Los Angeles this past Wednesday morning and is now headed to Seattle Washington for next year’s summer classic.
The game this year had several significant twist for Dodgers fans like us. For the first time in 42 years the game was back at Chavez Ravine. The number 42 also represented the coveted number worn by Jackie Robinson. Just as important the game was played on July 19th which happened to coincide with Mrs. Rachel Robinson’s 100th birthday.
For us it was a great experience. We participated in several days at the CapitalOne Ballpark Experience which took over the Los Angeles Convention Center and adjoining L.A. Live complex. We also attended the Home Run derby which was a great exhibition, although as a die-hard baseball fan I must admit some of the duels appeared tainted with manipulation………ummm.
We kicked off the final event by attending the All-Star game. The representation of fans at the game wearing their favorite team gear was just as impressive as the simmering heat. Here are some pics of our experience.
CapitalOne Ballpark Experience
As a person who appreciates the history of the Negro Leagues it was great to attend a panel themed “The Life & Legacy of Jackie Robinson.” To truly understand the impact you would need to familiarize yourself with his stint as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs.
The world remembers Jackie breaking the color barrier in 1947 but another key reason why owners were reluctant to integrate was the huge sums they were making from the popular Negro Leagues who used major league stadiums to play while they were on the road. They were making money hand-over fist, for basically doing nothing but opening the gates. Once they let Jackie in and the other great players followed, the Negro Leagues waned and the owners lost that source of income they had enjoyed for all of the years.” Bob Kendrick, Executive Director Negro League Baseball Museum.
As mentioned we were able to attend the popular Home Run Derby thanks to Jackie from MLB who gifted us with tickets.
We contemplated on going to the game as for month’s we pondered if the tickets would be out of reach for our budget?It was decided the event was too important to pass up so we made adjustments to make sure we could witness the game, as if it took 42 years for the game to land back at the Ravine, more than likely we would not be here physically the next time it was awarded to the Dodgers. Normally we are in Loge 130 but we opted for the right field pavilion for a different experience.
The game was important but the one issue for us was whether Mrs. Robinson would be in attendance? We have seen her numerous times at the Ravine as over the years she has consistently appeared. Even at 99, looking glamorous and regal she was present this past April 15th. Here is a special clip prepared by MLB “Celebrating Rachel”
Understandingly she did not make it but Mookie Betts summoned all players to the home plate area and asked the 54,000+ fans to join him in wishing her a Happy Birthday.
Another highlight was having Denzel Washington, who is no stranger to Dodger Stadium give a poignant presentation on Jackie Robinson.
Finally, I haven’t been able to locate the clip but as soon as I do it will be posted. MLB’s Harold Reynold’s featured a special about the Legacy of Jackie Robinson. It featured Spike Lee, President Bill Clinton, Bo Jackson and Bud Selig. IT IS A MUST SEE.
[Chavez Ravine] Today marks the 75th anniversary that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB). The impact and folklore of Robinson’s achievement is historic.
Robinson’s playing career ended in 1957 and as the team was preparing to locate to Los Angeles he was traded to the Giants. He traded his glove and spikes for white shirts and suits and became the first African-American in corporate America by becoming Vice President at Chock Full of Nuts.
MLB normally accommodates the Dodgers by making sure April 15th is a home game. We will join the throngs at Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium) as they take on the Cincinnati Reds. In addition to the pregame festivities and the thousands who will gather around his statue it will be quite a game to see all players, managers, umpires and field personnel dawn number 42. We remember Jackie!!!!
For those lucky to be in attendance it was a memorable pre-game salute. For those who may have missed it the clip below pays homage to Jackie Robinson
A trek is all about adventure. It’s not about compromising comfort and resorting to renting a car, taking Uber at every turn or not going to places that might be uncomfortable. We’ve made this trek for over ten years and while the terrain may be the same we try and mix it up for new discoveries. Four states, which included Philadelphia, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and one district, District of Columbia comprised our Eastcoasttrekv2021. According to my Epson exercise watch which is pretty accurate we covered a tad bit in excess of 76 miles based on walking (or the steps we took). In addition while Renie did drive us to Philly, New Jersey and Delaware, we did most of Maryland and the District of Columbia using a combination of walking, Metro (subway & bus) and very limited use of Uber out of necessity as we needed to catch the last train from Baltimore back to DC.
The annual trek is a combination of activities but the main thrust is to be in the District of Columbia on August 28th as that is the commemoration and anniversary of the March on Washington. This year’s theme centered around voting based on the GOP’s effort to thwart participation with their myriad of voting laws designed to reduce the number of voting participants.
The biggest achievement
Each trek offers something special. This year Marty King, III son of Rev., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presented his original 1963 March on Washington speech to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. We were able to see it for ourselves on Sunday, August 29th.
For this trip I brought my drone and was able to capture a few scenes in Baltimore and Philly. Of course, DC is off limits. Also, while in Philly we went to Reading Market and visited quite a few sites as noted by the photos.
In New Jersey, our time was limited and we barely made to the famous Corrine’s Soul Food. In Delaware we made a few pit stops before heading back to DC.
For those who follow us, you may recall it was during our San Jose trek that our dear friend James Bell recommended I look into getting a drone to complement my photography. After experimenting with several different models, seven weeks later I landed the DJI Mavic Air 2 drone. The only thing it is lacking is the ability to Zoom while taking video/photography. Here are a couple of clips:
If you are ever in the DC area during August be sure to check out outdoor basketball at the Goodman Leagues. It is located in the Barry Farm community of Anacostia and a place you will see the community come together though sport.
Cindy Lou’s is in Fell’s Point and located in the Hilton hotel complex. It is a new venue and they are still working on improving operations. This place was chosen because of their Lobster Po-Boy and we were not disappointed. Prices are reasonable based on the quality you receive.
The Reading Terminal Market is a Philadelphia institution. Under one roof you are treated to vast array of homestyle food goodies. We didn’t eat at all of them but one of my favs was the Dutch candy store which had a great variety of Reed’s. We heard about Sweet T’s bakery, which is a great venture. The sweet potato pie which folk were raving about was OK. I’ve been raised on sweet potato pies and if you keep it simple……the better. Sweet T’s packages two small pies in one container. The taste was very good but where was the crust???? The Dutch cafe had a good breakfast menu so we opted for the pancake and bacon. In all honesty, it was tasty but I would probably rank it a “C” as it comes with a big hunk of what appeared to be nucoa margarine. The bacon had a terrible presentation as it was not professionally presented as you would expect – meaning in a reasonable strip length. Anyway, more hype than reality. Overall, the venue is a great representation of the region and the type of place you want to put under your belt as far as visiting.
Corrine’s was part of our New Jersey trek. The food was fantastic but the journey didn’t go so well. Renie, our dear friend and well-known foodie extraordinaire called while we were in Philly to see about reservations and verify closing time. First of all there are no reservations as there is no in restaurant dining. The dining they do provide is a nicely appointed patio. Second, they close at 7:30 SHARP (umm, just noticed the flyer states an 8PM closing). When we arrived a staff was outside and even though it was 7:20PM, he stated “we are closed.” After some negotiation we were allowed to order and had to make sure we could eat on the patio as our other option would have been to wait two hours until we arrived back in D.C. Anyway, so much for building a business and making sure those empowered to represent you understand how easy it is for businesses to fail, let alone to bad reviews which might further damper the reputation. That being said, Corrine’s provides you bang for your buck as the dinners are piled high and the sides are more than enough. As a matter of fact the portions could easily feed two, maybe three people.
Named after Baltimore Oriole slugger Boog Powell, Boog’s specializes in pit beef sandwiches. I purchased the combo which came with turkey, beef and ham. It also came chips and I swear there was enough meat to cover two more sandwiches.
Located in West Philly, Fred’s Water Ice is a community favorite. Our visit was good but it could have been better as they were out of quite a few flavors and the gelati machine was broken. Anyway, worth a visit as the mango ice I had was very tasty and refreshing as it was very humid the day we visited.
During our trek we stayed two nights in Baltimore at the Loft by Marriott and five nights at the historic Mayflower Hotel which is also part of the Marriott properties. Luckily while the Mayflower is one and done……for us, at least we didn’t have to pay the $900 per night rack rate!!!!!
For nearly six years Professor Esteban Morales and I have enjoyed a very positive relationship. He has been a valuable source to me for most things CUBA, particularly on the issue of race and social issues.
This article was penned in late June, just days before the July 11th uprising. His article is a perspective and I encourage you to gain many viewpoints so you can better understand the situation.
Author: Esteban Morales.
Although it still moves many prejudices, misunderstandings and challenges, there is no choice but to attend to the color of the skin. Above all, in its consideration within the national media and statistics.
Cuban society is a multiracial society, or rather, multicolored, mestizo. And that reality has to be recorded statistically. Not handling the Census as a matter, simply numerical, but cultural demographic.
It’s about color being a legacy of Slavery. That it is not possible to ignore, because this mark from its origins to the current Cuban society.
When the Spanish arrived in Cuba in 1492, they did so with white credentials and stayed that way. Those who came of their own volition, did so in search of a fortune, which they not infrequently found.
But Spain is not White. Colonized by the Arabs, for 800 years, it becomes impossible to consider it as such. Even when the Spanish does not assume that identity.
Then, the colonizers of our Archipelago, were not white. Being white was not their power, but having arrived with the cross and with the sword.
They arrived in a territory of indigenous people, of low culture and only used them to find gold. They exploited them mercilessly and their population mass, did not last long, although still in Cuba, we have representatives of that original population.
Chinese also came, brought in, through a system of contracts, which made them slaves. The so-called culíes, which since then added their beauty to the population of the island, integrating our nationality. Those three large groups were the ones that formed the Cuban population. Then others joined, Antilleans, although not in the magnitude of the first, merging also with our population.
Although the Spanish Crown, put rules for the care of the indigenous population; in any case, the ambition of the colonizers, together with the Regime of the Encomiendas and slavery, reduced that population to its minimum expression.
In little more than 100 years the so-called Tainos, Siboneyes and guanahatebeyes, almost disappeared, because they were not of an advanced culture, as if it happened for the rest of America. Cultures, Aztecs, Mayans, Toltecs, etc. Those that did, culturally, had practically nothing to envy of the European cultures of their time.
But the indigenous population existing in the Cuban Archipelago, lacked that strength, which gives belonging to a higher culture.
Along with the Spaniards, came the first blacks. Not from Africa, but directly from Spain. These blacks were called “Ladinos”, they were slaves in Spain, they knew how to speak the language and they had a certain culture, acquired in the labor of servitude, for which, they also arrived in Cuba. But they did so in small numbers.
The vast majority of blacks who arrived in Cuba, en masse, did so later, as a result of the slave trade. And massively, after the Haitian Revolution of 1791.Se settled in the Eastern End of The Island. Having a great cultural impact, as they were accompanied by their French masters. Thus I arrived in Cuba, the French contradanza and the so-called French Tomb. All of which, we know as antecedents of our national dances, the Danzón.
Through the eastern region, the Antillean groups entered, to participate in sugar production, hence the mixture that characterizes that region, which covers up to the current province of Camagüey, where we find many descendants of French (Haitians), or English (Jamaicans) and other Antillean groups. This made the situation of racial discrimination in the above-mentioned regions more complicated.
However, they did not lead to the formation of minorities, as in the United States, but merged with the Cuban population, keeping their English and French surnames.
Then, the blacks were brought as slaves to Cuba, for the work of the constructions first and the work of the sugar production later, within an already organized colonial regime. To say black in Cuba, was to say slave.
These slaves, practically, since the sixteenth century, could buy their freedom.
As the Spaniards arrived, men alone. Immediately, they began to mix with the Indies and blacks, thus initiating the miscegenation of the island. And within a complex miscegenation, because it was made up of free or slave people, mestizo or black. Not so the White Spaniards, who never suffered the condition of slavery.
Unlike the blacks who were brought into the territory of the Thirteen Colonies of North America, what later was the United States of America; the arrived, also brought from Africa as slaves to the mentioned territory, these could not speak their languages, but only English, they could not practice their religions, nor their cultures. They were not allowed by the colonizers. In this sense, the slave regime from England was tougher, with an almost absolute separation between blacks and whites. Which is what has ended up characterizing American society.
The blacks brought to Cuba, also from Africa, the Spanish colonization, were allowed to speak their languages, worship their gods and practice their cultures.
It was that, for historical and also cultural reasons, the Spaniards were more likely to coexist with the cultural practices of slaves in Cuba and with different colors.
Unlike in North America, in Cuba, the Spanish lived better with differences in color. To which also contributed the differences that introduced in the slavery of the negro, the existence of a domestic slavery and another of plantation.
In Cuba this did not take place, but in the American colonization, came a type of colonizer, who not having money to bear the expenses of his transfer to Anerica, requested a loan, which forced him to work, practically as a slave or servant. Once the loan debt was paid off, he received a piece of land, becoming a poor farmer. Except for the existence of some slaves, who did not live in the barracks and cultivated a small piece of land, to supply the house of the master, in Cuba there were never serfs as such.
In the plantation, the negro had to work from sun to sun, under the whip of the Foreman or Mayoral; while, in domestic work, their tasks were deployed in the house of the slaveholder, intertwined with the activities of service to the family. There he could be a coach, cook, seamstress, washed and ironed, set the table, arranged the master’s clothes and made a concoction, when he got sick, etc. Performing tasks, which practically prepared him to make a trade, in case one day he managed to obtain his freedom, bought or manumitido.
The contact with the family instructed them and endowed them with a certain culture, which differentiated it from the slave of the plantation. Who was not allowed to work more than in the cutting of cane, or the production of sugar.
The negro, wherever he was, did not cease to be a slave, and the trap, in the face of the slightest disobedience, was upon him, like the Sword of Damocles. For the white master, did not allow them those freedoms, which could instill in him some culture of independence, which was very much monitored. But, in domestic work, in fact, the advantages, they had them and not a few took advantage of them very well.
For example, the girl in the house, took a liking to the nice, docile negrito, and could even teach him to read and write. In the domestic context, the skilled, respectful, docile negro intimated with the father of the house and came to know him even certain secrets, such as his walks with the black, from which, not infrequently, “bastard” children emerged within the family.
The black, knowledgeable of herbs, prepared a concoction that healed a pain to the master. And within that intimacy, he was practically beginning to see him as part of the family. He gave him tasks, shared certain secrets with his slave and so, sometimes, this, already old, earned the manumission, or the letter of freedom.
Inside the house of the master, living together as a domestic slave, the negro achieved advantages, which not infrequently, he took advantage of and that made him advance in social life, while maintaining his condition as a slave.
It is that domestic slavery generated a certain culture and within it, a level of permissibility, which the negro could take advantage of. This allowed him to enter society, even with all the disadvantages of a slave society.
Meanwhile, in the United States, after the Civil War, slavery was abolished in the north, but it had to continue to struggle with it in the south. Blacks escaped to the North, where they became free, but not infrequently, they left behind relatives who remained slaves in the South.
In Cuba, no, slavery was a homogeneous system throughout the island. So, when the laws that attenuated it began to appear, such as the so-called Law of Free Wombs, until its official abolition in 1886, this had a national effect.
Of course, slavery began to disappear, from a long process, in which Spain abolished it, as a first step, giving freedom to blacks who had fought, on both sides, during the First War of Independence (1868/1878) until finally, it was abolished in a general way in 1886.
However, in America, slavery took color. And with it came racism and racial discrimination, which were not born with capitalism, but which hit it very well, as an instrument of power and exploitation.
Therefore, slavery disappeared, but the racism and discrimination that she engendered for more than 400 years remained intertwined within the structure of Cuban society. And so, from the mid-nineteenth century, a society began to emerge, with a racist, mestizo culture and white hegemony. Therefore, racism, racial discrimination and white hegemonism, within our mestizo society, have not yet been eliminated, although they have been attenuated.
Then, The Revolution that triumphed in 1959, met with a society, in which, there is a well-defined structuring. The so-called whites have the power, they always had it; the mestizos are, more or less, in an intermediate position, a few had access to power; blacks are almost always in the subsoil of society. This is the result of a distribution of wealth, which colonialism inaugurated and Cuban dependent capitalism was responsible for solidifying.
It is that, in Cuba, poverty was also massively white, but wealth was never black, and almost never mestizo.
After the Cro. Fidel, almost since the triumph of the Revolution, began treating him in a systematic way; racism, racial discrimination and white racial hegemony have not disappeared.
The social policy that the revolution inaugurated since 1959, has always had a deeply humanist character, but, from the beginning, it focused only on poverty, not differentiating among the poor, treating as the only poverty, which was never homogeneous, without making differentiation within it, according to the color of the skin.
Would it have been possible, so early on, to have considered poverty, taking into account its differences and levels, according to the colour of the skin?
I think not. I believe that this would have greatly complicated the fight that was beginning then, against racism and racial discrimination. I believe that if Cuban society was not prepared, as was evident, to assimilate Fidel’s speech against racism; much less so would have been if, in addition, the existing differences in poverty levels according to the colour of the skin had been introduced. I think that would have meant introducing some level of affirmative action, for which whites, mestizos and not even the blacks themselves, were prepared.
That is why, I believe, social policy, in Fidel’s speeches, began by demanding employment for blacks; meanwhile, everything else: health, education, culture and sports and social security, fell under their own weight and equally for all. When there was a distribution for everyone equally, blacks and mestizos, I touch them, which, in general, had never touched them. Because blacks, and to some extent mestizos, had never enjoyed free, quality education, much less blacks, health care. Sport was the cons. And so, a distribution of national wealth began to occur, which the nation had never known. And, within which, blacks and mestizos, almost never, had touched almost nothing. That is why, although the color of the skin was not taken into account, in any case, blacks and mestizos, benefited, as never before in the history of the Nation. That is why blacks and mestizos did not find it difficult to understand that the revolution was their revolution and that Fidel had cared and fought for their well-being.
This is one of the aspects that, in the last 40 years, we have managed to refine. Without yet reaching, as such, the so-called Affirmative Action. Forms of the latter have been gradually appearing in Cuba, but almost indirectly. And we are still in that perfecting of the path begun. What is beginning to take shape, through a concern and an occupation of the political leadership that no one is helpless.
Having shown that race does not exist, that it is a social invention. But that, nevertheless, the color yes, and that, in our country, after 500 years[M1] of colonialism, the color of the skin, continues to behave as a variable of social differentiation. Which we have set out to fight against.
What it tells us, because, since the beginning of the Republic, in Cuba, there were black and mestizo societies. It is true that they acted within a racist and discriminatory context, which made them respond to it. But they also functioned as fraternal societies, which helped the black and mestizo membership to train themselves, on the basis of free courses for their young people, social and cultural activities, which in general, helped this population to face the problems of inequality. Sometimes they made it easier to get a job and in general, they helped blacks and mestizos to have a certain recognized social presence.
However, at the Triumph of the Revolution, these societies began to disappear, as a result of the consideration that they were not necessary, because the revolution assumed the defense of blacks and mestizos and that they could contribute more to the racial division within Cuban society
However, paradoxically, at the same time, the Spanish Societies, considered as white, were maintained, which in Cuba remain until today. The question remains unanswered: Why did blacks disappear and are they, coincidentally, white, right?
This is something that has brought controversy and unrest, although not only among blacks and mestizos. Today, it is even questioned whether the societies of blacks and mestizos, should not reappear. Today the subject tends to enter the debate again. Above all, because the problem of racism and racial discrimination has not yet been fully overcome.
But the blacks and mestizos, from the beginning, did not make any claim and everything stayed that way.
In Cuba, after 60 years of a radical Revolution, of deeply humanist essence and of an extraordinary struggle against poverty, injustice and inequality, to the very edges of egalitarianism; still, from the point of view of social position, access to certain resources and certain advantages in social life, it is not the same to be white, black or mestizo. This is not a burden, but responds to a structural dysfunctionality, which even Cuban society drags and is able to reproduce.
In particular, the so-called Special Period showed that the economic crisis had not affected all racial groups equally. Being blacks and mestizos the ones who suffered the most. Which became apparent.
Our Government also realized that the difficulties with racism, which surfaced with some force during the Special Period, were indicating that this was a problem that, having been considered as solved, really was not; or at least, it was not being solved, at the rate that many had imagined, but rather, racism, had been hidden, in the midst of the difficulties experienced during those years, in the mid-eighties and early nineties.
He had had, until then, a long period of general silence on the subject, which Fidel broke on several occasions, both inside and outside Cuba, but without achieving then, that the issue of race, definitively occupied the place that corresponds to him in the struggle for a better society in today’s Cuba.
I believe that, in this regard, we must start from the existence of inequalities, in order to achieve real equality. Unfortunately, inequality is what we find at every turn. Equality is the social project, not yet achieved by Cuban society as a whole.
Therefore, we must not assume mechanically that all Cubans are equal; because that was also used as a hypocritical slogan of republican Cuba.
All Cubans are not yet equal. We are before the law, but not socially. They are two very different phenomena. Equality before the law has been achieved. But achieving social equality is a much longer and more complex process. Equality before the law is not social equality. But only, perhaps, a step, to get to the latter.
Today, it is observed that there is a fairly clear awareness that against inequality we must continue to fight, persecuting it to those places where marginality still attacks members of our society and not only blacks and mestizos. So the work with the so-called Community projects gains unusual strength.
Being able to observe the Party and the government, extraordinarily occupied, mobilizing qualified human forces and resources, which are put in function of the solution of multiple material, spiritual and social problems, that the Cuban society still has to overcome.
This task of the Community Projects, are strongly intertwined with the Government Resolution, which serves as an instrument for the fight against racism and racial discrimination.
Fidel had already realized all this and began to take action. Guiding in-depth research, in several disadvantaged neighborhoods, on the situation of sectors, sometimes marginalized.
It was also, then, when the experience of the so-called Social Workers was carried out; the majority blacks and mestizos, which brought as a result, that many young people, who neither studied nor worked, (it is said that there were 80,000 in Havana) arrived at the Universities. Those that had been “bleached” during the Special Period.
Then, from the late eighties, we returned to the subject again. What I think, is the period we’re in now, at the height of 2021.
Previously, during the 20s and 30s, above all, the issue of race had had a presence in the written media, especially in the press of the time. Personalities such as Juan Gualberto Gómez, Arredondo, Guillen, Deschamps, Chailloux, Ortiz, Portuondo, and others had produced important texts on the subject. And he managed to keep it within the debate in the press of the time, including in the Navy Journal.
But that momentum was not maintained and by the triumph of the revolution, it had almost disappeared.
But, already from the 80s, many publications of books, articles, essays, documentaries, and research began to reappear in some universities. A cinema that frequently brought up the subject, the plastic, the theater and the literature as well. Discussion Groups and Community Projects emerged, which today address the issue of race and have endowed it with a growing presence within national culture and life. In fact, for years, the issue did not take on such an important place in the national debate.
Then, the meetings with the Cro began. Miguel Díaz Canel, who attends to the issue, before becoming president and continues to do so now, together with the Aponte Commission of the UNEAC, which replaced the Group, “Como agua para chocolate”, directed by Gisela Arandia. She was the initial promoter of the racial debate at UNEAC. Previously, the racial issue had been taken to the party and later located in the National Library, but it was finally in the UNEAC, where it found its definitive location. And now it’s unfolding. Through the work of the aforementioned Aponte Commission.
All this movement has concluded with the appearance of a Government Resolution, mentioned above, which proposes guidelines for the attention and treatment of the racial issue at the national level. With the presence, too, of all those groups interested in the subject. Aspects of participation, which still require development.
However, I believe that, although we have made progress, we are still far from giving the issue of race the impetus it requires. There are still many situations to be resolved.
Although our society is culturally mestizo, the presence of racism, racial discrimination and a certain white hegemonism are still felt in the following matters:
-Inequalities persist within the racial population structure, formed by whites, blacks and mestizos. Not as a burden, but as a phenomenon of social dysfunctionality, which even Cuban society is capable of reproducing.
-Differences in access to employment also persist. With privileges for the white population, in those most important and best paid: tourism, corporations, state offices, etc. Not so in political positions, especially within the party, the People’s Power and the Mass Organizations, where the participation of blacks and mestizos is becoming more present.
-Differences by color, in access to possibilities of higher studies, universities, master’s degrees, doctorates, etc.
-Racism, prejudice and discrimination, against the black and mestizo population, which tends not to manifest itself in an aggressive way, but which are still present.
-Marked presence of an insufficiency of interracial marriages. With a marked tendency to racial restraint among young people which is indicative that young people are getting rid of prejudices.
-Discrimination in the mass media, mainly in television, in which white faces have dominated, because only recently, black and mestizo faces have begun to appear. In response to a specific, recent complaint by Army General Raul Castro in the National Assembly.
Our written press barely reflects the problems of the racial issue. There is no systematic treatment in this regard. Nor promotion of writers who deal with the subject. There is almost never an article in our press that addresses the issue.
-Our Political and Mass Organizations do not debate the issue of race. They do not promote their discussion, nor do they consider it in their work agendas.
-Discrimination in classical ballet.
-Jokes and racist expressions, abound, in the activities of cabarets.
-Only recently, the Teaching of History has begun to reflect the place of blacks and mestizos in the formation of our homeland history. And teachers are preparing to address it.
– Until very recently, the bibliography used, with honourable, well-known exceptions, did not reflect the role of the black and mestizo population in the construction of our nation. A strong hard bibliographic work is now being done by the Ministries of Education, aimed at resolving this inadequacy of vital consideration for the teaching of history.
-There is no Social History of the Negro or of the black woman, produced in Cuba.
-Even dealing with the issue of race, at any level and in any social space, can generate some discontent, prejudice and discomfort.
Only recently has our national assembly begun to present a structure that almost faithfully reflects the racial composition of Cuban society.
-For those who deal with the issue in a systematic way, their debates are not disclosed, always remaining in the frameworks of interested groups and people.
-In the Cuban school there is no mention of color, leaving personal spontaneity to behave in the face of the problem.
-In our universities, the issue of race is hardly studied. Nor is it included in the teaching curricula.
-Our academic research hardly refers to the issue of race sufficiently and it is practically absent from the student scientific work.
-Only recently, it begins to be observed, that an effort is made to attend to the racial composition of work groups, activities, or situations, in which the negro and the mestizo must be represented. This is seen with special emphasis on television.
In reality, our statistics, social, economic and political, are colourless. Throwing into the trash can centuries of national history. Ignoring appreciating where the problems are.
-Our Economic Statistics do not allow to cross color, with variables of jobs, housing, wages, income, etc. This prevents a thorough investigation of how the standard of living of different racial groups is advancing. Especially for those who were previously disadvantaged.
We believe that as long as the issue of race is not dealt with with systematicity and coherence, at an integral level and is reliably reflected in our statistics and in our media, we cannot hope that socially, the country will make progress on the issue.
It’s that our inherited culture is racist; that is, the practice of racism is cultural, instinctive, responding mainly, but not only, to inherited mechanisms, which work, not infrequently, unconsciously.
Therefore, until the subject enters education, is strongly socially debated, is part of the systematic work of the media and is considered statistically, we cannot aspire to pass it on to culture, or advance in it, banishing it from the forms of habitual behavior of citizens in our country.
It is that the absence of attention, almost generalized, for a long time, on the racial issue, has very negative consequences for its knowledge, understanding and consideration at the social level, as something that harms the Cuban nation. In the case of a very serious problem to overcome, if we want our society and its culture to advance in an integral way, guaranteeing the success of the social project of the revolution.
[Los Angeles, CA] The first part of the year is usually a busy time for me. Recovering from the holidays and starting new initiatives take focus to successfully execute. Even though I am retired I usually have a busy schedule and had committed to being part of the 2020 Census team. Training was to start in early March but in late January there was news about this flu-like disease spreading in Asia. Like a wildfire the disease spread internationally and people were warned to take precautions. By the time training started in Los Angeles on March 16th things appeared normal but news of the disease was escalating by the minute. Three days into training a pandemic was officially declared. Our group was immediately shut down and told to shelter in place and await further instructions.
Like many people I was not aware of Covid and while I knew I would need to be more cautious I was not too worried because of my overall health condition. We live in a family-oriented environment known as the “Harvard Compound.” We came together and mapped out a strategy in making sure we adhered to health protocols as well as developing a plan on how we could navigate with errands and other measures which required us to leave home.
To be vaccinated or not?
Once it became apparent a vaccine would be available, I never had any question on whether I would take it or not. For me, the data was clear and all I had to do was look at the number of deaths, which at that time was over 300,000 in the United States! As mentioned, being a person who treasures life there was never any question in getting vaccinated. It was more of when my group was eligible? As a person over the age of 65 my eligibility came around pretty quickly. I didn’t worry about any ancillary issues or discussions being bantered about regarding the legitimacy of the vaccine. It was very simple – “better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.” In early February 2021 I opted to get my vaccine at Dodger Stadium because it was defined as a mega-site plus it was only six miles from my residence. The process was very organized and from start to finish it took approximately 2 hours per dose.
Having the vaccine is not a cure-all but it gives you the peace of mind in protecting yourself. We still practice safety and limit unnecessary exposure, especially to those who are not vaccinated. Also, we have traveled internationally and even though we are vaccinated we had to do mandatory testing. Maybe we are just lucky or blessed but everyone in our family is vaccinated and we have not experienced any adverse effects.
I was in the 11th grade at Ganesha High School and while in Mrs. Anderson’s Spanish class I met James R. Bell. I know he passed the class………I can’t remember my grade??? LOL. Anyway we have been friends since and as you can imagine he is part of our broader family. During the years we have been fortunate to make many historic treks. Recently he joined Judith and myself as we made the journey to San Jose to see remnants of “speed city” and the Olympic Black Power statue which is on the campus of San Jose State University. Of course Tommie Smith and John Carlos made history in 1968 and it was heartfelt to see them bronzed in the statue funded by students.
As a early teen I was watching the 1964 Olympics. They were in black and white. The finals of the 4×100 men’s relay was about to start. As the starting gun sounded the sprinters took off and somehow the favored U.S. team was in trouble and appeared to be headed to defeat. As anchor Bob Hayes took the baton he tracked down all runners ahead of him and miraculously the Russian sprinter who surely thought he would be the first to touch the victory tape was stunned to see this ebony image zip past him. It was a historic leg of the relay race that has to go in history as a legendary comeback. Hayes was known as “Bullet” Bob Hayes and from that race earned the distinction of the fastest human. I was mesmerized.
In 1968 my track and field appreciation had matured so at 16 I had an understanding of the Olympic games as well as the anticipated boycott. The rest is history as while the men’s 200mm victory stand celebration exploded around the globe, all three runners sacrificed something very few could imagine. Their story is an important part of history. The Triumph and the Victory.
In 2005 San Jose State University supported to students who funded the status symbolizing the victory stand. There are several statues of this moment but the “Olympic Black Power Statue” is special as this was the campus Tommie Smith and John Carlos attended. The track team was known for its prowess everyone knew it as “speed city.”
During my stint at the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee it gave me great joy to see Peter Uberroth extend a hand to recognize the greatness of people like Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they too were appointed as staffers. I didn’t have a relationship with Tommie Smith as management of the games were all over the city. However, I did have a relationship with John as he visited my office at Expo Park and our subsequent office at Manual Arts. We attended several community events together and of course he brought his torch from the opening torch relay. It was magic.
Ricardo Gouvela aka “Rigo 23” did an amazing job in creating the statue. I was surprised at its height as well as the attention to detail.
If you have never visited the site, I would encourage you to do so.
To gain more information on this history
There is much more so just do a Google search of items you feel have legitimate authorship
October 16, 1968 is well over 50 years ago. Tommie Smith captured gold while setting a world record in the men’s 200 meters final with a time of 19.83 at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. Worldwide 1968 was an iconic year.
At the time Smith’s gesture was seen as one of the worse sins a person could make. That is based on the perspective of Olympic officials and many who were in denial of world-wide social unrest, particularly right in the United States. It took years and for some over a half-century to understand and finally recognize the importance of the gesture made by Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman in accepting their medals.
“With Drawn Arms” came out in 2020. It was a great piece produced by Glenn Kaino. It is noted in the documentary that Olympic athletes are usually featured on the Wheaties Box. Unfortunately Smith was passed up. It took over 50 years as someone from Wheaties must have been paying attention or perhaps it was nudging by Kaino but the box recently came out. I was in Panama in December 2020 and received an email from Wheaties that the commemorative box would be produced and advance orders were being taken. The production is outstanding and three months later my box arrived today. By the way, it was even full of Wheaties!!!! Either way, as an Olympic aficionado, particularly the ’68 games I am honored to add the box to my Olympic memorabilia.
[Manhattan Beach, CA – April 10, 2020] Protest is an American right. Some who do not like it or attempt to marginalize its effectiveness always ask the rhetorical question why is it necessary? The strategy of a protest is not a fix-all or immediate remedy. Instead, its main thrust is to raise awareness of an issue or an incident. Bruce’s Beach has been around for over 100 years. It pops in the news every so often then disappears. The George Floyd murder on May 25, 2020 brought a public outcry not seen in years. People from all walks of lives and various ethnicities, including many Whites raised their voices to the injustice they witnessed from social media footage. A residual effect of the Floyd issue elevated the Black Lives Matter movement to a special status, whereas four years earlier they were vilified and mischaracterized as some type of violent force. Their presence created an awareness for many to allow their voice to be heard on social issues around the globe.
Manhattan Beach is a tony beach community nestled along the shorelines of Southern California. It has the appearance of a very progressive tolerant community. But like all things it has its history and was recently thrust in the news on April 9, 2021 by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn during a press conference led by her, Supervisor Holly Mitchell, State Senator Steven Bradford and various public officials. It just so happens that even though the property is in Manhattan Beach, the County of Los Angeles is the current owner and that is why Hahn led the conference.
Bruce’s Beach was a venue created by Charles and Willa Bruce in 1912. Their goal was pretty straightforward – to create a place for African-Americans to enjoy the beach. History and context are two important parallels. Southern California, specifically the greater Los Angeles area was experiencing a population boom. As Slavery was legally outlawed and followed by Reconstruction many decided it was better to “start-over” than deal with Jim Crow or “southern traditions.” Those African-Americans who could make the migration from the South did so. Unfortunately, Jim Crow as a vestige of White Supremacy followed them as it was dominant in areas some thought were off-limits, such as Manhattan Beach.
As a native of Los Angeles I had never heard of this place! I was fortunate as my parents stressed education and I have been blessed to travel and experience other cultures. About ten years ago I made a decision to become more informed, particularly African-American history. Racism was happening then and it still permeates our society today.” Larry Wiggs, II
A new beginning
The Bruce’s left New Mexico and discovered Manhattan Beach. Mr. Bruce was a pullman porter so he was away most of the time. Thus, Bruce’s Beach was opened and operated by Willa. Even though the venture was successful, some White’s simply could not accept the fact of African-American’s creating a haven for themselves. The Bruce’s dealt with harassment, violence and other acts of organized intimidation until finally the City of Manhattan Beach used eminent domain to force them out. The Bruce’s dream of tranquility and peace faced the reality of overt racial discrimination. In 1912, they paid $1,225 to acquire their coveted piece of property. In 1924 The city paid them $14,500 as compensation and told them to move on.
The Bruce’s story is compelling. Unfortunately, there are many noteworthy examples of African-Americans being stripped of their resources and the final chapter of what happened has never been told, hidden in recorded documents or marginalized as if nothing nefarious occurred.
What Hahn communicated yesterday is historic. You hear all of the time of the wealth-gap? For many African Americans the gap is a direct result of their ancestors having their property or assets stripped from them, thus there was nothing to “pass down.” At the same time, some whites will rightfully argue they were not involved in Slavery or did not create any of the ills which caused the gap. Historians have rightfully defined “white privilege.” The Bruce’s Beach issue puts the topic right back on the table – the legacy of wealth.
Why is it hard to discuss Reparations?
Reparations appears more complicated than it really is. History notes various groups in the past have been made whole in some fashion. It only turns into a huge problem or something not to be discussed when attempting to deal with the descendants of enslaved Africans. You heard the lady in the clip pose the question what is all of the fuss about? After all, eminent domain is a legal process municipalities can use to acquire property for the public good the Bruce’s were paid something! The issue specifically related to the Bruce’s is the city wanted to rid itself of a racial problem and used eminent domain as the resolution. The question remains what legacy could the Bruce’s have left their heirs had race not been the issue to force them to leave?
I’m from Burbank and saw the news about the beach, so I needed to see it for myself. I knew about certain groups being discriminated against but I was shocked to see racial covenants were enforced to keep Blacks from buying homes in many parts of Los Angeles.” An anonymous middle-aged White man
The word reparations scares the hell out of people, primarily because they do not understand it. Interestingly in the past political leaders or those in power acknowledge making various ethnic groups “whole” who have been harmed by White Supremacy or racist behavior as a necessary remedy towards reconciliation. That is, unless those harmed are African-American. Hopefully Hahn and other leaders will spur a nationwide crusade that it is one thing to apologize yet it is another to repay and truly make whole to ensure the descendants can attempt to enjoy the same legacy that so many take for granted. First things first. While reimbursement or reparation dollars have not been specified, for now the energy is to return the property to Bruce’s heirs. There is also discussion of the County reverting from owner to tenant of the Bruce heirs, as a major part of the property is currently being used by them.
The Bruce’s Beach incident is American history so here is a recommended bibliography for additional reading: