Empowerment, Humanitarian Aid, and the Normalization of US-Cuba Relations

Photo by Gina Vergel
Photo by Gina Vergel

I am pretty excited for this event taking place at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus (inside of our Law School) on Thursday, Feb. 26. As a matter of fact, the event is in preparation for a Spring Break study tour of Havana organized for students in our Latin American and Latino Studies program. The study tour will cover “Contemporary Cuban Culture in Havana.” Now, about this talk, which is open to the public:

Empowerment, Humanitarian Aid,

and the Normalization of US-Cuba Relations
with
Margaret Crahan,
Sujatha Fernandes, and Alberto R. Tornés

Photo by Gina Vergel
Photo by Gina Vergel

In a historic broadcast on December 17, Presidents Obama and Castro simultaneously announced the normalization of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States, severed in January of 1961.  The aim of this policy change, President Obama explained, is to“unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans” to create a more democratic and prosperous social and economic system. Panelists include renowned Cuba scholars and humanitarian aid activists who will explore the impact of the normalization of US-Cuba relations on the empowerment of the Cuban people and on our humanitarian assistance to the island:

  • Margaret E. Crahan is Director of the Cuba Program at the Institute for Latin American Studies at Columbia University.  Watch a recent talk she gave on Cuba here.
  • Sujatha Fernandes is Associate Professor of Sociology at Queens College, CUNY, and author of Cuba Represent!: Cuban Arts, State Power, and the Making of New Revolutionary Cultures, which combines social theory and political economy with in-depth, engaged ethnography to explore social agency in post-Soviet Cuba through the arts.
  • Alberto R. Tornés, who holds a BA in International Relations from Fordham and an MA in Special and Bilingual Education from CUNY’s City College, is Director of Economic Empowerment at Raíces de Esperanza or Roots of Hope, an international non-profit, non-partisan network of young people who sponsor academic and cultural initiatives focused on youth empowerment in Cuba.

Thursday, February 26, 12:30-2:30 p.m.

Bateman Room, Fordham Law School, 2nd Floor

 

Why I Continue to Remain Hopeful Despite Evidence to the Contrary

Photo from interview on ABC.com

By Mark Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Author of White Boy: A Memoir

Today, I am oddly hopeful that some, perhaps many, people will not accept the grim future being prepared for them–a future of austerity, low paying insecure work, relentless surveillance, crushing debt and elite monopolization of the nation’s wealth and income. I say this not only because of the movements that occurred last fall, and now are reinventing themselves off the radar screen, but because of hundreds of conversations I am having with people, some in person, some through email and social media, which suggest that a society where the few control, manage and  exploit the many is not their idea of what America is  or what they want their own future to be. And this is a feeling which crosses party lines, and divisions of race gender and age. Many people look at where their lives are heading and feel profound dismay. And they may be angry enough and proud enough to do something about it.

I am not suggesting that their dissatisfaction will always be expressed peacefully, or constructively. I think we are likely to see all kinds of violent outbursts, some individual, some collective as life becomes more insecure for a growing number of people. But–and I believe this with every core of my being–we are going to see people coming together to prevent themselves from losing what little they have while the few live untouched by hardship.

For the next few months, our attention will be diverted by the drama of elections, with peoples hopes and fears being projected onto political candidates. But once the elections are over, and current trends toward immiseration and economic stagnation continue unchecked, and quite possibly, accelerate, you will begin to see people decided to take their future in their own hands, in their workplaces, in their neighborhoods, in their schools, in the streets, and in city halls, state houses and the Congress.

And this time, it will be much more broadly based than the Occupy movement and much more difficult to suppress, peaceful, militant, but with an undercurrent of rage embodied in violent outbursts that will be occurring spontaneously because of the pressure that people will find themselves under.

I plan to be there with the peaceful protesters, raising issues and demanding solutions, but I will not  not turn my back on those, who in frustration and desperation, turn to violence, or allow authorities to use their outbursts to justify a further expansion of police power and the prison industrial complex that is already the largest in the world.  

These will be hard times and challenging times, but the greatest danger is silence and compliance, not resistance. And I think more and more people are ready to accept this.