- BC Games
Bowen Island event in solidarity with the Cuban 5
I remember very clearly one evening as a child when my mother took my sister and me to a crowded church in Toronto to hear then imprisoned Nelson Mandela’s wife speak. It was standing room only in the church as Winnie Mandela spoke to the supportive audience about her husband’s unjust detention and the struggles of apartheid.
It was my introduction to churches as a venue for social justice. It was also my introduction to how the unjust imprisonment of someone an ocean away could have ripples of solidarity on the other side of the world.
Attending those sorts of events were the seeds planted in me as a child that laid the foundation for me to believe in the value of working collectively for change.
That path would eventually lead me to Cuba where I took part in the Che Guevara volunteer work brigade. One of the stops on the brigade was to meet with some of the family members of the Cuban 5, who have been imprisoned in the United States on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. The Cuban 5 are five Cuban intelligence officers that the Cuban government sent to Miami to infiltrate US-backed right-wing terrorist organizations to prevent terrorist activities against their homeland. They face cruel sentences of 15 years to two life sentences plus 15 years despite a lack of evidence in a case which has garnered the condemnation of the U.N., Nobel laureates and thousands of peace and justice loving people worldwide.
When I heard the family members of the Cuban 5 speak six years ago, I was moved by the hardship of separation and the even greater battle for justice. But now the heartache and injustice has only grown as this September will mark 15 years that the Cuban 5 have been imprisoned in U.S. jails. In the eyes of the people of Cuba and anyone who believes in justice, the Cuban 5 are heroes and should be freed immediately.
What I saw as a child was that when voices are raised together, change can happen. Beautiful was the day that Nelson Mandela was released from prison. I want to be able to give my daughter the same gift of witnessing freedom for those unjustly behind bars and I want her to know that her voice was one of many raised that made a difference. In a great victory for justice, René González, one of the Cuban 5, has returned to Cuba. Now is the time to free the four who remain behind bars.
It is in that spirit that I am hosting an event on Sunday, September 15, at Cates Hill Chapel to raise awareness about the case of the Cuban 5 and their unjust 15-year imprisonment in U.S. jails. The event is free and will start at 4 p.m. We will be screening the film The Cuban Wives about the struggles of the families for freedom. There will also be free crafts for kids and Cuban art and artifacts on display. Virgin mojitos and Cuban fare will also be available and all money raised will go to support the work of the Free the Cuban Five Committee-Vancouver.
This event is part of an international week of action for the freedom of the Cuban 5 and one of the six different events happening in British Colombia organized by the Free the Cuban 5 Committee Vancouver working with Cuba solidarity activists, groups and Cuban 5 supporters in Nanaimo, Kamloops, greater Vancouver and Bowen Island.