Cuban UN Ambassadors Visit to Connecticut

by Henry Lowendorf, Greater NH Peace Council and Millie Grenough, City of NH Peace Commission

Perhaps the highest level Cuban diplomatic delegation just visited Connecticut since Fidel Castro stopped at New Haven’s Union Station on his way to Boston in 1959. On September 9 and 10, Cuban United Nations Ambassadors Pedro Luis Pedroso and Yuri A. Gala made the extraordinary trip to Connecticut to celebrate the passage of two resolutions by two major city councils that call on the United States to end its illegal 62-year blockade of Cuba.

Photo: Paul Bloom

Their appearance was also the occasion to encourage further such resolutions and various collaborations between Connecticut and Cuba.

“Extraordinary” because the US blockade extends its economic and political war on Cuba to limiting the movement of Cuban diplomats at the UN to a small radius of Manhattan, violating the agreement by the US to honor the right of UN representatives to travel freely. Permission to travel to CT was based on a formal invitation by the CT state legislature, led by Representative Edwin Vargas of Hartford.

The two anti-blockade resolutions were passed respectively by the Court of Common Council of Hartford in 2021 and the New Haven Board of Alders in 2022.

Overall, the Cuban delegation to Connecticut was organized by Wallingford resident, Cuban-American José Oro, a leader of No Embargo Cuba, along with a large coalition of Cuba solidarity and peace activists from around the state. Oro described one glaring effect of the blockade as preventing Cuba from obtaining ventilators from Switzerland to provide life-giving oxygen to seriously ill Covid-19 patients because a small percentage of ventilator parts are manufactured in the US. Despite the blockade, Cuba was able to develop three successful vaccines. The global solidarity movement was called on to provide syringes, another item blocked from Cuba.

The first stop for the delegation was a working breakfast at Quinnipiac University where President Judy Olian welcomed the Ambassadors, who spoke on the priority that Cuba has given to education, the cost of which is fully covered from elementary school through college.

Quinnipiac Professors Mohammad Elahee, Matthew O’Connor and Osman Kilic explored the possibilities for faculty and student exchanges, micro-lending, small-business and sustainable development, and medicine and health.

Following Quinnipiac University the delegation met state and Hartford city legislative leaders and Cuba solidarity activists in the State Capitol, City Hall and the union office of Local 1199.

On Sept. 10 the delegation arrived in Willimantic to meet with state Rep. Susan Johnson, City Council member Emmanuel Pérez, Professor Ricardo Pérez of Eastern CT State University, Black Lives Matter leader James Flores, and leaders of the Willimantic Rainbow Connection, Power UP-Coventry and Veterans for Peace. Subsequent actions are planned to develop a sister city relationship and to pass a no-blockade resolution by the Willimantic City Council. Middletown and Hamden are exploring similar resolutions.

On Saturday afternoon the New Haven Free Public Library welcomed the Ambassadors who spoke and answered questions from a large audience. José Oro [aforementioned organizer and Wallingford resident] announced a new effort to reverse the cruel and false US listing of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.

At a farewell gathering, Joelle Fishman, Acting Chair of the City of New Haven Peace Commission, presented gifts from New Haven to the Ambassadors. Al Marder and Henry Lowendorf from the Peace Council, and John Lugo from Unidad Latina en Acción expressed gratitude to the Ambassadors for strengthening the human connection with New Haven and Connecticut. Jesus Puerto, owner of Soul de Cuba Café provided delicious Cuban dishes to nurture the relationship.

 

New Haven residents paint Black Lives Matter mural on Bassett Street | New Haven Register

Residents came together to emblazon the words on the street Saturday, painting them brightly and boldly so the world could see: Black Lives Matter.

The community mural, the first planned in New Haven, was welcomed by the city of New Haven Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs, in conjunction with Black Lives Matter New Haven, community organizers, and local artist Kwadwo Adae, according to a release from city spokesman Gage Frank.

Ala Ochumare and Sun Queen, co-founders of Black Lives Matter New Haven, said they wanted to help organize the project to help residents be in community with one another, share art and affirm the idea that the lives of Black people are valuable, with an equal claim to dignity and respect.

Read the article at The New Haven Register: New Haven residents paint Black Lives Matter mural on Bassett Street – New Haven Register

Anti-Police Violence March Shuts Down Grand Avenue | New Haven Independent

New Haven anti-police-brutality activists marched in support of survivors of police violence — they heard a call for action from Emma Jones at the Fair Haven spot where an East Haven police officer shot and killed her son 23 years ago.

“You must continue this struggle,” she implored the crowd, including newer activists in a cause she has championed for decades.

Roughly 70 demonstrators gathered on the Green at 2 p.m. Saturday and shut down Grand Avenue as they marched to the spot where Malik Jones was killed in 1997 after a high-speed cross-border chase.

Police accountability activist Jewu Richardson organized Saturday’s unity walk in collaboration with Building It Together, CT Bail Fund, The Malik Organization, People Against Police Brutality and Black Lives Matter New Haven.

On the Green, Richardson (pictured), who was shot by New Haven police in 2010, said police violence isn’t only the brutality that people see on TV, but is deeper and more systemic: “People are in jail decades because of false charges. A lot of people don’t see that trauma that people are going through and the stuff behind those walls, but it’s real.”

He stated that police and prosecutors work together with “legal tactics” to convict innocent people in Connecticut and nationwide. “When the system we’re supposed to trust and believe ends up abusing and murdering us, we’re left with communities that are suffering from decades of trauma,” Richardson said.

Read the whole story here: Anti-Police Violence March Shuts Down Grand Avenue | New Haven Independent

Excerpts from Looking Back: Justice for Stephanie and Paul, One Year Later

by Mackenzie Hawkins, Yale Daily News, April 16, 2020

In the early hours of the morning on April 16, 2019, Hamden police officer Devon Eaton and Yale Police officer Terrance Pollock fired 13 and three shots, respectively, at Stephanie Washington and Paul Witherspoon, an unarmed black couple in their car.

The day of the shooting, life on Yale’s campus continued as normal, spare a morning email from YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins and an evening one from Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Janet Lindner. … But beyond campus borders, a movement was growing. Activist groups, including People Against Police Brutality and Black Lives Matter New Haven, organized an evening rally outside the Hamden Police Department, drawing a crowd of about 200. Later that night, organizers protested at the site of the shooting on Dixwell Avenue and Argyle Street.

“I think we all built, during this time, the foundation for a relationship rooted in solidarity,” People Against Police Brutality organizer Kerry Ellington told the News in an April 14 interview. “I think all the different communities that were involved wanted to — and still want to — see an end goal where both officers are held accountable for their reckless actions on April 16 of last year.”…

Over the past year, student and community activists have collaborated to organize around last April’s shooting and a broader set of issues — building relationships that have transcended the incident that spurred them.

“There have always been iterations of students who have come through to this city who have really understood the significance of connecting with the community,” Ellington told the News. “So I don’t want to disregard students that I’ve worked with and organized with in the past. … But [the shooting was] definitely, I would say, a significant moment for both black and brown Yale students on campus and black and brown residents in New Haven — a moment that was clear to come together, clear to make a united call.”…

“To see a group of young black Yale students sit down and learn from [local activists] was amazing,” Elm City Vineyard Lead Pastor Joshua Williams ’08 DIV ’11 said in an April 13 interview. He was involved in race-related student activism during his time at Yale and said that New Haven’s black community had played a pivotal role in movements like the one to change the name of Calhoun College.

Yale students showing up for New Haven in the wake of the shooting, he said, was a “twin moment” paired with dining hall worker Corey Menafee smashing a window in protest of Grace Hopper College’s former namesake. New Haven residents have consistently fought for Yale students of color, he said, and students followed and reciprocated in the Founders’ Room that Thursday.

“In terms of an urgent response, it was the first time I had seen black students have this incredible deference to black New Haven — [asking] black New Haven to lead [so that Yale students] could follow,” Williams told the News.

To read the full article which includes much information about the follow-up to the present, go to: http://features.yaledailynews.com/blog/2020/04/16/looking-back-justice-for-stephanie-and-paul-one-year-later