July 8th to July 14th, 2013
Activists in British Columbia, Canada Organize Successful Week-Long Actions Against the U.S. Blockade on Cuba!
Beginning on July 8th, BC Cuba solidarity activists with Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and BC Aid Network for Cuba (BCANC) organized and participated in four successful events for the 2013 Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba in BC, Canada and Washington State. Organizations and individuals from both sides of the border came together to demonstrate against the over 50-year-old U.S. blockade on Cuba and the U.S. imposed travel ban that prevents U.S. citizens from going to Cuba. It was clear from the dynamic events, which involved activists, musicians, poets and people from a wide-range of generations and backgrounds, that peace-loving people in Canada and the U.S. stand with Cuba in saying “Lift the Blockade on Cuba NOW!”
This year's Caravan to Cuba tour was especially important following the 2012 victory against the U.S. blockade on Cuba. During the 2012 Caravan to Cuba a 24-hour protest “Occupy Border,” was held to win the release of an entire truck containing aid that was being prevented from entering the U.S. on its way to Cuba. “Occupy Border” resulted in an important victory and the momentum that it created last year was still with us as we organized for the Caravan this year and went to the U.S./Canada border to break the U.S. blockade on Cuba once again.
Part of the week of events was also public and media outreach in order to raise more awareness about the U.S. blockade on Cuba. This included handing out leaflets, putting posters up in shops, as well as appealing to supporters to collect humanitarian aid, like medicines and construction supplies for the BC Caravan participants to take in their suitcases. There were also interviews on local radio stations including the popular Spanish language program “Latino Soy” and the “A Sense of Justice” radio program broadcasting from Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC.
By uniting together for events in Kamloops, Seattle, Vancouver and at the U.S./Canada border, people in BC and Washington carried forward the tradition set by Pastors for Peace Caravan, which since 1992 has been directly challenging the US blockade on Cuba by bringing humanitarian aid and people to Cuba from the US and around the world.
The British Columbia, Canada leg of the 24th Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba began with an excellent event in the city of Kamloops on July 8, 2013. The event took place on a hot summer's night in the popular The Art We Are Cafe in downtown Kamloops. The audience was a great mix of people, including a group of university social work students and their professor who had recently returned from a successful field school in Cuba.
Darcy Robinson of the Kamloops Socialist Club and Thomas Davies of the BCANC co-MC'd the event. It began with a documentary film showing on the negative effects of the US blockade of Cuba, and then a live video greeting from Manolo De Los Santos from the Pastors for Peace office in New York City. Also in the program were Aaron Mercredi, a VCSC organizer and returning 'Caravanista', Azza, a Tunisian social justice activist and also co-Coordinator of the Free the Cuban 5 Committee -Vancouver. Hip-hop artist Joose Justis brought the evening to a close with a special selection of songs, including some which he had co-written with Cuban hip-hop pioneers Obsesion.
This was the second consecutive year a Caravan event has taken place in Kamloops, and judging by the growing turnout, interest is on the rise. The Kamloops event was hosted by the Kamloops Socialist Club, while the BC leg of the Caravan tour was organized by Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and the BC Aid Network for Cuba (BCANC).
On Friday July 12, BC activists travelled to Seattle, Washington to join with the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee for their annual Caravan send-off event. They were greeted by over 50 people in Seattle that came out for a night of music, poetry and solidarity.
The Caravan send-off event, held at the Centro de la Raza, was dedicated to Assata Shakur, a Black activist currently living in Cuba as a political refugee from the U.S. Hap Bocklie, a leading organizer with the Seattle – Cuba Friendship Committee MC'd the event which included: Dr. Angela Gilliam, who spoke about Assata Shukur; the musician Jacque Larrainzar; poets Jose Carrillo and Michele Storms and the Seattle Peace Chorus. Alison, Azza and Janine from Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver, were invited to speak about the Pastors for Peace Caravans to Cuba as well as give updates on the case of the Cuban 5 heroes held in U.S. jails.
Click here for a report and photos:
Saturday July 13 was the Vancouver Caravan send-off picnic and cultural evening. Held in the popular Trout Lake Park, this year's send-off was a powerful and inspiring evening of live music, poetry, delicious food and a few surprises!
Tamara Hansen, the Coordinator Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and Caravanista, introduced each dynamic part of the program to an audience of over 70 people. While MC'ing, she spoke about the history of the Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba and the importance of this year's trip. She also invited the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver to make a special announcement, and co-coordinators Alison and Azza gave an update about the case of the Cuban 5 heroes and announced the upcoming 93rd picket action in front of the U.S. consulate on August 5.
Following a delicious BBQ, the cultural portion of the evening began. The first to perform was Ranchero artist MX Katracho, sharing songs of love and hope. He was followed by a line-up of poetry including Vi and Shakeel, sharing original poems about Cuba, as well as Rozhin who read from a new book of poetry by Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban 5 political prisoners who is currently held in a U.S. jail. Next was the surprise performer, renowned Indigenous singer and songwriter, Winston Wuttunee. Winston had come to attend the event with his family, and ended up on stage getting everyone else to sing along.
Just as the sun was beginning to set, the evening closed with hip-hop artist extraordinaire Joose Justis who performed a full acapela set that had the crowd up out of their seat and making beats. Joose was also joined on stage by Oki, who performed an original poem and a freestyle.
After such a successful evening of friendship and solidarity, people were now motivated and ready for the important event the next day, this year's Canada/U.S. Border crossing!
Peace Arch Park - Canada/U.S. Border Crossing
Click here for full a report and photos
“Back-to-Back Victories Against the U.S. Blockade on Cuba on the British Columbia, Canada/Washington State Border!"
On Sunday July 14, 2013 humanitarian aid and Caravan to Cuba participants successfully crossed the British Columbia, Canada/Washington State border after a 1.5 hour-long protest! This is a great victory for the people all over the world fighting for an end to the U.S. blockade against Cuba, which for over 50 years has denied the people of Cuba access to basic items from medicines to school supplies. This successful action of over 40 Cuba solidarity activists from BC and Washington broke the U.S. blockade once again, building on the victory of last year's crossing with energetic chanting, marching and peoples unified expression of love for Cuba!
Before the successful crossing, the day began with a picnic meal and cultural program. Tamara Hansen, a Caravanista this year, as well as the Coordinator of VCSC introduced an inspiring range of performers and supporters of Cuba including Hap Bockelie, a poet and leading organizer with the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee; Alison and Azza, co-Coordinators of the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver; Judy Zeh, leading organizer with the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee; Rejean, a Vancouver Island based musician; and Joose Justis, Vancouver hip-hop artist.
The victory against the U.S. blockade on Cuba at the Canada/U.S. border this year was a great way to end this year's 2013 Caravan to Cuba events in BC and Washington. But, the journey to break the U.S. blockade against Cuba was not over. BC Caravanistas and the humanitarian aid collected in BC began their journey to Mexico and Cuba with the 24th Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba, taking with them the solidarity of people in BC and Washington, determined to continue their work to end the U.S. blockade on Cuba!
Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba – VCSC
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