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NNPA Urges Better U.S.-Cuba Relations

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The majority of the people of the United States want better relations with Cuba, and that is the will that must prevail,” stated Chavis, who counted among the delegation of 30 American scholars who attended the 18th edition of the Series of Academic Conversations on Cuba in the Foreign Policy of the United States of America.

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Pictured, left to right: Dean DeWayne Wickman of Morgan State University, Dr. Tony Draper, Publisher of The Afro, and Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. joined experts and academics from the United States and Cuba in Havana to seek strategies, solutions, and projects they hope would help rekindle relations between the countries.

“The majority of the people of the United States want better relations with Cuba, and that is the will that must prevail,” stated Chavis, who counted among the delegation of 30 American scholars who attended the 18th edition of the Series of Academic Conversations on Cuba in the Foreign Policy of the United States of America.

Sponsored by the Research Center on International Policies and the Raul Roa Higher Institute for International Relations, the conference highlighted how the Trump Administration has setback U.S.-Cuba relations after former President Barack Obama worked toward a more agreeable relationship.

Here’s the text of Dr. Chavis’ full keynote address:

On behalf of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the national trade association of the Black Press of America representing 225 African American owned newspapers across the United States of America, I bring to each of you our expressions of solidarity and comradeship in the ongoing international struggle for freedom, justice, equality for all of humanity throughout the world.

Today’s conference is very important not only for the people of Cuba and for the people of the United States, but also this dialogue and these discussions over the next days here in Havana will have a positive impact, I believe, on improving the quality of life for all people throughout the world who especially cry out for freedom. I stand before you as a longtime freedom fighter, former U.S. political prisoner, journalist and as the President and CEO of the NNPA, but most importantly, I stand before you as your Brother and as your Comrade in our joint struggle and global movement for freedom and justice.

The truth is if we all together can work to improve relations between the United States and Cuba, that success will bring benefits to all people in this region of the world and to all people in all regions of the world. Why is it that still in 2019, the United States is still imposing a “Blockade on Cuba?” Why? Whose interests are being served in this prolonged and unjust economic, political, and social blockade of Cuba by the United States?

It is not in the interests of the people of Cuba for the blockade to continue.

And it is not in the interests of the people of the United States for the blockade to continue.  Therefore, my first point to emphasize today is that the most effective expression of international solidarity between the people of the Cuba and the people of the United States requires and demands an immediate end to the United States blockade of Cuba.

The U.S. blockade of Cuba is a contradictory relic of the past, but it is a present day reminder of the awful, sinful, counterproductive, and devastating realities of international imperialism, exploitation and racism.

I can state without fear of reprisal that the Black Press of America does not support the blockade of Cuba. We demand an end to the blockade immediately.

We want to help improve relations between our two nations.

I say “our” two nations because, as a descendant of Africa living, striving and struggling in the United States, whenever I am in Cuba, I not only feel at home, I know that I am at home here in Cuba because of what Cuba has done and continues to do for Africa and for all African people throughout the African Diaspora, as well as what Cuba continues to do today internationally to improve healthcare for all of humanity throughout the world.

Several weeks ago, I spoke at the Embassy of Cuba to the United States on November 25, 2019 noting the anniversary when H.E. Comrade President Fidel Castro made his transition to eternal life. I noted then, and I want to repeat it here as part my intervention and statement to this outstanding gathering of colleagues and those who are interested in improving international relations.

The Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro was one of the most important and effective revolutions of the 20th Century against imperialism, colonialism and racism.

Today at the end of the second decade of the 21st Century, the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro’s enduring legacy, government, values, commitments, achievements and vast social and economic transformations continue to set a righteous and transformative ideal for the rest of the world to learn from and to follow.

This past November 25th , I reminded the people gathered at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC, that when Fidel Castro dispatched thousands of courageous Cuban troops to Angola in southern Africa in the 1980’s, it permanently changed and reversed the tragic oppressive trajectory of imperialism, neocolonialism, and the brutal Apartheid South Africa’s quest to dominate and control all of southern Africa.

My remarks today are not just from reading the books of history that are in fact important to read for all who stand for the liberation of humanity from the systems and structures of oppression.

But my remarks are from being an actual firsthand witness to history being made and continuing to be made by the contributions and interventions of Cuban to the liberation of humanity.

I witnessed and had fellowship with Cuban soldiers in Angola in 1988 in the aftermath of the heroic victory of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola.

I vividly remember as an African America Christian clergy going down into the fresh war-zone foxholes with Cuban soldiers who were deployed on the frontlines near Cuito Cuanavale.

We broke bead together. We prayed together. We fought for freedom together against the imperialistic enemies. And we won an historic victory together against the racism and oppression of “apartheid” for the benefit of Angola, South Africa and Namibia that permanently changed the course of history in southern Africa.

In fact, that strategic and consequential victory of Angolan, Namibian, and African National Congress soldiers fighting alongside Cuban troops against the apartheid armed forces inside of southern Angola at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale actually led to the eventual release of Comrade Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa.

That is a piece of history that sometimes does not get reported or appreciated in the so-called mainstream media in the United States. I am proud that the Black Press of America: African American owned newspapers, digital companies, social media channels, radio stations and other broadcast media does continue today to report and distribute the news about Cuba and about all of our people throughout the African Diaspora.

And, of course, the Republic of Cuba is a nation that is a vital and strategic part of the African Diaspora that sometimes is misunderstood, undervalued, and at times not referenced sufficiently in the local, national, and international media.

My point here, before moving on, is that history is important.

We should learn from history. What are the lessons of history that we all have to remind ourselves of today with respect to success of the Cuban Revolution?

What is the lingering relevance of White Supremacy and race in American foreign policy as well as its domestic policy when it comes to Cuba and the rest of the Diaspora?

The purpose of this conference goes beyond the articulation of contemporary analyses, new research data, and the stated quest for overcoming the new and old challenges to improve relations between Cuba and the United States.

I therefore state the following additional six points to further our dialogue and conversations about the current state of affairs, policies, challenges, opportunities and responsibilities for the conference to outline possible solutions to advance the interests of the people and government of Cuba in the wake of the continuation of the U.S. blockade, as well as the new sanctions and restrictions on this island nation.

Cuba’s national and international contributions to improving healthcare and medical research, in addition to the academic and professional provision of free medical education for thousands of aspiring and evolving medical doctors and post-graduate medical researchers.

Cuba has emerged as a world leader in the healthcare and medical education sectors.

Thus, the U.S. embargo and new travel restrictions stand as an obstacle to advances in healthcare and medical education for Cubans, Americans and for all of humanity.

Hight quality education in Cuba is accessible and affordable to all of its citizens from pre-K through post-graduate school. In the U.S. education is not accessible nor affordable for all of its citizens from pre-K through post-graduate school.

Instead of imposing more economic sanctions and social restrictions on Cuba, the U.S. should try to learn from the success of the Cuban educational system.

We propose that the Black Press of America and the Cuban Press Agencies find ways and means to work collaboratively to better mutually inform the people of the United States and the people of Cuba on the vital issues that are being outlined in this conference to enhance the policies and relations between the United States and Cuba.

We call for the establishment of a Free Trade Zone and free trade policies the United States and Cuba, as well as the repeal of the Helms-Burton Act that targets and discriminates against the economic, political and social interests of the people and government of Cuba.

We call for a bilateral focus between the United States and Cuba on the issues and challenges that millennials face with respect to youth leadership development programs and joint projects that have as a goal of increasing mutual understandings and affirmations of the interests of the youth of Cuba and United States to help improve overall bilateral relations.

Last but not least, are the opportunities and responsibilities to foster, promote and coordinate cultural exchange programs between the United States and Cuba. Both nations are rich with cultural genius and talent that should be more forthrightly mutually shared and affirmed by both Cuba and the United States. Basta la repression! Basta la imperialism! Basta la racism! Viva Cuba and United States Relations! Viva Fidel! Viva la revolution! A luta continua! Victoria es cert! Thank you for listening. God bless.

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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