A group of prominent African Americans, traditionally sympathetic to the Cuban revolution, have for the first time condemned Cuba, demanding Havana stop its "callous disregard" for black Cubans and declaring that "racism in Cuba . . . must be confronted."
"We know first-hand the experiences and consequences of denying civil freedoms on the basis of race," the group declared in a statement. "For that reason, we are even more obligated to voice our opinion on what is happening to our Cuban brethren."
Among the 60 signers were Princeton professor Cornel West, actress Ruby Dee Davis, film director Melvin Van Peebles, former South Florida congresswoman Carrie Meek, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of President Barack Obama's church in Chicago, and Susan Taylor, former editor in chief of Essence magazine.
The declaration, issued Monday, adds powerful new voices to the chorus pushing for change on the island, where Afro-Cubans make up at least 62 percent of the 11.4 million people yet are only thinly represented in the top leadership, scientific, academic and other ranks.
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"This is historic," said Enrique Patterson, an Afro-Cuban Miami author. Although predominantly white Cuban exiles "tried to approach these people before, they lacked credibility. Now [African Americans] are listening."
A news release accompanying the statement acknowledged that "traditionally African Americans have sided with the Castro regime and condemned the United States' policies, which explicitly work to topple the Cuban government."
But more African Americans traveling to Cuba have been able "to see the situation for themselves," said David Covin, one of the statement's organizers and former president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.
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