Havana, Cuba | March 2017
Returning to Cuba for the first time since 1988, Hal was in Havana to discuss collaboration between his Quaker ministry, The BlackQuaker Project, and both the Cuban Quaker Peace Center and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center, both in Havana. The first: to draw upon Quaker testimonies of Truth, Equality, Peace, and Justice to offer workshops to Cubans on the lives of Afro-Cubans, including the impact of slavery in colonial Cuba and on contemporary Cuba and the second: to discuss translating and publishing in Spanish our collective anthology, BLACK FIRE: AFRICAN AMERICAN QUAKERS ON SPIRITUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS (edited with Paul Kriese, Steve Angell, and Anne Steere Nash.) We are still hoping to reach an agreement with both organizations.
Hal did not know what to expect in a Havana he had not experienced in 28 years, previously there in roles as transnational actor using film and tourism to aid international understanding and peace. Fidel, who had hosted a reception that Hal attended with other guests at the 1985 New Latin American Cinema Festival, was no longer there. However, Hal was happy to find that several of the major ideals and accomplishments of the Revolution seemed to be still functioning: the most comprehensive, free universal health-care system--and purportedly the best-- in the Americas; the Cuban Film Institute, which pioneered, in the 1970’s, the international truth-telling movement in films about the nature of chattel slavery in the Americas, in contrast to Hollywood’s romanticizing this exploitative phenomenon; and a free education system that has produced the highest literacy rate in the Americas. Disappointing: witnessing in the tourism industry, in particular, the return of the color bias prominent before 1960. Reuniting with Afro-Cubans in film and scholarship was a highlight of this 10-day sojourn, complementing the meetings exploring collaboration, allowing a slightly better understanding of Cuba, domestically and internationally. A big surprise: encountering at the Quaker Meeting in Havana students and administrators visiting from Westtown School, our Alma Mater.