The case of the Cuban 5 is known by unions across Canada, Great Britain and other countries because on several occasions the mothers and wives of the Five have been invited to speak at labor conferences in those countries. And now in the United States, for the first time, hundreds of women from the United Steelworkers (USW) got to hear about the injustice committed against the Five and their families.
The United Steelworkers (USW) 2013 Women of Steel Conference (WOS) took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from March 9th to March 13th. It included plenary sessions, and workshops with a wide range of themes including, among others, trade, media and communication, health care, along with legislative and political related issues.
On the last day of the conference, during the plenary session with international guests, Karen Cole, from Unite the union of Great Britain, addressed the audience and thanked the USW for giving them space to have a stall with information about the case of the Cuban 5 at the conference. When she mentioned that two of the wives of the Cuban 5 have been denied visas by the U.S. government to visit their incarcerated husbands a woman from the audience loudly shouted "Shame". Cole then proceeded to raised an Obama Give me Five postcard and asked all those at the plenary to send one to Obama when they got home.
The fraternal relations between the USW and their sister union UNITE in Britain made the presence of the Cuban 5 possible at this women's caucus conference. Last May the case of the Cuban 5 was raised at the 25th International Convention of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that gathered in Denver, Colorado.
Once again the Cuba Solidarity Campaign of Great Britain and the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 of the United States, joined forces in Pittsburgh to bring awareness about the case to this important conference of women in organized labor. Representative of both committees distributed packages with information to the 800 participants and talked one-on-one with a number of delegates. The conference provided an opportunity to share with women the suffering that the families of the Five have had to endure.
Many of the delegates showed interest by signing up to receive information in the future, and committed themselves to bringing the case of the Cuban 5 to their workplaces as awareness of the case continues to expand to new audiences.
Successful Cuban 5 Art Exhibit Opens in Somerville, MA.
The Boston premiere of "Humor from my Pen," an exhibit of 32 political cartoons that illustrate the wit, humor and dignity of Gerardo Hernández, opened with a kick off reception of 80 people on March 15th. The exhibit, on display at Arts at the Armory in Somerville, MA is sponsored by The July 26th Coalition and the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. Both groups were buoyed by the turnout and enthusiasm.
Nalda Vigezzi, a co-chair of the National Network On Cuba, welcomed everyone to the reception and introduced the speakers .
Local poet Richard Cambridge opened the short program by sharing one of his poems about our neighbor Cuba. Richard is an award winning poet and co-founder of Singing with the Enemy, a troupe of poets, musicians and performance artists which brought awareness of the devastating effects of the United States' economic blockade on the people of Cuba. His poem set the mood of friendship for the evening.
Michael Avery, former President of the National Lawyers Guild and counsel of record on one of the 12 amicus briefs filed on behalf of the Five in 2009 before the US Supreme Court, read a moving solidarity statement by Gerardo, who is serving two life sentences in Victorville, CA:
"Someone once said that "humor liberates" ( ...and if nobody said that, I will say it now...) and for me it is something that "gets us out" for at least a few moments from behind the walls where we have been unjustly imprisoned for almost 15 years. ...
On behalf of all of us I want to thank you for being here today and for the solidarity that it represents in our struggle for justice. We know that the key to our inevitable freedom lives in that solidarity that continues to grow world wide."
Nancy Kohn, a local activist with the International Committee, then presented a short overview of the history and significance of the Cuban Five. She encouraged people to become involved in the movement demanding that president Obama free the Five and invited everyone to join the activities in Washington DC from May 30 to June 5.
The gallery then became crowded as people experienced each cartoon, many of which illustrate Gerardo's love for his homeland and pride in Cuba's ability to withstand decades of attacks from the U.S. A repeated theme was the sheer hypocrisy of the U.S. war on terror.
Arts at the Armory visitors included people who had never heard of the Cuban Five and had their eyes opened through the artwork of Gerardo. Many took the time to write short messages of solidarity to Gerardo which will be sent to him at Victorville Penitentiary. The display will be in the gallery until March 23rd when it will move to Hartford, Ct.
The exhibit has already generated publicity in local English and Spanish language media.
Arts at the Armory hosts a busy Winter Farmers' Market each Saturday in the performance hall next to the gallery. Many shoppers stopped in to see the cartoons and asked about the artist. Bringing the story of the Five to such large new audiences energized the organizers in Boston. It also made Gerardo's situation and humanity more tangible.
For more information about the Cuban 5 visit: www.thecuban5.org
SAVE THE DATE: II Annual "5 Days for the Cuban 5 in Washington DC"
May 30 to June 5
International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5