Before you take the word of imperialism, either consciously or unconsciously, remember that this is the same imperialism that told you the people of Libya wanted Muammar Qaddafi dead. When we told you in 2011 that imperialism killed Qaddafi by bombing Libya into submission (destroying their world renowned water project in the Sahara desert in the process), you didn't believe us. In fact, it took the exposure of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's clandestine emails confirming the U.S.'s intention to murder Qaddafi to get many of you to finally accept the truth. Well, despite the fact many of you won't listen now, we will suggest that you take it from those of us who have studied the Cuban Revolution, those of us who have maintained long and principled relationships directly with the Cuban Revolution, when we tell you don't listen to what imperialism has to tell you about the Cuban people. Why are we so sure? Because some of us don't rely on imperialist propaganda. I was there in July of 1994 when the last large raft launch of disgruntled Cubans left Cuba to come to the U.S. I realize you saw the three or four hundred people who fled on rafts and that imperialism told you that these people left Cuba because of the oppression and the evil empire, but what you didn't see were the approximately 20,000 people who were protesting the people leaving in rafts. I saw those people and how angry they were with those who intended upon abandoning the Cuban Revolution. I saw them yelling at the rafters to "Vete de aquí!" (get the hell out!). Why? Because I also know that approximately 70% of the Cuban people today were born after the Revolution. So, that means 7 out of 10 people in Cuba today have never lived with mounting medical bills. They have never lived with student debt. They have never lived with skyrocketing rents and no hope of employment because all of these things have been guaranteed to them by the Socialist Revolution and when we say Cuban Revolution, we are automatically talking about Fidel Castro. I talked to many of these folks when I was there and yes, I talked to them in their homes, with no government spies lurking around their windows. These people told me directly that they have no desire to have a capitalist system. They told me that contrary to what you believe, they are highly competitive, but not in the same ways you are in this capitalist system. They helped me learn that competition is different in a socialist society. Its collective, not individualistic. They are competitive about wiping out racism. Wiping out infant mortality, which they have practically done (their infant mortality rate is better than it is in the U.S.). They are competitive about wiping out homophobia and patriarchy and their government is front and center in funding programs to educate around these issues. When Mariela Castro, director of Cuba's Social Service Agency, says Cuba is embarking on a major campaign to educate the masses about the LGBTQ community there, Cuba's history confirms that you should believe her. And, this is Fidel's Cuba.
Is the Cuban Revolution perfect? That question isn't even worth answering, but we will say that Fidel's legacy must be gauged by comparing what has been accomplished in Cuba to all the neighboring countries that have the same history and conditions. If you do that, Cuba stands head and shoulders above the rest because of the Cuban Revolution. Because of socialism and Fidel. So, don't hold your breath waiting for Cuban's to do what imperialism is asking them. Cuba is different in ways most people in the U.S. cannot understand. Their revolution has integrity. Fidel had integrity. Che had integrity. Vilma Espin, Celia Sanchez, Juan Almeida, Frank Pais, and yes, Raul Castro, all have/had integrity. That's why we never flinched when many of you were saying the Cuban government would return Assata Shakur to the U.S. earlier this year. Fidel invited Assata to come to Cuba just like he invited Huey P. Newton before her, and Robert Williams before him to come there. In 1967, Fidel invited Kwame Ture, who was Stokely Carmichael to Cuba when imperialism wanted Kwame's head. Fidel announced in public that imperialism would pay if "it harmed one hair" on Kwame's head. And, Fidel kept that promise. Kwame sought and received medical attention for the prostate cancer that killed him in Cuba at no charge up until his death in November of 1998. Fidel made all of this possible. Just like he made it possible for Louis Farrakhan (leader of the Nation of Islam) to have the same life saving surgery in Cuba a few short years ago. That's Fidel's Cuba.
Another trick of imperialism is to make dead revolutionaries bigger than life so as to pit them against living revolutionaries. It did that with Fidel and Che Guevara. Imperialism said that Fidel pushed Che away. That he forced Che into the ill fated mission in Bolivia and that he abandoned Che there. That Fidel was happy when Che was killed in 1967. Imperialism said this and I have heard many people repeat this tired lie despite repeated refutations by Che's widow Aleida March and Che's own children, all who still live in Cuba and continue to strongly support the Cuban Revolution (not to mention all of Che's closest comrades, including Harry Villegas aka "Pombo" who I met in Cuba who was one of only three combatants to escape Bolivia alive after Che was killed there). Those of us who have studied Cuba know this is a lie. Fidel begged, pleaded, with Che to not go to Bolivia. Che insisted on leaving Cuba. His statements against the USSR made him persona non grata to the Cuban's efforts at the time to ingratiate itself with the Soviets. Che knew his presence made that more difficult. So, he insisted on the mission in the Congo first, then an extended stay in Tanzania, then the ill fated mission in Bolivia. History confirms that Fidel did everything in his power to support the Bolivian mission and nothing that Che wrote in his diary contradicts that. The only people saying otherwise are the imperialists. Because they wanted people to distrust Fidel, but again they failed.
The masses of Africans will always respect Fidel. Many of us may not know much about the Cuban Revolution in particular, or Cuba in general, but we know that our revolutionary African leaders in the U.S. who had to get out of here were always offered safety in Cuba. Our people in Africa know much more. They know that were it not for Cuba, the entire southern region of Africa would have been lost to apartheid in the 80s. The USSR, the U.S., and China, did nothing to stop the racist effort to consolidate Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia, into the racist clutches that controlled Azania (South Africa). Only Cuba responded and they responded not in word, but deed, by sending 40,000 troops to beat back the racist onslaught. Thousands of Cubans, many of them Africans, lost their lives defending mother Africa from racist apartheid. The Cubans were so determined to fight, not only for that cause, but in support of the people of Guinea Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique, for their independence, that people in Africa today still love Fidel and the Cuban Revolution. Of course, Cuba was wrong in supporting the Derge in Ethiopia in the 70s, but in totality, Cuba is a hero in Africa. There is an African proverb that says "the only people who make no errors are those who do nothing." So, we judge Cuba on the totality of their actions in Africa, not their isolated errors. The imperialists even had to agree to release Nelson Mandela from prison as a condition of the Cuban troops leaving Southern Africa in 1990. That's why the first thing Mandela did when he left Africa that year was visit Fidel Castro to say thank you, despite the outrage from the reactionary people in Southern Florida, but we will talk about them shortly. Cuba continues to supply thousands of doctors to Africa today and to graduate African doctors from all over the African world in Cuban Medical schools. Their model is to provide enough skilled technicians to wipe out disease which is a chronic problem in Africa. And based on their success in doing so in Cuba - they have successfully eliminated mother to child HIV transmissions - this is unbelievable for Africa which has the highest percentage of people with HIV in the world. In some countries like Zambia, almost five out of every 10 people are HIV positive so Cuba's medical expertise is going to be invaluable to stopping this problem and none of this could be happening without a major nod to Fidel and people in Africa know this even if those of you in the Western world do not. While Fidel's Cuba has offered this hope, the only thing the U.S. and imperialism have offered Africa to combat HIV is the International Monetary Fund and structural adjustment programs that do nothing for the people of Africa while draining what little resources they have to finance projects that benefit imperialist interests in Africa. People are not stupid. They see the differences between Fidel's principled relationships to Africa and imperialism's systemic exploitative relationship.
Finally, to those haters in Florida and all of you who seek every opportunity to criticize Fidel and who are celebrating tonight, the people who matter wouldn't spend the time it takes to pass gas thinking about you. There is a reason that 98% of the so-called Cuban exile community in Florida is European descent or White. Revolutions are not fought for the people with privilege. They are fought for those on the bottom of the society. Since all those White people have left Cuba (good riddance), the country is now predominantly African. And, thankfully, since Cuba has always been a Revolution that genuinely tries to acknowledge its errors, as it has spent the last 25 years moving away from its earlier Stalinist model into finding its own identity, it has graciously supported African cultural identity among African people in Cuba. I'm talking about the government funding African cultural programs, something you cannot find on any systemic level in the U.S. Fidel, who has always said "African blood runs through my veins" is a major reason for this support while no U.S. president would ever open their mouth to say that. In fact, even the so-called African U.S. president cannot hardly acknowledge his obvious African ancestry. The Florida community means nothing to us. We refer them back to Malcolm X's words in 1964 when he said "Cuban exiles have no business coming up into Harlem telling us who we can support!" Malcolm said that after he had established his own personal relationship with the Cuban Revolution four short years before, having a personal meeting with Fidel when the Cuban Revolutionary outsmarted the U.S. again (as he did repeatedly for half a century), by countering their illegal effort to prevent him from staying on United Nations grounds in New York (which is supposed to be international territory) by staying instead at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem where Malcolm X had his office. Fidel returned to Harlem in 1995 to overwhelming love and support from thousands of the African masses there who always remember who our true friends are.
And, those of you who have families who fled Cuba, spare me the emotionally charged responses. I know that Cuba has one of the lowest prison percentages in the world. Their police have one of the lowest kill rates in the world. I know a great deal about how the Cuban legislative model works and I'd argue its much more democratic than the legislative processes in the U.S. If you are arguing that your family suffered because of Fidel, I have to ask you what your family was doing in Cuba? Clearly, just the fact your family may have suffered cannot be used as evidence about anything related to discrediting Fidel and the Cuban Revolution and you know this because if I told you my family has suffered in the U.S. - and my family has suffered e.g. growing up in racist segregated conditions - you would not accept that as evidence that the U.S. is an evil empire so don't expect me to accept your vision of the Cuban Revolution. We all know people who have lived in a place their entire life, yet know nothing about the political conditions there so just physically being somewhere is never a qualification of expertise about that place. Instead, we have to have a debate about why these things happen. The U.S. has never been under threat from any country, yet this country abuses and oppresses people as policy. It always has and it always will. Standing Rock is just the latest example of this. This system was built upon oppression and continues based on needing people to be oppressed. Meanwhile, the Cuban Revolution is built on human needs yet it has been under assault by imperialism since its inception so even if the Revolution acted in error sometimes, this is in large part because of the siege the Revolution there has been under since it started. Plus, name one young country (the Cuban Revolution is just a few years older than I am) that doesn't have the right to learn its way? Especially if it had dysfunctional parents? (e.g. the brutal Bautista regime which was propped up by U.S. imperialism and its proxies like the Mafia).
With just over 30 days before the 58th commemoration of the victory of the Cuban Revolution, I'll spend December thinking a lot about Fidel Castro. He has influenced and shaped much of my ideas for what the world should look like. He once said the only qualification for leadership is sincerity and I agree with that. I've often recalled that statement when I doubted myself. What I'm saying is I don't care who I offend by saying I love Fidel Castro and I honor his image. A man like him can never die. His spirit is eternal. I thank our African ancestors for him and all that he has done for Cuba, Africa, African people, and all of humanity. I thank him for standing up to U.S. imperialism for over 50 years and teaching us how to do that. I thank him for his courage and bravery in introducing a socialist revolution just 90 miles from the strongest imperialist country on Earth and waging a relentless battle to protect that revolution for over half a century. And we Africans know that his spirit will live with us forever. Sekou Ture said "if the enemy isn't doing anything against you, you aren't doing anything!" Fidel Catro, a good friend to Sekou Ture, always had the enemy working against him. At last count imperialism waged almost 150 assassination attempts against him and they failed each time. Since imperialism has a pretty solid record of killing off its opponents to date, and it hasn't had any opponents that ranked any higher than Fidel, I think that says all that really needs to be said about Fidel Castro's legacy and his true place among the Cuban people. In truth, I'm thinking Fidel is having the last laugh tonight. Despite all those years of outsmarting U.S. imperialism and all those efforts to sabotage Cuba and kill him particularly, he was able to outsmart imperialism one final time by being able to die peacefully on his own terms in his beloved Cuban Revolution.