On February 8th at the New York’s famous Riverside Church, a tribute to Mandela was in order. The program program entitled “Mandela Presente! The Truth About Nelson Mandela: A Revolutionary fighter and Revolutionary Cuba’s Key Role in the Defeat of Apartheid” commenced with a historically significant documentary on Mandela’s speech in Cuba for the July 26th Moncada anniversary. Fidel Castro decorated Mandela with the “Jose Marti” medal for all his accomplishments to defeat Apartheid. The documentary was well received by hundreds of applauses of the audience of 300.
After being released from prison in 1990, one of the first things Nelson Mandela did was visit Cuba to express his admiration and respect for Cuban leader Fidel Castro. “Who trained our people, who gave us resources, who helped so many of our soldiers, our doctors? Cuba”. Mandela said over and over again that it was “Cuba that helped defeat apartheid including lending military support and training to the ANC’s military arm, Umkhonto we Sizwe”.
Keynote speakers South African Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeremiah Naymane Kingsley Mamabolo, joined by Cuba’s U.N. Ambassador, Rodolfo Reyes – himself a veteran of Cuba’s Angola mission. Others that spoke were Gail Walker – Co-Director of IFCO/Pastors For Peace, and prominent Human Rights attorney, Michael Warren.
Attorney and longtime Cuba solidarity activist – also noteworthy in the U.S. anti-apartheid movement, Joan Gibbs, pointed out that Cuba’s role in African liberation struggles historically goes back to the early 60’s… “We have a saying in the Black Liberation Movement Community here in the U.S. ‘When Africa called – Cuba Answered’ – and that’s true” she said, adding that one shouldn’t forget that, in addition to military help Cuba also sent doctors and teachers, and, said Gibbs, it should be noted that “Cuba, unlike other countries that come to Africa, when they completed their mission they left without trying to colonize.”
A surprise message came from Mariela Castro, President Raul Castro’s daughter who also spoke of Mandela with the high regards. She said, “we learned to focus our vision towards Africa to construct the Cuban nation”. She said that Cuba’s first emancipation was the freedom of black people against slavery instituted by the Europeans in the Americas. She revealed the great lessons Cuba learned from the Haitian Revolution- Toussaint L’Ouverture. And the second act of freedom was in 1959, Cuban Socialist Revolution.
All speakers mentioned the need to free the Cuban 5 revolutionary in US prisons, today and all political prisoners, with specific mention about Puerto Rican Oscar Lopez Rivera, Native American Leonard Peltier and Afro-American Mumia Abul Jamal.