A successful meeting and street protest in Wilmington, California, a neighborhood near the LA Harbor, highlighted harbor area efforts for Black Lives Matter and efforts to end the US blockade of Cuba.
The meeting held at the Wilmington Machinists Union hall was opened by International Association of Machinists Local 1484 President Kevin Kucera saying “It gives me great pleasure to host a meeting like this. We represent port workers from LA to San Diego. We support progressive causes.”
Marisol Cruz, Lennox District Board member introduced featured speaker by zoom from NY, Gail Walker the Executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace.
“Cuba has engaged in medical internationalism despite a six decades-long blockade imposed by the US. Around the world actions are taking place today to pay homage to the many gifts from this island nation. Cuba is once again leading the way in fighting coronavirus—in the same way that it has fighting apartheid and Ebola in Africa. Cuba runs toward the fight not away from it.” Referring to the international medical personnel of the Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade, which has “deployed tens of thousands of medical workers to dozens of countries to fight Covid- 19…. We fight to change the US’s brutal genocidal policy towards Cuba.”
She called for Cuban doctors to be able to come to the US to share their expertise. “At this point solidarity and cooperation is critical to save lives.” She urged participants to join the 2021 Pastors for Peace Friendshipment caravan to Cuba that will bring medical and educational aid. “The world may be quarantined, but solidarity is not.”
One US Citizen, among dozens trained in Cuba, working in an underserved community in San Diego was next, Dr. Sarpoma Sefa-Boakye.
“We really don’t have a health care system in the US; if you had any doubt, look at the Coronavirus epidemic. I had more medical supplies in Cuba, even given the embargo, that we have working here without PPE… In Cuba everybody has health care, every street block has a doctor….” To illustrate this, “The impact of not having a health care system here— the island of Cuba has about the same population as LA, but the confirmed Coronavirus cases we know of is 454,000 in LA County. In Cuba it’s 2,478. The death toll in LA is 8,430 and in Cuba only 88. How did that happen? They have a massive public health care not based on money or pharmaceutical company profits.” She added that “Cuba has one doctor for every 150 residents, but we both need an end to the US blockade and be able to trade freely and share knowledge.”
Brenda Lopez, Co-chair of the US Hands Off Cuba committee explained that her experiences in Cuba this past summer, at an international environmental conference, is what changed her views. “Climate change, the pandemic has no borders. The media here portrays Cuba in a negative way…in Cuba I saw a different reality. All the things that we are fighting for here, they already have in Cuba, like free education thru college, jobs for all, free medical care. They care about humans, in Cuba or outside. We have lot to learn from Cuba.”
Pacey Hackett, local Black Lives Matter activist, introduced Chris Smalls the Amazon worker fired for leading a campaign for adequate protective gear from Coronavirus at Amazon warehouses in NY. He has since formed The Congress of Essential Workers to champion workers rights and job safety. “I am honored to be here and one day hope to visit Cuba…I had to take action because there was no guidance given to protecting Amazon workers… Covid-19 exposed a lot about this country’s lack of health care, the trillion dollar rescue package that was mostly funneled to Wall street. This system was never meant for Black or Brown communities. We all know that Cuba is leading in the medical field- the US should end the blockade so we can share in their knowledge. We need their assistance, more doctors to come from Cuba to help this country.” Smalls ended by saying that “Ultimately we need to abolish this system and show the positive work by Cuba.”
Community environmental activist, organizer and leader of the Communities for a Better Environment, Alicia Rivera, is involved in organizing truckers for workers rights and protesting the refinery caused pollution in Wilmington, causing widespread asthma and breathing disorders. Alicia Rivera explained the importance of the Cuban revolution to her as a Salvadoran who was forced to flee her country in 1980 because of her political activities opposing the rightist regime supported by the US government. Addressing the zoom and in person audience in Spanish and English, she said “I share with communities I work with the medical advances in Cuba, despite Cuba enduring a US embargo for 60 years, that does not even allow an aspirin to get thru. Cuba is the only place that has not kneeled down to the US and their doctors have done good in other countries where in some places they are the only ones providing medical help.” Further she said, “I am here to support an end to the blockade; my dream is to visit Cuba. She urged the audience to not give up despite the obstacles by the US government.”