"On a small cut of land at the corner of 23rd Avenue and F Street in the Vedado section of this city stands a monument to two heroes of the Cuban people,"DeWayne Wickham wrote Monday for The Root under the headline, "Why African Americans Should Be 1st in Line to Cuba."The piece, with a Havana dateline, appeared on the day Cuba officially opened an embassy in Washington, and the United States did the same in Havana.
"But the faces carved into the imposing marble-and-granite structure are not those of Fidel Castro and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, icons of the left-wing revolution that chased the right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista from power and spawned a U.S. economic embargo of this Caribbean island nation that is older than most Americans," Wickham continued.
"On the side of the monument that looks out onto 23rd Avenue — a wide thoroughfare that stretches across this city from the Almendares River to the Bay of Havana — is the image of Martin Luther King Jr. On its other side, the monument bears the likeness of Malcolm X. . . ."
Wickham, USA Today columnist and dean of Morgan State University's School of Global Journalism and Communication, has been taking black journalists to visit and report on Cuba for years.
He continued, "African Americans should go to Cuba because the link between Afro-Cubans and African Americans is much deeper than the 23rd Street monument. Like the Martin Luther King Center and Ebenezer Baptist Church that sit side by side in Havana's Marianao district, the monument is a symbol of the rich historical ties that bind people of African descent in Cuba to those whose ancestors slave ships dropped off in North America.
"There is much more that connects us to them.
"In 1896, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation was legal, Cuba was fighting for its independence from Spain with an integrated army. The second-in-command of this interracial force was Antonio Maceo, a black man. . . ."
Cornel West returned to Facebook on Monday after his critique of Atlantic magazine writer Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book "Between the World and Me" was denounced as ill-informed, perhaps the product of jealousy and a continuation of a vendetta against President Obama.
West wrote Monday:
"My response to Brother Ta-Nehisi's new book should not be misunderstood. I simply tried to honestly evaluate the book at the level of Truth, Goodness and Beauty.
"Since I believe there will never be another Baldwin — just as there will never be another Coltrane, Morrison, Du Bois, Simone [as in Nina], Robeson or Rakim — the coronation of Coates as Baldwin is wrong.
"His immense talents and gifts lie elsewhere and lead to different priorities. He indeed tells crucial truths about the vicious legacy of white supremacy as plunder on a visceral level, yet he fails to focus on our collective fightback, social movements or political hope. Even his fine essays downplay people's insurgency and resistance.
"The full truth of white supremacy must include our historic struggles against it. His critical comments in his essays about the respectability politics or paternalistic speeches of the black president in power (absent in his book) do not constitute a critique of the presidency — pro-Wall Street policy as capitalist wealth inequality, drone policy as U.S. war crimes, massive surveillance as violation of rights, or defense of ugly Israeli occupation as immoral domination.
"For example, none of the black or white neo-liberals who coronate Coates say that 500 Palestinian babies killed by U.S. supported Israeli forces in 50 days or U.S. drones killing over 200 babies are crimes against humanity. Yet they cry crocodile tears when black folk are murdered by U.S. police. Unlike Baldwin, Coates gives them this hypocritical way out — with no cost to pay, risk to take, or threat to their privilege because of his political silence on these issues.
"I love Coates' obsession with Baldwin's beautiful prose, and Coates does have beautiful moments too. Baldwin's beauty is profoundly soulful, wise and eager to inspire others. Coates' beauty is deliberately nerdy, smart and draws attention to itself. Hence, Coates' obsession with beauty weakens the Baldwin-like truths of resistance to be told or the Baldwin-like goodness tied to social hope.
"Like a Blues man or Jazz woman, Baldwin offers his whole blood-drenched and tear-soaked soul in words and sounds to an incomplete world, whereas Coates offers his well-crafted words with a sad spectatorial self to a doomed world. In this Age of Ferguson, we indeed need different voices, yet the most needful voices should be Baldwin-like all the way down and all the way LIVE!"