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Let Cuba Live
Concerning Lucius Walker
By Tom Whitney, September 22, 2010
On September 7, 2010, Rev. Lucius Walker Jr. died. With his departure, the leadership, inspiration, and guidance he provided in struggles for justice and common decency become glaringly apparent. The Pastors for Peace leader was a man of both deeds and words. His words, however, were more spoken than written and thereby linger less in one’s recall than do his actions.
On July 21, 2001, Lucius Walker spoke at a well-attended rally in Portland, Maine (image above) staged in preparation for an upcoming challenge of the U.S. anti-Cuban Blockade at the Maine - Quebec border. Fortunately a written version of those words is at hand. A perusal serves to illustrate this remarkable man’s dedication to struggle and to standing up, to Cuba and its revolutionary example, and to his actual practice of solidarity with those laboring with him. His eloquence is also on display.
The Let Cuba Live Committee of Maine, organizer of the rally in 2001, makes Rev. Walker’s speech available now not only as a sounding of Lucius Walker’s great contribution – and sad testimony to our loss – but also, and more importantly, as a mapping of our future direction. We append a note at the end of Walker’s speech describing the circumstances that brought him to Maine nine years ago.
On Our Watch: A Special Responsibility
Rev. Lucius Walker Jr.
I bring congratulations and greetings from all of us, the total national network of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. You are really not alone. The whole world is watching with dismay and with disgust what the United States is doing. People all over are taking heart from what you do, being encouraged by the work which all of you gathered here today represent, especially those who took the initiative of organizing the crossing into Canada on the 2nd of July.
The U.S. government knows that if it can pacify some of those who are opposed to the blockade, if it can divide our forces, and if it can trickle down a few licenses to organizations who want to send aid to Cuba, then it has gained some success. It has created legitimizing exceptions to the ongoing, vicious, cruel policy of blockade. What does that mean?
It means that our government prevents normal relations with Cuba, by not allowing U.S. corporations to purchase products that are produced in Cuba, by not allowing Cuba to buy from the more natural markets just up the Gulf of Mexico - rice, pharmaceuticals, and other products - and by preventing food and medicine and medical equipment from getting to Cuba. If, however, here and there, there are a few people, and especially people who are in our ranks, who accept a license and take a small amount of aid to Cuba, then our government publicizes that fact and says there really is no blockade of Cuba. The U.S. denies Cuba’s access to the things that are necessary for normal life, and it talks about these few legitimizing exceptions.
Pastors for Peace is honored and delighted to walk this path with you, to be here with you, to tell the world what you are doing, as an example of what all solidarity organizations, all church groups, all educational groups, all labor groups, all people of good will in the United States ought to be doing, and that is, CHALLENGE the blockade! Make no mistake about it. What you are doing exposes the utter sham and contradictions. It exposes the cruelty of our government’s blockade against Cuba, and it needs to be exposed. They are feeling embarrassed right now. Why wouldn’t they feel embarrassed? What you were taking across the border were incubators for babies! Well, tell me how that threatens the security of the United States? There were defibrillators, to resuscitate, to give life. How in the name of God does a defibrillator threaten the security of the strongest nation in the world?
People who have power and who don't have the grace or civility to use that power to enhance human life become dangerous to the planet. Our government is becoming dangerous to the planet. We kill. We destroy the hope of the poor. We crush their flowers, their hopes, and their dreams. You are exposing that contradiction.
We face a special responsibility on our watch, all of us who are here, all of the organizations that are involved in this solidarity movement The United States has as its ultimate objective the destruction of Cuba as it exists, a destruction of Cuba’s commitment to socialism. It has as its ultimate objective, the restoration of a puppet government in Cuba that will do the bidding of the United States. People like you, and us, and, of course, the noble, valiant people of Cuba are what stand between our government and its ultimate objective. We are the barrier that prevents them from destroying the hopes and the dreams of the people of Cuba. That’s our responsibility.
I would imagine that some in Maine like in every other state might be wondering how much energy should be put into this. I tell you that we all have a responsibility, no matter how young, no matter how old, no matter where you live in the state or in the region, or the nation; we have a responsibility. Let me press this upon you, by pointing out that every one of us here is a direct beneficiary of the willingness of some- body else to struggle for our rights, to put themselves at serious disadvantage in order that we might have certain basic rights and exercise them,
There are those of us who have benefited from organized labor; we must know that organized labor did not achieve the right to represent workers, to bargain, to negotiate because the bosses woke up one morning, having been converted overnight, and decided they were going to pay decent wages now. The only reason that organized labor exists is because some people decided to fight the powers. They decided to go to the barricades, decided to take matters in their own hands, because the government officials and the corporate officials were hell-bent upon destroying the rights of the poor workers in this country. Lives were lost, but the victory was won. The victories that have been won in the area of organized labor have been won because somebody paid the price on our behalf, and we have to keep that struggle going.
But it’s true in other areas as well. People of color in this country did not wake up one morning to find that suddenly there was access to public accommodations, access to the voting booth, just because the racists decided they weren’t going to be racists anymore - like they went to church or had a change of heart. No! We had some people who marched, who stood before the hoses, the horses, the dogs, the billy clubs, people who were imprisoned, who engaged in civil disobedience, who said, "I ain't gonna let nobody turn me around", who were determined to open the doors of schools and colleges and places of public accommodation. Lives were lost. The price was paid. And we are the beneficiaries of it. And since most of this congregation is white, lest you think you always were free, let me remind you that the landed gentry had the right to vote, but those of you that happened to be poor-white folk didn’t have many rights. Somebody had to fight against the landed gentry to open access to resources for white folk as well.
So a natural question ought to be this: if others fought to make this world a better place, how can I do the same. This issue of Cuba, the blockade against Cuba, is a responsibility of all of us on our watch. There are many issues to be fought. There are many injustices still to be tackled, but there is none more important than Cuba’s right to live, to exist, and to exercise its sovereignty. Why is that so?
While there is no perfect nation in the world, there are none that come closer to it than Cuba. There was a time when I think some of us in the Cuba solidarity movement felt that we had to be on the defensive about Cuba. And others would say there is no democracy in Cuba, and we would very softly respond to that. Well, some years ago I had an insight that no longer would I be defensive about Cuba. For as I look at the electoral system in the United States and in the rest of the world, I find none more democratic than the electoral system in Cuba. There fore, I assert that Cuba leads the way in electoral human rights, in social and economic and cultural human rights in every aspect that governance has responsibility to its people for and, therefore, we have a responsibility to defend it.
We have a responsibility because it will help Cuba, but we have a responsibility also because in helping Cuba we are helping the rest of the world. There is no nation that supports the aspirations and the hopes of the third world more than Cuba does. I meet more Africans on full, free scholarships in Cuba than I have ever met or heard about in all of the United States. There are thousands of young people in the United States who dream, who aspire, who hope for the possibility of becoming medical doctors, but they cannot, because of the costs. Cuba less than a year ago offered 500 full scholarships to young people from the United States to become doctors. They will return home and serve the poor, humble communities that they came from.
In issue after issue, in area after area, Cuba lights the way. Cuba has established the fact that it is the leader in the world community in the affirming of and guaranteeing the rights of the poor people of this world. And, therefore, if we really want to see the world continue to have hope and possibility for the creation of a new society, we must support Cuba. There is no other nation that has demonstrated consistently a commitment to that objective. And that's why I like to say that, yes, Cuba needs us, and, yes, we ought to respond to Cuba, because when Africa called, Cuba answered, whenever there is need in the world, Cuba responds. But more than all of that, more than just because Cuba needs help, the world needs the example and the generosity and the spirit of enlightened democracy and socialism that Cuba represents.
And so, we must continue the struggle. And we must continue to up the ante. We must continue to keep the pressure on the United States. We must continue to do the things that are right, knowing that the things that are right will embarrass our government, because of its commitment to evil, because of its commitment to the destruction of the hopes of the poor. We must name the powers. We must stand against the powers. And we must realize that in the course of doing so, we wrestle not just with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places. We can not be deterred because they say evil things about us, because they revile us, because they put us in jail. We must continue to march, to work, to struggle, to be in solidarity no matter what obstacles they put in our way, because we are the future hope of the world!
July 2, 2001 - Coburn Gore, Maine, 14 members of Let Cuba Live of Maine tried to hand over 120 crates and boxes of medical supplies to members of Caravane d’Amitie Quebec - Cuba, based in Montreal, who were waiting on the other side of the international border. They planned to take the material and ship it to Cuba. Let Cuba Live had purposefully refused to obtain licenses for humanitarian aid, as required by embargo laws. Border officials responded by seizing vehicles and attempting to confiscate the medical supplies. The Maine activists resisted, carrying carried 50 boxes across into Canada.
July 21, 2001 - Rev. Walker came to Monument Square in Portland, Maine. He addressed a rally aimed at building support for a follow-up border challenge. Indeed, on August 18, 85 people in 25 vehicles returned to the Coburn Gore border station, this time with 140 boxes of medical supplies. Lucius Walker and Pastors for Peace colleagues were there. A scuffle ensued. Two thirds of the boxes were handed over to Quebec activists on the other side.