These were Afro-Cubans who in the s wanted to dismantle the negative stereotypes about blacks, and reinsert stories and narratives about blacks into Cuban history and culture. By the time we get to the late s, most of these activists had been, in some ways, either incorporated into the revolution, or left to go into exile.
This story of black inclusion and exclusion from revolutionary power, which I tell in the book, demonstrates how interactions between Afro-Cuban leaders and the new government allowed for the coexistence of racism and anti-racism in s Cuba. By the s, you see Afro-Cubans continuing to do a lot of activist work in literature and art, so they never drop the fight for racial equality and they never give up on the fight for inserting Afro-Cuban culture and history into the national narrative of Cuba, but they have to find new ways of doing so once the campaign is over—many shift to working in the arts and film.
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In the s after the fall of the Soviet Union, when Cuba lost its main trading partner and the economy went into financial crisis, Cuba had to begin to open up in all sorts of ways. Revolutionary leaders started trading and doing joint business ventures with other countries. And as soon as they started opening up economically to other countries, they were also opening up the country to debates about what course the revolution will take, how to maintain the social reforms and progress they had made despite the difficulties the island faced in the 90s.
That allowed there to be more space for Cubans on the island—scholars, intellectuals, and regular people—to start talking about what challenges they still face. You start getting rappers and hip-hop artists holding concerts. They were critiquing the government, talking about how difficult it was as a black person to get a job in the newly-emerging tourist industry. This is what people are doing now through new organizations, in addition to using new technology.
She is constantly bringing these new ideas to the table through interviews and articles. These are the ways that you are seeing more people at the table. Anti-racism is something that is still unfinished, and is something that Cubans are continuing to debate how to accomplish.
So, for example, when I talk about hip-hop and rap artists holding public concerts where they rap about episodes where they experience racial discrimination, or the lack of opportunities for Afro-Cubans in the service sphere, what is outstanding to most Americans is that those rappers are supported by the government. They work at the National Rap Agency, they get paid by the government, and they perform in state-owned venues. Another example would be the work being done in the main Union of Artists and Writers, a state organization. Most Cuban intellectuals belong to this union, including many black intellectuals; and they hold meetings, conferences, and workshops where they talk about racism.
WPJ: Where, then, does the role of the government end and that of grassroots movements begin in bringing about this kind of societal change?
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I often talk about the steps and missteps that the revolutionary government made in the early s. Revolutionary leaders did not actually attack all the issues head on, which is what some Afro-Cuban activists wanted them to do. When we think about where does the government end and the grassroots organizing begin, there has to be a kind of collaboration that really involves listening to Afro-Cuban activists about what they want.
WPJ: You emphasize the often-overshadowed activism of Afro-Cuban women, highlighting the Afrocubanas Project as a contemporary example of such activism. DSB: The Afrocubanas organization really started off as a collective of women, who, through their scholarship, their professional careers, and their daily experiences had been living anti-racist lives.
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They published a book in compiling essays and articles written by members. They also support each other in other ways—for instance, if one of them is a theater director who is staging a play about increasing awareness about an element of Afro-Cuban history, the others go out to support her. At the same time, they talk about how they want to be able to raise money to do public service announcements. They want to be able to have a marketing campaign. WPJ: In addition to the Afrocubanas project, what other groups or movements are working to address issues related to racism in Cuba?
DSB: There are lots of contemporary anti-racist groups, some of them like I mentioned before in the state agencies. The Color of Cuba Color Cubano , which was formed out of the Union of Artists and Writers, is a group that does work in low-income communities.
They go into communities and talk to people about what types of problems they were facing or what needs they have. Remember, as the economy was diversifying, one of the things you see more in Cuba is the return of a type of class distinction. Some people can make a lot more money in the tourist industry by owning a bed and breakfast or having a private restaurant in their homes. But if you are in a black community, even if you might own your home now, most Afro-Cubans still live in the same buildings they lived in before the s.
One of the things that Color of Cuba does is go into many of these communities and they ask what they need. Do they need resources? Do they need supplies? Do they need clothes?
Do they need job opportunities? They are doing that on-the-ground work as the economy changes.
I wish that before I left school somebody had told me to stop worrying about what the future held and to make the most of the present time. One tip I would give to school leavers is to use summer holidays and spare time wisely. Research has shown that students who have a gap year achieve more highly at university than students who enter university straight after school and mature age students.
Having worked in a number of different countries it is true, travel really does broaden the mind. Do something that will enrich your life and that will take you out of your comfort zone. Employers will always look favourably on the efforts taken by go getters who have gone out and done work experience. Work experience or volunteering is a great way to network and exposes you to a range of core workplace activities, including teamwork, communication skills and how to use your initiative.
If I could give my year-old self any piece of advice over and over again it would be not to be scared of rejection. Getting job rejections can be emotionally difficult and frustrating but it can also be a useful springboard to reassess your goals. There are many different pathways to get to the same destination. You can look at alternative pathways. When I left school I thought that was the end of homework. How wrong I was. And with all that in mind, I wish you good luck for the rest of your adventures in this little thing we call life!
Low pay, earnings mobility and policy — Manchester, Lancashire. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Tim Whalley , University of Stirling. Doing the exam jump. Dear class of , Finishing school can be a daunting experience but you are young, bright and have your future ahead of you — easy for me to say, you might think. Yeh, I got this. Make the most of your time I wish that before I left school somebody had told me to stop worrying about what the future held and to make the most of the present time.
Just hanging around.