By Bill Fletcher, Jr. Published 26 November 2016
For many of us in “Black America,” Fidel represented the audacity that we have desired and sought in the face of imperial and racial arrogance.
It is impossible to discuss Fidel Castro outside of an examination of the Cuban Revolution. And, while I hear that there are many Cuban Americans dancing with glee upon news of the death of President Castro, I know that the emotions within Black America are and will continue to be quite different.
For any Black person in the U.S. who knows anything about the history of the Western Hemisphere, both Cuba and Haiti have a special significance. Haiti, of course, for successfully ousting the French in 1803 and forming the second republic in the Americas; a Black republic. Cuba, in 1959, kicked out the United States, the Mafia, and a corrupt ruling class that had enforced racist oppression against most of the Cuban population. In the cases of Haiti and Cuba, their audacity in the face of a racist imperialism brought forth the wrath of their opponents. How dare the Cubans stand up to the U.S.? How could a country of all of these “brown” and “Black” people insist that they should determine their own destinies?
Thus, Fidel Castro immediately had a special significance for countless Blacks in the U.S.. When I was quite young I remember my father telling me how his brother-in-law, a professor at Johnson C. Smith University, had sat watching the television as pictures were shown of Cuban exiles entering the U.S. after the 1959 Revolution. His comment to my father was that all that he saw were white-looking Cubans stepping off the planes or boats. No brown and Black Cubans. This told him something about the nature of the Cuban Revolution and its leader, Fidel Castro.
Fidel further endeared himself to much of Black America when he visited the U.S. and took up residence in the Hotel Theresa in New York’s Harlem. It was there that he met another icon, Malcolm X. It was situating himself in the Black community that shook much of the U.S. establishment and told Black America that something very unusual was unfolding 90 miles off the coast of Florida.