BY LEA SHERMAN
HOUSTON - Over 200 people gathered October 5 at the University of Houston for the main panel presentation of the Che Guevara Commemoration Conference. The event was initiated by the Irish Unity Committee, and co-sponsored by the African-American Studies Program, Alliance of Multicultural Progressive Students (AMPS), Cuba Friendship Committee, Latina Coalition, MEChA, NOW-UH, Pan-African People for Progressive Action (PAPPA), Women's Studies Program-UH, and the Young Socialists.
The keynote speaker on the panel was Angela Davis, currently a professor in feminist and African-American studies at the University of California. In 1970 Davis, a member of the Communist Party at the time, was framed up in connection with her activity in defense of several inmates in California's Soledad prison. She was imprisoned for 16 months and acquitted. Davis focused on what she called the "prison-industrial complex." She pointed to crimes that go unpunished in the family, pollution of the environment, health and safety violations in the workplace, and government crimes of human rights violations. "How can anyone be reformed in this prison system?" she asked.
Davis ended her talk with a call to embrace Che Guevara by fighting for the freedom of political prisoners throughout the world, from Northern Ireland to the Basque Country in Spain, from Puerto Rico to U.S. prisoners.
Also on the panel was Blanka Kalzakorta, of the Basque political prisoner support group Senideak. She talked about Che's legacy for the Basque people, who are fighting for their sovereignty, self-determination, and independence from Spain. "We will maintain our struggle - that is our contribution to Che." Kalzakorta and Inigo Elkoro, who presented a workshop earlier in the conference, were beginning a U.S. speaking tour.
Steve Clark, managing editor of New International, emphasized the relevance of Che's ideas and example in his talk. To honor Che in the United States involves much more than solidarity, Clark said. "What Che, who is inseparable from the Cuban revolution and its leadership, teaches us is that revolution is possible," not only in the Third World but in the United States and other imperialist centers.
During the discussion, a young participant in the conference asked, "What would you expect and how would you define a modern day revolutionary in America?"
Davis responded that it was important for young people to seek to define being a revolutionary in a country like the United States, but said she couldn't answer that question today.
Clark responded that fighters in the United States, the most brutal empire in history of humanity, have a responsibility to themselves and working people around the world to mobilize the working class as part of an international revolutionary movement to put an end to the capitalist system. "To be a revolutionary today is to be like Che -to be part of the great army of working people that represents the way forward for humanity," he said.
In addition to the main panel presentation, conference
participants attended several workshops. The workshop
topics included: Who Was Che Guevara?, Che: The Man and
His Ideas, Solidarity with Cuba, The Irish Rebel
Tradition, The Basque Struggle for Independence, and
Chiapas and Mexico.
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