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Vol. 71/No. 15      April 16, 2007

Event held in Alabama on
book by Chinese Cuban generals
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama—“Having read Our History, it is clear to me how closely associated the Cuban Revolution is with what happened right here in Birmingham,” said Horace Huntley, welcoming the audience at a March 31 meeting here to discuss Our History Is Still Being Written: The Story of Three Chinese-Cuban Generals in the Cuban Revolution.

Huntley, a history professor at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) and head of the Oral History Project at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, was referring to the pivotal Black rights battles that took place here in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The event, held at UAB, was sponsored by the Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA), the Student African-American Studies Association (SAASA), and Pathfinder Books. More than 50 people attended, including 15 students and other youth.

“We are very proud of the three Chinese generals and their achievements,” said Youfeng Yang from CSSA, speaking in Mandarin with translation by a fellow student. “I urge everyone to read this valuable book and learn about Cuba’s socialist society.” Hundreds of students from China study at UAB, and several attended the event.

Anamaria Santiago, from the Spanish and Latino Student Association, said that before reading Our History Is Still Being Written all she heard about Cuba was hostile propaganda in the daily media. “But what I read in this book showed regular citizens of Cuba who accomplished and continue to accomplish incredible things.” Theodore Foster from SAASA also gave welcoming remarks.

Dennis Laumann, professor of African history at the University of Memphis, said he was impressed with the account of how the three generals “joined tens of thousands of fellow Cuban internationalists, most of African origin, to help Angolans protect their sovereignty and, by extension, end apartheid in southern Africa. What a fantastic story indeed, an epic about liberation!”

“The 1959 Cuban Revolution was part of the explosion of national liberation struggles around the world in the 1950s and ’60s, intertwined with the massive movement for Black rights in the United States,” said Martín Koppel, who helped interview the Cuban generals for the book. “Here, as in Cuba, thousands of Black workers and young people stood up to the police and filled the jails, fighting for their freedom.” Cuba’s socialist revolution offers an example to working-class militants of “how to fight and how to win.”

“Our History Is Still Being Written provides a context to understand the amazing changes for Chinese in Cuba after 1959,” said Edward Tang, a professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, referring to the measures in Cuba that uprooted racist discrimination. He contrasted those advances with the discrimination faced by Asian immigrants in the United States, despite efforts by the U.S. government to portray Asian Americans as a supposedly well-off “model minority.”

During the discussion period, Odessa Woolfolk, president emeritus of the Civil Rights Institute, told of her experiences visiting Cuba with other students from Talladega College in the waning years of the Batista regime. “You could see the extreme social divisions in Cuba, like we faced in the United States,” she said, noting that she came to the meeting to learn about how those conditions had changed with the revolution.

Afterward, 35 people adjourned to a nearby home of two participants in the event for a delicious dinner and hours more of discussion.
Related articles:
Toronto event promotes book on Chinese Cubans in the Cuban Revolution
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