“The way he developed his political thinking, particularly during the last years of his life,” Castillo said, “led him to understand that the popular revolution that succeeded in the small neighboring island of Cuba in 1959 also represented the ideals he was fighting for.”
Others who spoke included professor and activist Johanna Fernández, who moderated the meeting; William Sales, author of From Civil Rights to Black Liberation: Malcolm X and the Organization of Afro-American Unity; Gail Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace; and Dr. Evelyn Erickson, a graduate of the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana.
“We’re here to honor the lives of two extraordinary figures in world history,” Fernández said, “Malcolm and Fidel Castro.”
The two revolutionaries met each other in September 1960 when Castro came to address the United Nations. U.S. authorities connived to deny Castro and the Cuban delegation hotel lodging in Manhattan.
Malcolm invited the Cubans to stay at the Hotel Theresa, where he joined thousands lining the streets waving Cuban flags, welcoming them to Harlem.
“When that historic meeting between Malcolm and Fidel took place,” Castillo said, it showed they “shared the same dreams and aspirations for the independence of other oppressed people worldwide, particularly in Africa.”
When Che Guevara went to Africa and joined fighters in the Congo taking up arms against Belgian and U.S. imperialism, Castillo said, “The spirit of Malcolm was also there together with those Cuban and African combatants.
“When tens of thousands of Cuban voluntary combatants heeded the call of their African brothers” and joined the 15 year-long battle against the troops of the South African apartheid regime who invaded Angola, Castillo said, “Malcolm was there because he was a forerunner and pioneer of internationalism.”
“The ideas of Malcolm retain their full validity,” he said. “Therefore, our best tribute to Malcolm X can be no other than to continue fighting.
“Our best tribute to Malcolm X can be no other than to continue defending our socialism in Cuba and fighting against the U.S. blockade,” he said.
“Cuba has put itself on the line for Blacks in Africa, the Caribbean and Black people here,” Sales told the audience. “When Reagan sent U.S. troops” against the revolution in Grenada, he said, “Cuban construction workers fought and died defending that revolution.”
“Thousands of Cubans helped to defeat South Africa in Angola,” he said, “facilitating the end of apartheid. We have to thank the Cuban Revolution under the leadership of Fidel Castro for supporting us.”
Walker described how IFCO has worked to support Cuba for decades, beginning with material-aid caravans organized by her father, the late Lucius Walker, the group’s founder.
She described how he faced U.S. government harassment and served time in jail for solidarity with Cuba. Washington continues to go after IFCO today, including moving to strip the group of its tax-exempt status.
Erickson described how Castro had initiated the Latin American School of Medicine. ELAM, the school’s Spanish acronym, has trained thousands of doctors from around the world for free. The only condition has been that graduates agree to start their practice in working-class neighborhoods when they return home.
Meeting participants applauded when Castillo concluded his remarks saying, “Our best tribute to Malcolm X can be no other than to keep in our hearts an everlasting gratitude to the people of Harlem.”
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