Tag Archives: Black Panther Party

Nostalgia

I’m not one for nostalgia, mostly because I find looking back is frequently done with sadness; at loves lost, abilities gone, desires unfulfilled, etc. Nevertheless, it’s difficult not to encounter things that bring back old memories and feelings. Such was my experience with this wonderful video.

Although I was born in Southern California, of Eastern European Jews, I have developed a close affinity for Cuba over the years. There are two primary reasons this is so; two very deep and well-developed reasons. The first is from the two months I spent in Cuba in the Spring of 1973 with the Venceremos Brigade (La Brigada Venceremos). The second is from the Cuban woman who was my first wife and with whom I spent seven years.

The trip to Cuba was far more than just a two-month experience. It came at the culmination of around five years of intense political activity, beginning with my involvement in the Vietnam antiwar movement, and ending with my evolution into a Marxist. Shortly before traveling I worked at The Ash Grove, which had a long and tortured relationship with anti-Castro Cuban exiles. In fact, it was burned down three times by what Fidel labeled “Gusanos” (worms). It also involved several months of training, without which I would not have been allowed to make the trip. This training was provided by those who went before our contingent (we were the sixth) as well as members of the Black Panther Party, the Brown Berets, and the Los Angeles Women’s Liberation Union. It was the organization’s way of doing their best to ensure we understood racism, sexism, and cultural chauvinism, such that we wouldn’t do something stupid while we were there to make the organization, or the Cubans, look bad.

The marriage was short; actually, we were only married for about three and a half years and lived together prior to taking our vows another three and half years. It ended not so much because we weren’t getting along or compatible, but because our life circumstances seemed to dictate we go in different direction. After we had separated, I bought a dance studio for her in Venice, CA, where she conducted classes and sold some merch. That was nearly forty years ago and I wasn’t involved in the day-to-day business; mostly I just provided money and some connections. I don’t remember what happened, other than that it just wasn’t sustainable and I lost some money. We remain friendly to this day. Not close, but we’re Facebook friends and we have quite a few mutual friendships, so we cross paths occasionally.

So this video brought back some wonderful and some deeply emotional feelings for me. I don’t think you have to share any of my experiences to enjoy it. It is fun and entertaining. Hope you like it.


Racism and Bigotry

I still believe we are misusing the words “racism” and “racist.”

Racism is institutional, systemic, and structural. It’s insidious and buried deep in every aspect of our society and economy. Bigotry is right out in the open.

And this isn’t whitesplaining on my part. This is what I was taught by members of the Black Panther Party and the Brown Berets in 1973. I was, along with 49 of my closest friends, required to go through about 20 hours of cultural and racial sensitivity training before being allowed to travel to Cuba with the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade.

I keep bringing this up because the public now conflates racism with bigotry and, by doing so, gives people an excuse for not looking closer at how they’ve unknowingly embraced or benefited from racism, by merely pointing out their lack of anger or visible anger/hatred toward people of color. “I don’t see color,” or “I have black friends/relatives.” All that means, at the most, is you’re not a bigot. It doesn’t change the centuries of economic and social injustice deeply baked into every aspect of our society.

We need to understand the differences if we’re going to erase racism and its insidious effects.

One other thing I learned from that education, and that has been reinforced in the intervening years, is that white people need to shut the fuck up and listen to people of color when it comes to understanding their lived reality. Because of racism, you don’t know squat about their experiences. Try it. You might be surprised.


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