Black & Cuba
Cuba…it was the greatest trip I ever made. One of the reasons was the overwhelming sense of black pride I felt from the Cubans I encountered. I was constantly approached and asked if I were Cuban. Before my trip I knew there were "Black" Cubans, but I didn't know the whole country basically identified as Afro-Cuban. They not only identified with their African roots, but they LOVED their history. Growing up in Coatesville, PA outside of Philadelphia, all I knew was simply Black. When I say, "Black" I think I can speak for most black kids growing up not knowing where our families came from besides our hometowns. I've always identified as an American Black you could say, or an American that is Black.
After my second or third day in Cuba, I knew something was different about the country. I saw dark-skinned, light-skinned, and white-skinned Cubans loving each other. I saw people who by American standards aren't wealthy monetarily, but wealthy in soul and love. The people were so full of life despite whatever odds they had to deal with in life. I talked to a man who was just chilling on the street asked me where I was from and what did I do. I told him what I did, and he told me it was slavery. I laughed and agreed. While I may have more in terms of traditional wealth, he had intrinsic wealth. This is the story for most, if not all the Cubans I've met.
Being Black in America is a lot different. Light-skinned vs. Dark-skinned, Have's vs. Have Not's, Me vs. The World mentality. We're at war with ourselves, while being at war with others. Somewhere along the way we lost our sense of Black Pride. We forgot how beautiful we were. How it was ok to love, and support our brothers and sisters. We went from striving to take control of our own communities, to every man for themselves. We see a black woman or man building, and we're quick to tear that person down. Not because we don't like what they're building, but because we weren't the one to build. That's not how we keep our Black American culture in tact. That's not how you keep any culture in tact.
Growing up, I was fortunate to have parents who let me gather my own understanding of how the world worked. While we weren't poor, we weren't rich. My Black American culture was one most from the City of Coatesville probably could share; family members on drugs, one parent income household, and working to survive. Most have never exceeded their parents’ income, and/or education level. Some passed away due to drug related violence, and some land in jail. You see, Coatesville is no different from any city where black folks live. We're all affected by the same issues, and are dying to escape from them. I now understand Assata Shakur when she said she felt like the "20th Century Escaped Slave" when she was granted Asylum in Cuba in 1984. My time in Cuba showed me while you may not be Afro-Cuban by birth, you can be accepted as such by the Cuban people.