Dear Members of the Civil Society Organizing Committee for the VII Summit of the Americas:
The Yoruba Cuba Association has carefully read the email sent by the Organizing Committee for the VII Summit of the Americas’ Hemispheric Forum of Civil Society stating space limitations as the reason for excluding an organization such as ours, which has demonstrated over the years to have the capacity, knowledge, and skills to address important subjects relevant to the freedom and development of people of African descent. Our organization would like to express indignation at the message received, as it does not take into consideration the years that we have been involved with consistent dedication and active participation in the struggle for the rights of our people of African descent both inside and outside the United States. While the organizers have the right to grant or deny participation in the forum, the reasons they give for their decision are insufficient and harmful.
We hope this response is not due to the fact that our organization uses its own funds and does not resort to any other type of assistance from outside entities that would obligate us to go to Panama or any other place to decry the peoples’ sovereignty.
This exclusion is unacceptable coming from an organization like the OAS, which has taken no serious steps to honor the International Decade for People of African Descent set forth in Resolution 68/237 of the United Nations. The fact that a discussion on Resolution 68/237 was not included on the agenda is an indication that this subject is considered to be of insufficient importance for the hemispheric forum of “civil society.”
The absence of a discussion on this topic is most troubling because people of African descent in many countries of the Americas continue to suffer personally from institutional racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia in almost all areas of life including political and economic spheres. Groups such as the Garifuna have been and continue to be victims of violence and displacement. In Colombia, due to violence, the internal armed conflict, and the denial of rights to collectively-held lands and the struggle for their return, they are victims of displacement, massacres and other violations. In Brazil, there are many condemnations of racial cleansing. In some places in the United States, abundant cases of police violence are more than evident, including those in Ferguson, New York, Washington D.C. and New Orleans. Regarding all of these cases, the OAS has maintained a deadly silence.
Given that we will not be present in Panama where we might speak out and call attention to these issues, we demand that the subjects of racism, the physical security of people of African descent, as well as the condemnation of crimes against our people not be thrown into a Bermuda Triangle where all disappears and is forgotten.
The 35 member states should change the rules of the game in society with respect to race relations so that these crimes do not continue to take place. The Durban Programme for Action is very clear in this respect and it is time that the proposed Inter-American Convention Against Racism truly gain momentum in the heart of the OAS.
The issue of Cuba is of unique importance. Unfortunately, not all of the participating organizations have real knowledge of Cuba or loyalty to her principles and ethics. Some who say that they are Cuban accept the despicable betrayal of the land where they were born. Cuba is the country of our American continent where the political process has done more for us than any of the previous governments of this Caribbean island or of other latitudes of our hemisphere. Regarding the new efforts to reestablish diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, our perspective as an organization of people of African Descent residing in the United States takes on greater relevance given this historic moment which the continent is now living.
We insist on receiving a report or copies of resolutions/declarations from you showing how these issues are addressed at the Summit.
In closing, I would like to share an African proverb so we may all reflect on its wisdom and meaning: “When the spider webs come together, they can tie up a lion.”
Ofunshi Oba Koso
President of the Yoruba Cuba Association of Minnesota