- Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963
Here, in this dark jail where they force me to live, I will be resisting until the freedom of my people is obtained." - Oscar Elias Biscet, August 25, 2006
Martin Luther King, Jr. would've been 82 today but never saw 40 because an assassin shot the 39 year old Baptist minister in the head on April 4, 1968 at 6:01pm in the midst of the final campaign before his death: the support of a strike by sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. On the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday where a monument is being erected to honor the man in the nation's capitol it is an important moment to reflect on the man and his legacy. There are numerous entries in this blog about the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., but until now not placed in a Cuban context.
Fernando Delgado, a Cuban on hunger strike in Vienna, Austria because the Cuban regime has denied him entry to his own country without explanation. He has said that he will remain on hunger strike until the Cuban embassy explains the reason for banning him from returning to his homeland. As of January 15, 2010 he has lost 17.6 pounds.
According to Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, nine hours ago in Banes, Cuba a new repudiation rally was carried out against the family of Orlando Zapata Tamayo including his grieving mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, subjected to a hate rally organized by the Cuban dictatorship. Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience who died on hunger strike on February 23, 2010 demanding an end to the torture and mistreatment of political prisoners. Orlando Zapata following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. in nonviolent resistance exposed the evil nature of the dictatorship in Cuba during both his life and even in death. Martin Luther King Jr., in a speech he gave in Detroit, Michigan on June 23, 1963 declared: "I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something he will die for, he isn't fit to live." Orlando Zapata Tamayo has proven in Cuba the power of the above statement.
For the past half century human rights have been systematically violated and dismissed as "bourgeois" by a dictatorship that has murdered thousands of Cuban nationals and engaged in state terrorism both domestically and internationally.
Now 12 men have refused exile in exchange for freedom preferring to remain in prison then abandon their homeland. Meanwhile another Cuban dissident Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, imprisoned on December 9, 2010 to prevent him from holding an activity on International Human Rights Day has spent his third day on hunger strike demanding his freedom.
One of the most well known Cuban prisoners of conscience is also a disciple of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi his name is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez. From the bowels of a Cuban prison on June 1, 2003 Dr. Biscet's message to the world referenced Rev. King: My inspiration is alive: God and the great teachers of nonviolence, present today now more than ever. As Martin Luther King said: "If a people can find among their ranks a 5% of men willing to voluntarily go to prison for a cause they consider just then there is no obstacle that can stop them."
Martin Luther King Jr. observed that "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." In a Cuban context the question arises what are you doing or at least saying to denounce these and many more injustices?
You have an opportunity to do something this Sunday , January 16, 2010 at Our Lady of Charity [La Ermita de la Caridad] located at 3609 South Miami Avenue Miami, FL at 2:00pm EST Winnie Biscet, the daughter of Oscar Elias Biscet is organizing a vigil for the freedom of her father and other Cuban prisoners of conscience followed by a special Mass at 3:00pm. She is asking that those in attendance wear black and carry a white flower.
It would also be a good idea to bring posters with the image of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and the 11 prisoners of conscience from the 2003 Black Cuban Spring who remain imprisoned refusing exile along with the image of Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina. There names and faces are listed below:
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. - Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963