On May 15, Fresno came together to honor Malcolm X el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, to celebrate his legacy and his meeting with Fidel Castro at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem in 1960 and to honor the contribution that Cuba has made to freedom and the anti-colonial struggles of Africa.
At the Free AME Church in West Fresno, a diverse group participated in planting a fruit tree to commemorate Malcolm X, whose birthday is May 19. Rev. Floyd Harris; Hajj Reza Nekumanesh, national director of clergy organizing for Faith in Action and scholar of the life and work of Malcolm X; and Juan Rafael Avitia, local and national Brown Berets leader, set this tree for the future into the ground at the Freedom Garden. Nekumanesh then spoke about the beliefs, life and legacy of Malcolm X.
In September 1960, shortly after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the Cuban delegation to the UN General Assembly was led by Castro. They had arranged to stay at an uptown hotel near the Cuban Legation, but when they arrived the hotel asked them for a huge deposit against possible damages.
Castro said, “We had two choices. One was the United Nations gardens—when I mentioned this to the Secretary General of the UN he was horrified at the thought of a delegation camping there in tents. But when we received Malcolm X’s offer—he had spoken with one of our comrades—I said, ‘That is the place, the Hotel Theresa.’ And there we went.”
They went to Harlem, where they were greeted by huge cheering crowds. Close to midnight, Malcolm X arrived to greet and speak with Castro.
Malcolm X said, “I think you will find the people in Harlem are not so addicted to the propaganda they put out downtown.”
Castro said, “I admire this. I have seen how it is possible for propaganda to make changes in people. Your people live here and are faced with this propaganda all the time, and yet they understand. This is very interesting.”
Malcolm replied, “There are 20 million of us, and we always understand.”
They exchanged views on the anti-colonial struggle in Africa and the struggle against the oppression of Black people in the United States.
The exchange of thoughts and the feelings that prompted the discussion had major consequences for the future. Cuba committed to the freedom struggle of Black Africa.
When South African troops invaded Angola, independence leader Agostinho Neto appealed for help, and Cuba responded. Cuban troops were key in stopping the South African mercenary invasion. And they continued to respond to African independence leaders’ appeals for help in the battle against South Africa and colonial rule until Angola and Namibia were free, and until apartheid was conquered in South Africa.
In 1991, Nelson Mandela visited Havana and said a great deal in appreciation of the Cuban Revolution, including, “From its earliest days, the Cuban Revolution has also been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people…
“We come here with a sense of the great debt that is owed to the people of Cuba. What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa? Photo by Peter Maiden