By Dalon Brown and David Odom
Ten years ago my husband and I traveled to Cuba for the first time in order to visit our partner church in Perico, Cuba. While it was a “love at first try” for only one of us, we’ve both since developed long-distance relationships with a number of people in several Cuban cities. We have been blessed as the “adoptive uncles” to the beautiful healthy 6-year-old son of our Perico pastor. During our eighth trip in January of this year, the conditions we witnessed and experiences we heard about were genuinely heartbreaking. While we as visitors are cared for relatively well, our family/friends there told about the extremely long power outages which they had to endure during last year’s heat, the shortage of affordable foods, the hard-to-imagine total lack of simple over-the-counter medicines and vitamins, and the near absence of fuel for vehicles. Power outages are beginning again this year for 2023. These shortages occur alongside lines and more lines….long lines everywhere. Lines as our friends wait to see whether the mercado has any rice and beans today for that is often the only food they have for the struggling mother to buy for her family. Long lines to find out whether there are any internet cards available today. Long lines for the money changers or banks IF one is lucky enough to have family in the states to send money to them; for those without that resource of family or friends to provide assistance, it is even more helpless and hopeless. Please close your eyes and picture that those you know in Cuba are in the same situation. The members of your sister churches are suffering. The extended families of all those contacts are in those long lines as well. For many in Cuba, even if we can get money to them, there is little or nothing to purchase.
It is breaking our hearts to see our “nephew” and the many we love in Cuba having to endure these conditions. It bothers us that he is having to see his mother and grandmother worry about the dismal situation for him as well as all the other sisters and brothers, members of their church flock. We worry about the decline in educational standards because there are not enough teachers nor time in the classrooms due to the power outages. We fret about him, and his friends, going hungry because there simply is not enough food for everyone.
David and I do rejoice in the love that our nephew is receiving from his family and the extended family of the church. We rejoice in the love that our congregation here at Oakhurst Baptist has for our Cuban family and their generosity in both money and time to try and improve the situation in Perico and all across Cuba. We rejoice in the support that the Alliance offers to the partner organization in Cuba, the Fraternity of Baptist Churches. We rejoice in hearing the news from Carol Blythe in Washington that the current administration and State Department are open to having a dialog about how to improve life in Cuba. We rejoice in the opportunity that all of us have as individuals to speak out on behalf of our loved ones in Cuba.
Power outages are beginning again this year for 2023. These shortages occur alongside lines and more lines….long lines everywhere. Lines as our friends wait to see whether the mercado has any rice and beans today for that is often the only food they have for the struggling mother to buy for her family. Long lines to find out whether there are any internet cards available today. Long lines for the money changers or banks IF one is lucky enough to have family in the states to send money to them…
At the current time, the most pressing need is to have people (that’s you folks!) speak up and raise a voice to the State Department and the White House asking to remove the sanctions that are strangling Cuba. These sanctions are imposed automatically due to the classification of Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism.” This designation was initiated by the previous administration in Washington and is only based on misinformation and grounded in spite. Can you take a few minutes to write an email? Or write a letter? Or make a phone call? If you can do that, please express your support for the people in Cuba. Ask that the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation be removed from Cuba. This simple action will better inform the Biden
administration that we, as a nation, do not support punishing the average person in Cuba for something that happened over 60 years ago.
In the long term, the Biden administration and our representatives in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, need to know that now is the time to end the embargo against these peace-loving people. Can you follow up the actions above with a little more noise? Can we make some “good trouble” as John Lewis was known to call for? Let your Senator and Representative know that the embargo is outdated and is only punishing the people for whom the USA would be advocating IF we were talking about humanitarian assistance and/or protection.
Below is the contact information for both White House and State Department. Email is probably the easiest method for most of us. Written letters may have a greater impact, but that’s not certain. Phone calls are certainly noted and reported so if that’s simplest for you, please do not hesitate. It would be wonderful if you could make these contacts every two weeks, but of course that varies for each of us. The total number of contacts is probably the most impactful statistic when these results are relayed to Biden and Blinken so don’t hesitate to repeat your efforts. Likewise, if you know like-minded people who can/would do such advocacy work, please circulate this info to as many people as possible through your church and other like-minded advocacy groups.
White House website – easy sending emails to president and vice president: https://www.whitehouse.gov/
Go to website, choose MENU, and CONTACT US for a dropdown menu for Biden & Harris.
Alternatively, call : 202-456-1111 OR
Mail to: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Washington, DC 20500
The State Department – easy way to send messages by email: https://www.state.gov/
Go to website, choose ABOUT, under Directories choose CONTACT US and scroll to bottom to create a message
Alternatively, call: 888-407-4747 or 202-647-4000 OR
Mail to U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20520
Locating representative info: https://www.commoncause.org
We thank you in advance for your help in supporting the Alliance’s extended family in Cuba.
Dalon Brown and David Odom and the entire Cuba Partnership Mission Group of Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur Georgia
If you or your church community is interested in getting connected with the Alliance partners in Cuba, contact email@example.com.