REFLECTIONS ON FORMER CUBAN REVOLUTIONARY
LEADER FIDEL CASTRO
By Uriah J. Fields
On November 25, 2016, Cuba's President Raul Castro, announced that the former Cuban leader, his brother, Fidel Castro had died at the age of 90.
Allow me to make some personal observations regarding Castro. In April of 1959 Castro accepted an invitation from the American Society of Newspaper Editors to visit the United States. On January 1, 1959, Castro's revolutionary forces had overthrown Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista who the United States Government claimed to be an excellent leader for the Cuban people. Batista fled to the Dominion Republic and later to Portugal where he died in 1973.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower refused to meet with Castro. Instead, Vice-President Richard Nixon met briefly with him. Nixon, A Congressman from California was a member of the House on Un-American Activities Committee, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. That committee had been authorized by Congress to investigate employees, employers, organizations and anyone suspected of having Communist ties.
Castro and his delegation had planned to be housed at the plush Shelburne Hotel in New York. Once there the Hotel management asked for an "unacceptable" cash advance of $10,000 to cover damage his Cuban delegation might cause. Castro and his delegation cruised to Harlem and checked into the Hotel Theresa. Black politicians and other black leaders frequently stayed at this hotel. Castro was 34 yeas of age. At this time, I was a veteran of the Korean War and the pastor of Bell Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. This church was one of four churches bombed on a single night by rabid segregationists, and rebuilt during my pastoral leadership. I was in the last year of my three-year matriculation at the Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta. Four days after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give her bus seat to a white person eighteen Montgomery leaders, most of them ministers, met at the Mt Zion AME Zion Church and organized the Montgomery improvement Association to give structure to and direct the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King, Jr., was elected president and I (Uriah J. Fields) was elected to serve as recording secretary of the new organization. (To read more about, "The First Day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott" by Uriah J. Fields, visit: http://uriahfields.com/gpage26.html (Or in the green column to the right click on "The First Day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.)
My attempt to integrate the Alabama National Guard was reported in "Jet Magazine"::
Cleric Demanding Mixing of Ala. National Guard" - Jet Magazine Oct. 1961.
A Montgomery Ala. integration leader, the Rev. Uriah J.Fields, demanding that the U.S. Secretary of Defense integrate 'the white' Alabama National Guard. In a telegram to Robert S. McNamara,the Rev. Mr. Fields, president of the Montgomery Amelioration Association stated that he had made two unsuccessful attempts to join the state National Guard and 'each time I was informed that Negroes were not wanted." He said the Alabama National Guard is the fifth largest in the nation and was supported by $13 million in Federal funds during the fiscal year 1961. He added, 'white Alabamians are permitted to join the Guard, evade the draft and secure rank, while Negroes are drafted and compelled to active duty without rank.'
I admired Paul Robeson, a renown singer and human rights leader par excellence, not just for America but for the world. He was suspected by the United States Government of being a Communist. He was summoned to appear before the House on Un-American Activities Committee. In 1949 he gave a speech in Paris to the Soviet-Union sponsored Paris Peace Conference. Before he gave his speech news was broadcasted in America that Robeson had said, "Black Americans would not fight in a war against the Soviet Union." Many Americans were furious. But that was not what Robeson said in his speech. He said "There were people in Europe and black Americans who have created wealth for others but not for themselves. Black Americans would not make war on anyone We shall not make war on the Soviet Union." But the damage had been done before his speech in the minds of many Americans, including some black leaders, among them was Jackie Robinson. President Harry S Truman revoked Robeson's passport, 85 planned concerts were canceled. In l949 at a book concert in Peekskill, New York a faction of the American Legion and Veterans of foreign Wars caused a riot and hundreds were injured.
At the Airport in New York, airplanes for Castro and his delegation had been seized over non-payment. The Soviet Union's airline on orders of President Khruschev provided first class transportation for Castro and his delegation. Castro did make several more trips to New York - including two stopovers in Harlem in1955 and 2000.
I have cited the aforementioned because they were things that prompted me to send a letter addressed to the management of Hotel Theresa and Fidel Castro while he was still at the hotel. I commended the management of Hotel Theresa for having welcoming and treated with respect Castro - not behaving in the mean-spirit of the management of the plush Shelbune Hotel.
I am not sure if the management of Hotel Theresa received my letter. Years later, after I read "Masters of Deceit" by J. Edgar Hoover, Director of of the FBI, I believe the FBI or CIA confiscated my letter just as I learned that they wiretapped Martin Luther King, Jr., and other black American leaders. I wanted the management of Hotel Theresa and Castro to know that I, like many Americans, appreciated and respected them.
The United States partial trade embargo on Cuba in January 1961 continues until this day. However, President Obama has lifted some of the restrictions and prohibitions, including the ban on travel to and from Cuba. As of 2016, the population of Cuba is 11,400.7390. There are 1.5 million Cubans living in the United States, including two U.S. Senators, (as many Senators as African Americans with a population of 40 million have) since Castro came to power. This is perhaps, the worst thing that happened to Cuba. These Cubans should have remained in Cuba to help make Cuba greater. This reminds me of how outstanding African American athletes are drained away from black colleges and universities to make money for predominantly white universities. Any Cuban whose boat reaches land in Florida where most Cubans reside can remain with all the benefits the Government provides for those in need. But when any person on a boat from Haiti reaches Florida he is sent back to Haiti.
May Fidel Castro rest in peace in oneness with his Creator. His legacy will continue to inspire the people of Cuba and people around the world as expressed after his death by many world leaders, including:
President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa who expressed condolences to Cuba. He said "On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, I convey a message of condolences to the Government and the people of Cuba." I am sure, if he was alive, Nelson Mandela, the first revolutionary president of South Africa, would agree with his fellow-countryman.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia called Cuban President Raul Castro to offer his condolences. He described Fidel Castro as a "remarkable political figure, a patriot and praised him for his contribution to friendship between Cuba and Russia."
Pope Francis expressed his condolences to President Raul Castro and the people of Cuba in a Spanish-language message saying "I express my sentiment of grief."
President Barack Obama said of President Fidel Castro's death, "We offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. History will judge his impact, and I offer a 'hand of friendship' to the Cuban people."
Uriah J. Fields, this writer, expressed condolences to the people of Cuba and said, "Fidel Castro inspired people around the world, including the people of a number of African countries to never surrender to those who would deny them self-determination for their people."
Copyright 2016 by Uriah J. Fields