More than 50 people filled the Alexandria Black History Resource Center for the Our Cuban Cousins Mini-Symposium Thursday, December 4. They entered the former Colored library to the African-based rhythms of Cuban singer Celia Cruz.
Audrey Davis, Assistant Director/Curator of the Center, opened the session with there newest exhibition, Sequined Surfaces: Haitian Voodoon Art (through Wednesday, January 7) in the background. "It's a great coincidence that we are running an exhibit [about an African-based Caribbean experience] while having this symposium," she remarked.
Wayne Smith, started the panelists' discussions with a talk about Cuba's African base and the embargo. He reminded the audience that the majority of Cubans are of African descent and that they believe that they are better off since The Revolution. He also acknowledged that the majority of Cuba's power brokers are still non-Black. On the embargo, he said, "The Cold War is over, the [travel] embargo makes no sense."
After Smith set a tone for the evening, our contributing photographer Nester Hernandez shared his photographic journey. "People call Cuba a photographer's paradise because people are so open to being photographed," he said. Hernandez, who just returned from Mali for African Photography Encounters - a festival of seminars, exhibits, and workshops, continued, "[Continental] Africans are completely different."
Louis Martinez continued the evening with an explanation of the Yoruba- based religion Santeria. "[In the religion,] there is much deference to those who came before you," he said. He also explained how believers intertwine the religion with others including Catholicism.
Dr. Cynthia Jacobs-Carter concluded the panel presentation with a talk of her new book, Africana Woman: Her Story Through Time. As she showed pictures of Black women from antiquity to current times that are in her book, the audience laughed at her display of Condoleezza Rice.
Jacobs-Carter said she gets that all time. Stating that she did not do to Rice what others have done to Black women - - leave them out, Jacobs-Carter reminded the audience, "She's a member of the family."
Door Prize Wiinners
Kiki Taylor, a new Port Of Harlem reader, won a signed copy of Africana Woman from the publisher, The National Geographic Society. The Gary, Indiana native now living in Alexandria, said "I'm really excited about the connections she makes between African-Americans, Caribbeans, and Africans."
Cathy Royal, was one of ten who won a Christmas ornament snow baby from Angie's Doll Boutique of Old Town Alexandria or a Pomegranate Cuba 2004 calendar. She said, "I got my first copy of Port Of Harlem at Hue Man Bookstore in Harlem." She has since become an online subscriber. "Oh, I like it [the magazine]. This one got my interest because I am headed for Cuba."