by Nisa Islam Muhammad
HAVANA, Cuba (FinalCall.com)óThe Institute for Advanced
Journalism Studies at Delaware State University, under the direction of
USA Today syndicated columnist DeWayne Wickham, organized a
delegation of Black journalists for a journey to Cuba May 20-26. This
prestigious group will report on life behind the U.S. blockade and
document the African influence on this tiny island nation.
The week included a symposium with Cuban journalists, press
conferences with Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban parliament, and
Ruben Remigio, president of the
Cuban Supreme Court, tours of Granma
newspaper, the Cuban radio and TV institute and a private session with Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando.
"This has been for me and all the delegation a wonderful and
enlightening experience. We learned a lot about Cuba and you learned a
lot about us," explained Mr. Wickham to the Cuban journalists. "We come
in support of freedom for people all over the world to decide how they
will live. Our quest is for the truth."
Much has been written recently about Cuba with former President Jimmy
Carterís trip making headlines nationwide. Americans know Cuba through
the lens of major media and most times White journalists.
This group of seasoned and experienced journalistsóincluding the
likes of columnists Clarence Page of the Chicago Sun-Times,
George Curry, editor of the National Newspaper Publishers Association,
Betty Baye of the Louisville Courier Journal and James Ragland of
the Dallas Morning Newsóhas the awesome responsibility of
reporting through the lens of Black America.
"When we come to you, we donít just come ourselves," explained Ms.
Baye. "We bring our family and friends with us. We talk for Black people
who will never see the island. We are branches on the same tree."
The Cuban journalists received the group with open arms and well
wishes. The group discussed differences in reporting. The Cuban
journalists represent and support the government of Fidel Castro.
"We have created in Cuba a mass media agency that the society has
power over," explained Jose Diego Nusa of the journal National Agency
and Information. "This is the first difference between us. After the
revolution we created a system that eliminated private property over the
media. Cuban journalists are committed to telling the truth."
The press in Cuba is government-owned and operated. Many have
criticized the Cuban government for not allowing freedom of the press
but the Cuban journalists see themselves in a different light.
"We support our government. We can also criticize our government to
make it better. We criticize from a revolutionary position," said Alicia
Centell. "Every American president would love to have the media as an
While the American journalists spoke of the freedom of the press,
Jorge Martinez, president of the Journalists Union, said, "Mass media
freedom is not real. Itís a lie. Itís a freedom that the owner and
publisher has to print according to their interests.
"We belong to different societies. In Cuba we have a revolution. In
the U.S., you donít. We canít measure one another. Our mass media canít
be the same. We canít compare. Itís not equal. Weíre at war with an
embargo against Cuba," he said.
For more than 40 years, the U.S. has enforced an embargo against Cuba
that prohibited the sale of food, medicine, travel, trade and more. When
Cubans need rice, they have to buy it from China at a far greater
expense than they would if they could buy it from the U.S. only 90 miles
"Weíve resisted the embargo," explained Parliament President Alarcon.
"More Americans are realizing itís a failed policy. Itís been more than
40 years and it hasnít achieved its stated goals."
"You can continue with the policy but Cuba will continue advancing.
Youíre facing a more severe threat for the defeat of the policy. Youíre
moving in the direction when no one will care about the embargo."
After President Carterís visit, he called for lifting the embargo.
But President Bush has said the embargo will remain until the country
has democratic elections.
While President Carter was in Cuba, the U.S. media fanned a story
that the tiny nation was trying to develop bio-terrorism. Subsequent
reports and even Mr. Carter showed that the information coming from the
White House was far less than the truth.
Later in the week, the journalists explored the African influence in
art, music, religion and tourism. Their first report will be given at
the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists
in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in July.
The delegation also included actor Tim Reid and a video crew
responsible for documenting the trip, former CBS producer
Adrienne Jordan, Florida Times Union columnist Tonya Weathersbee,
David Persons, editorial writer and columnist for the Huntsville
Times, Ndeye Walton, producer of BETís Lead Story, Blair
Walker, contributing editor for Savoy magazine, Carucha Muse, a
news photographer for the Huntsville Times and Jeff Aaron,
business writer for the Elmira Star Gazette.
1-Cuban children take time to pose for a picture
2-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando
3-Delegation of Black journalists visit Cuba
Photos: Nisa Islam Muhammad