Posted by: lisaparavisini | May 27, 2015

A Day Dedicated to Oscar Lopez Rivera



A Day Dedicated to Oscar Lopez Rivera

Join PRFAA this Saturday, May 30th at 11AM, at the corner of 125th and Adam Clayton Powell, to participate in the “One Voice for Oscar” Human Rights March in support of freeing Puerto Rican Political Prisoner, Oscar López Rivera, now in his 34th year of imprisonment.

As Director of the Regional Office of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in New York, I am proud to support this march by such a broad coalition of church, community, labor and civic organizations gathering together at this unprecedented event.  I am particularly pleased to see Nobel Prize winners, governors, senators, celebrities and people from across the political and religious spectrum coming together for Don Oscar Lopez; their solidarity means the world to his family and to those in support of our human rights.

At this march, we will once again raise our voices to request that the President of the United States of America, the Honorable Barack Obama, release Puerto Rico’s native son, Oscar López Rivera.

¡Cuento contigo!  I’ll see you on Saturday!


Brenda Torres Barreto


New York Regional Office

Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA)

Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

A painting by Victorian-era British artist Frederic Leighton is going on view for the first time in New York City.

“Flaming June” depicts a young woman in a gauzy saffron dress, the Associated Press reports.

The work will be at The Frick Collection from June 9 through Sept. 6. It is on loan to the museum from Puerto Rico’s Museo de Arte de Ponce.

It will appear with a small oil sketch loaned by a private collection. Leighton created that while developing the palette for the vibrant gown in “Flaming June.”

The Frick says the two works haven’t appeared together since the late 19th century.

“Flaming June” was rediscovered in 1962 behind a false panel of a London home. It was eventually acquired by the museum in Puerto Rico.


Release Details:

Earlier this year, Google announced that it will be rolling out a pilot program in Puerto Rico later in the summer. In the launch market, users will reportedly be able to customize their phones using the Ara Marketplace and the Ara Configurator apps. Google has also said that it will sell modules in Puerto Rico via a “food truck.”

At I/O, insiders are hoping for updates regarding the pilot market and if Google will test Ara in other cities and regions. If you’d like to speculate where Ara will be tested next, Google said that they chose Puerto Rico because it’s a mobile first country, with 77% of its population using smartphones as the main way to access the internet.

The Apps:

The modular device will require three apps – Ara Configurer, Ara Manager, and Ara Marketplace. The Configurer app, which enables users to build their phones, resembles the Moto Maker platform and will walk users through the entire “construction” process. Manager lets users manage their modules and the Marketplace will list the available modules for sale. Ara won’t work without these three; if there’s an update on the project at I/O, there will be an update on the apps and how they work.

The Modules:

Most importantly, I/O attendees will want to get a look at some of the modules that have been built for the Ara. Though several manufactures have offered sneak peaks at their modules, includingToshiba’s camera options, a full list of modules and who’s making them will certainly appease rabid fans. (A couple modules that been leaked include a game controller, an LED lamp, and an NFC chip).


There’s no confirmed price yet, but Time reported late last year that Google was hoping to meet the $50 minimum for the endoskeleton.

 I/O kicks off on May 27th at 10.30 CT.


The Gershman Y sets sail for the Caribbean with Jewish Treasures of The Caribbean, a new exhibition running June 25-September 11 that features captivating images by award-winning photographer Wyatt Gallery. Admission to the exhibition is free. The Gershman Y’s galleries are open Monday through Saturday, 9 AM-5 PM and Sundays from 9 AM-2 PM. There will be a free Opening Reception with the artist and complimentary Caribbean cocktails on Thursday, June 25 from 6-8 PM. The Gershman Y is located at the corner of Broad and Pine Streets in Philadelphia.

Jewish Treasures of The Caribbean captures the little-known history of the Sephardic Jews of the Caribbean, as seen through remaining historic sites in Barbados, Curaçao, Jamaica, Nevis, St. Croix, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Suriname. These Jewish communities date back to the early 1600s and are home to the oldest synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in the Western hemisphere.
The exhibition’s stunningly beautiful photographs exemplify the strength of the Jewish people as well as the surprisingly diverse cultural history of the Caribbean. Now facing extinction, the Sephardic Jewish communities of the Caribbean were once so strong and influential that they helped fuel the success of the American Revolution and financed the first synagogues in the United States.
Wyatt Gallery’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is in major public, private, and corporate collections, such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, The George Eastman House in Rochester, the Museum of The City of New York, New Orleans Museum of Art, American Express, and Comcast, among others. His work has been featured in Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, Departures, Condé Nast Traveler, Mother Jones, Oprah’s OWN TV, NBC, the Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, NY1 News, and more.
Gallery earned his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of The Arts in 1997, where he was awarded the Rosenberg Grant to travel to the Caribbean, and is a recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Trinidad, the PDN 30 and Rising Star, the Santa Fe Center Editor’s Choice Award, and was featured in 25 Under 25 Up-and-Coming American Photographers by the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies, published by PowerHouse. Gallery was an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania and continues to inspire students through frequent lectures at New York University, the School of Visual Arts, the New School, Wharton, Kutztown University, the International Center for Photography, and numerous high schools.
Wyatt Gallery also uses his photographs to raise awareness and support for communities damaged by natural disasters. He published his first book, Tent Life: Haiti, in 2011 with Umbrage Editions and donated 100% of the royalties to relief efforts through J/P HRO, The Global Syndicate, and Healing Haiti. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, he and the Foley Gallery organized #SANDY, an exhibition of iPhone photographs by professional photographers that raised $21,000 for rebuilding efforts in New York City. Gallery edited and published a book of these photographs with Daylight Books that was then featured in the exhibition, Rising Waters, at the Museum of The City of New York in 2014.
Posted by: lisaparavisini | May 27, 2015

Crocodiles born in Sweden to be released in Cuban swamp


Ten young female crocodiles born in Sweden are to be released in their parents’ former swampy home in Cuba after being returned to the Caribbean island, Fox San Antonio reports.

The Skansen Zoo in Stockholm sent the reptiles to Cuba’s National Zoo in April to help encourage reproduction of the protected species native to the island.

Hiram Fernandez, a veterinarian at the Cuban zoo, says the reptiles will be released soon in Zapata Swamp, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of the capital. Their ranks have been thinned by hunting and diminishing habitat, with few examples of Crocodylus rhombifer still found in Zapata Swamp and Cuba’s Isle of Youth.

Fidel Castro in the 1980s gave the crocodiles’ parents, named Castro and Hilly, to Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov, who initially took them to Moscow.

For the original report go to


I just came across a sampling of Richard Sexton’s photographs at the Caribbean Studies Association Conference in New Orleans and I looked through a copy of his book—Creole World: Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere (2014). The photos capture the breathtaking beauty of spaces and people from New Orleans and through the broader Caribbean, sometimes in counterpoint, sometimes paralleled and repeated to show similarities in various geographic places.

As The Historic New Orleans Collection describes, “over the course of 38 years, Sexton traveled across Latin America—from Haiti, Colombia, Argentina, Cuba, and Ecuador back home to New Orleans—capturing the architectural and urban similarities among these culturally rich locales. [. . .] In the book, essays by Creole-architecture scholar Jay D. Edwards and photography historian John H. Lawrence set the stage for the more than 200 color images by Sexton. Together, the essays and photographs take readers on a fascinating journey across time and place, through the growing Creole world.”

An art exhibition with the same name was on view at The Historic New Orleans Collection museum from April 15 to December 7, 2014. Now, the traveling exhibition will be on view at the Frost Art Museum of Florida International University from June 13, 2015 to August 23, 2015. Here is the Frost Art Museum’s description:

“New Orleans is often hailed for its distinctive Creole heritage—evident in its food, architecture, and people—but it is far from alone. Its Creoleness may be unique to the United States, but New Orleans is part of an entire family of Latin Caribbean cities with similar colonial histories. Founded as New World outposts of Old World empires, these cities forged new identities from their European, West African, and indigenous influences—by turns inspired by, in defiance of, and adapted from all of them.

Photographer Richard Sexton has been intrigued by the Creole world since he first traveled to Central and South America as a young man. For him, the architectural and urban similarities among Creole cities comprised a visual theme informed by endless variations, grand and humble, old and new. The exhibition features fifty-nine photographs of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Haiti, as well as New Orleans, along with objects, photography equipment, and background material that relate to the photographer’s experiences.”

To learn more about Sexton’s travels and the process behind Creole World, visit his Vimeo channel to watch short videos he made along the way or listen to his interview on Susan Larson’s “The Reading Life.”

Also see and

lennox honeychurch

From St Kitts and Nevis’ WINN. Follow the link below to listen to the report.

Despite their emergence from a colonial past, heritage resources can today be successfully used for education, recreation and tourism. That assurance is coming from historian and anthropologist Dr Lennox Honychurch. Dr Honychurch spoke to the issue during a recent lecture at the UWI Open Campus in Basseterre. According to Dr Honychurch, heritage resources help tell the story of the resilience of Caribbean people. Meanwhile, Larry Armony of the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park Society says he is becoming increasingly concerned that regional states are glorifying pirates who roamed the Caribbean in the colonial past. Armony says it bothers him that piracy is seen as an attractive topic. The Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park Society is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | May 26, 2015

4th Garifuna Film Festival, Venice, California


A post by Peter Jordens

The 4th Annual Garifuna Film Festival was held in Venice, California, May 22-25, 2015.

Some of the featured films were:

Aluna (Colombia, 2012) by Alan Ereira.

The Time Is Now: Aniha Dan (Honduras) by Peter Jack Arzu.

Revolutionary Medicine: A Story of the First Garifuna Hospital (Honduras, 2013) by Beth Geglia and Jesse Elliot.

El espíritu de mi mamá (Honduras, 1999) by Ali Allie.

Garifuna in Peril (Honduras, 2013) by Ali Allie and Ruben Reyes; see our previous post “Garifuna in Peril”: Film on How Indigenous Hondurans Unite to Preserve Culture.

The Garifuna Heritage (Belize) by Garifuna National Council.

Three Kings of Belize (2007) by Katia Paradis.

¡Salud! (Cuba, 2006) by Connie Field.

Velo Love (Curaçao) by Robert Corsini.

Voodoo in the Church in Haiti (1989) by Andrea E. Leland and Bob Richards.

Yurumein: Homeland (St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 2013) by Andrea Leland; see our post Yurumein: Garifuna Homeland.

For more information, see the official Festival website

Yo!Venice! recently interviewed Festival founder and director Freda Sideroff. Here are excerpts;

Can you share how the festival came about?

I was guided by the ancestors to create the Film Festival to help make people aware of my culture and the importance of its preservation. After we began, I realized it was important to me to support the awareness and the preservation of all indigenous cultures.

Can you talk about how it has evolved?

This year we are celebrating a five-day event May 22 through May 26. May 26 has been proclaimed Garifuna Film Day since 2012 by the city of Los Angeles and the state of California. It started out as a one-day event that presented every element that continues to hold importance and urgency. It expanded to all indigenous cultures because we live in a culturally diverse community and we have much to learn from each other.

What is the format for the festival?

The Garifuna Festival takes place over five days. There is a schedule of each day that can be accessed through our website During the day and into the evening we will be presenting amazing documentaries from around the world. There will also be morning workshops that focus on the process of filmmaking and will be great for students of film. Each evening there will be special events that include keynote speakers, including Marianne Williamson, and Chief Joseph Paulino, and spectacular cultural music presentations. Cultural art will also be displayed throughout the event. Recognition will be given to members of our community creating ambassadors supporting the preservation of indigenous cultures.

Who have you had as keynote speakers in previous years?

A couple of years ago we were honored with the keynote speech by Roy Cayatano coming all the way from Belize. Dr. Cayatano is the President of the National Garifuna Council and was instrumental in 2001 by helping to persuade the United Nations to proclaim the Garifuna language, music and dance as Oral Intangible Heritage of Humanity. We also had Lina Martinez from Honduras, author Piper Dellums, and writer/producer Victoria Mudd who is an Academy Award winner for her documentary A Broken Rainbow.

For the full, original interview, go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | May 26, 2015

Steve McQueen to Direct Film on Paul Robeson

The news that the British filmmaker Steve McQueen is to direct a biopic about Paul Robeson has been greeted with delight in many quarters – and yet with bafflement in others, Jessica Duchen reports in this article for London’s Independent.
Half a century ago, Robeson was a household name: as singer, actor and activist alike, he bestrode his world. Yet his later life turned tragic and he died in near obscurity; today, it seems that a younger generation has scarcely heard of him.

McQueen, whose film 12 Years A Slave was showered with awards, has apparently wished to tackle the topic for many years, but has said that only now has he the necessary “juice”. Sure enough, Robeson’s life, both public and personal, cries out for adaptation. And even 38 years after his death, he still awaits true recognition as the cultural giant and social idealist that he really was.

To most of us, Robeson is inextricably associated with the song “Ol’ Man River” from Jerome Kern’s Showboat – the first musical to tackle themes as serious as racism and miscegenation in the Deep South. The role of Joe, a barge worker by the Mississippi, was written for him; he starred in the show in London in 1928, taking the city by storm. His deep bass timbre, the eloquent power of his projection and the all-embracing humanity of his booming tone were captured in the 1936 film adaptation and make an unforgettable impression.

His prowess as an actor went equally far; not least, he played Othello with the young Peggy Ashcroft as Desdemona in 1930. When he took the role to Broadway some years later, it ran for nearly 300 performances, the longest-running Shakespeare in Broadway history.

McQueen has remarked, though, that his idea was sparked by a newspaper article he was shown aged 14; it described Robeson in Wales, campaigning for better pay and conditions for the miners. The bond between black American activist and Welsh coal pit workers was not as unlikely as it sounds: there, Robeson once said, he “first understood the struggles of white and negro together – when I went down into the coal mine in the Rhondda Valley, lived amongst them”. He joined their hunger marches in 1927 and 1928 and starred in a 1940 film, Proud Valley, about a black miner moving to the region.

1925: American singer, actor, athlete and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898 – 1976). (Photo by Sasha/Getty Images)
Indeed, perhaps Robeson’s greatest legacy is as civil rights activist – one victimised by his own country for his socialist leanings, McCarthyism shattering his career in the 1950s. In a white man’s world during the Cold War, Robeson was considered a double danger: both black and red. Even now, one can’t help noting that it has taken a British filmmaker, not an American, to plan his screen biography.

Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey , in 1898. His father started life as a plantation slave in North Carolina, but escaped in 1860 and eventually become a pastor. Robeson recalls, in his book Here I Stand (1958), his father’s determination and loyalty to his convictions: “From my youngest days I was imbued with that concept,” he writes. His family’s longer history of activism is noteworthy, too; his maternal great-great-grandfather, Cyrus Bustill, became in 1787 a founder of the Free African Society, the first mutual aid organisation of African Americans.

Robeson was only the third black student to be accepted by Rutgers College, winning a scholarship in 1915. He was a fine athlete and joined the football team; but there his teammates tried to kill him, dislocating his shoulder, tearing away his fingernails and breaking his nose. He recalled his father’s stance that “I had to show that I could take whatever they handed out… This was part of our struggle.” The parallel between that incident and what the US’s McCarthy era later did to him is all too evident.

After taking a law degree at Columbia, Robeson began to work for a firm of lawyers, but resigned after facing racism within the company. Turning to the stage, spurred on by his wife, Eslanda (Essie), he shot to fame when Eugene O’Neill asked him to star in All God’s Chillun Got Wings and The Emperor Jones in 1924.Showboat in London followed four years later. Meanwhile, in 1925, he began his singing career in New York by becoming the first artist to give a recital consisting entirely of Negro spirituals.

The Robesons settled in London in 1927, living the high life of Hampstead thespians; in private, though, turbulence ensued. Their son, Paul Robeson Jnr, eventually wrote a memoir about his father that revealed a series of extramarital affairs – including one with Peggy Ashcroft around the time the pair performed Othello. Paul and Essie separated after she discovered the affair, though they were subsequently reconciled.

Show Boat, Paul Robeson, 1936 (Courtesy Everett Collection/REX)
Essie was a powerhouse in her own right. At first, she served as Paul’s manager; later, she became an author, anthropologist and activist, campaigning against colonialism in Africa and racism in the US. She made a lengthy journey to Uganda and South Africa in 1936; and later, with Paul, to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War in 1938.

Robeson’s own travels took him to the USSR several times during the 1930s; in Moscow, he said: “Here I am not a Negro but a human being for the first time in my life… I walk in full human dignity.” He espoused many of communism’s apparent ideals, noting that “the power of the Soviet Union… would become an important factor in aiding the colonial liberation movement”.

The Robesons returned to the US on the outbreak of the Second World War; and during this era Robeson’s American recognition reached its apogee. Critics lauded him as an “artistic and social genius” (Theodore Dreiser) and “gifted by the gods as musician and actor” (Walter Damrosch). But now his activism, too, intensified. He met President Harry S. Truman to demand anti-lynching legislation, supported the rise of trade unions and campaigned in 1948 for the election of the Progressive Party’s candidate Henry A. Wallace as president.

It was perhaps inevitable that with the onset of the Cold War both Robesons were forced to testify before the McCarthy committee. Defiant, they refused to sign an affidavit declaring that they were not communists – though it seems that neither ever joined the party.

Paul was blacklisted and all doors for work closed against him; furthermore, his passport was revoked, leaving him unable to travel and his income reduced to a trickle. His voice was known and loved all over the world; he had done nothing illegal; he was never arrested, or put on trial; yet the powers that be were determined to destroy him nonetheless for his political beliefs. “I care nothing – less than nothing – about what the lords of the land, the Big White Folks, think of me and my ideas,” Robeson later wrote, in Here I Stand. “For more than 10 years they have persecuted me in every way they could – by slander and mob violence, by denying me the right to practice my profession as an artist, by withholding my right to travel abroad. To these, the real Un-Americans, I merely say: ‘All right – I don’t like you either!’”

But even the great Robeson was not strong enough to withstand the psychological effects of blacklisting. After his passport was restored in 1958, he attempted comeback tours, but severe depressions gripped him; in 1961, he tried to take his own life after a party and was subsequently treated with ECT in London. Much later, his son considered whether the “attempted suicide” might perhaps have been a drug-induced incident in which the CIA could be implicated.
A lingering thought: if only. Most of Robeson’s recorded legacy consists of the Negro spirituals with which he grew up and which he helped to bring to an international audience; plus Showboat, of course, and songs from Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, which demands an all-black cast – Robeson briefly played the role of Bess’s boyfriend, Crown, in 1927.

But think of the operatic roles and art songs that he might have tackled, had he lived in a different era – or had his own been more open-minded. A recording exists of him singing a deep bass aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute – Sarastro’s “O Isis und Osiris”. It is in English, transposed down a tone, and was recorded in 1961 when he was past his peak, but it remains breathtaking nonetheless. A world of Beethoven, Mahler, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich and more could have been his, and ours.

The losses from the suppression that he suffered in the Fifties go further still; a decade of potential artistry was obliterated. In his introduction to the 1988 edition of Here I Stand, the historian Sterling Stuckey declares: “In modern history, no one of comparable artistic ability has been denied freedom for so long. That denial is today a major form of persecution to be considered in discussing violations of human rights in the United States.”

Robeson died in Philadelphia aged 77, reclusive, but not forgotten. Unable to attend Carnegie Hall’s tribute concert on his 75th birthday, he sent a recorded message, declaring: “I want you to know that I am the same Paul, dedicated as ever to the worldwide cause of humanity for freedom, peace and brotherhood.”

Nineteen years after his death, Paul Robeson was finally inducted into the Rutgers College Football Hall of Fame. If Steve McQueen can bring Robeson’s legacy to a new generation, he can bring, too, the inspiration that such a figure can carry. And, equally valuably, he can make us question those forces that set out to devalue and destroy him.

Robeson’s story shows us that one can never be too aware. He must never be forgotten.


The thaw in relations between the US and Cuba has led to a stunning 36% increase in visits by Americans to the island, including thousands who are flying into Cuba from third countries like Mexico in order to sidestep US restrictions on tourism.

The dramatic rise was seen in the number of Americans with no family ties to Cuba who visited between 1 January and 9 May of this year compared to the same period in 2014, according to statistics provided to the Associated Press by a University of Havana professor.

In addition to the boom in American visitors, Cuba has seen a 14% jump in arrivals from around the world between January and early May compared to the same period last year.

From 1 January to 9 May, 51,458 Americans visited Cuba, compared to 37,459 over that period last year, according to new statistics provided exclusively to the Associated Press by Jose Luis Perello Cabrera, an economist in the University of Havana’s tourism studies department with access to official figures. The figures also included revealing details on the thousands of Americans who are entering Cuba through third countries, many to sidestep US restrictions on tourism.

There were 38,476 visitors who flew directly from the US to Cuba, compared to 29,213 in the same period last year.

Another 12,982 Americans came in via third countries, a whopping 57% increase over the 8,246 Americans who flew to Cuba from elsewhere in the same period last year.

Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands are the top choices for Americans entering Cuba from non-US points, Perello said.

[. . .] Cuba also has seen a 14% rise in overall tourism. Arrivals from 206 counties from 1 January to 9 May rose from 1,349,903 last year to 1,547,104 this year. Visitors from Germany were up 22%; France, 25%; the United Kingdom, 26% and Spain 16%.

[. . .] Attorney Robert Muse, an expert on the legal aspects of Cuba travel, says “there’s been almost no active enforcement” of the tourism ban under the Obama administration. He added that the increase in US visitors to Cuba is “what the Obama administration wants … They favor engagement. That’s why they take this liberalized approach to travel”. [. . .] As for those rushing to see Cuba “before it changes”, Muse said, they think that in the future “there are going to be Burger Kings on every corner. That’s not going to happen, but people still want to see the end of revolutionary Cuba”.

For full article, see

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