Acting on Our Conscience, Nov 2009

I am one of the selected signatories on this historical November 30, 2009 statement, urging Cuban authorities to free the imprisoned dissident, Afro-Cuban civil rights activist, Dr. Darsi Ferrer. Other signatories on the statement include Cornel West, Melvin Van Peebles, Ruby Dee Davis, Susan Taylor, Kathleen Cleaver, Ron Walters, James E. Turner, Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A Wright, and the author of the statement, David Covin, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Sacramento, Past President of National Conference of Black Political Scientists, among others.

Dr. Darsi Ferrer was freed from prison on June 22, 2010, less than seven months after our statement was released. Amnesty International had declared Dr. Darsi Ferrer to be “a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for his activism to promote freedom of expression.”

Click here to download a pdf of Acting on Our Conscience.


We, the undersigned, join the growing international outcry against the unjust imprisonment by Cuban authorities of Dr. DARSI FERRER, an internationally known Afro Cuban civil rights leader and courageous man who for 17 days has endured a hunger strike and placed his life at risk to draw attention to the conditions of racism and racial discrimination in Cuba that has hitherto been ignored.

We support the position of the Honorable Professor ABDIAS NASCIMENTO, historical leader of the Black Movement of Brazil, and others from around the world, who are demanding Dr. Ferrer’s immediate release from imprisonment. Moreover, we also support the demand that Cuba recognizes Dr. Ferrer as a political prisoner, rather than a “common criminal”, as is now the case. (See Professor Nascimento’s Open Letter – attached)

Dr. NASCIMENTO’s joint letter to the Heads of State of Cuba and Brazil, respectively General RAÚL CASTRO RUZ and President LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA, is unequivocal. He requests of Cuba’s President that he intervene to stop the unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights. Similarly, he requests that Brazil’s President immediately prevail on the Cuban government to safeguard the rights of Cuba’s most oppressed citizens who, in this case, happen to be more than 62% of the total population. 

Professor NASCIMENTO has been a long standing supporter of the Cuban Revolution and government, but he, like we, cannot be silent in the face of increased violations of civil and human rights for those black activists in Cuba who dare raise their voices against the island’s racial system. As of late, these isolated, courageous civil rights advocates have been subject to unprovoked violence, State intimidation and imprisonment. 

As African Americans, we know firsthand the experiences and consequences of denying civil freedoms on the basis of race, and we certainly understand what racial discrimination is and does to people. We have not tolerated it for ourselves, and will certainly not acquiesce in its perpetration against any other people. For that reason, we are even more obligated to voice our opinion on what is happening to our Cuban brethren a few miles away. 

We support Cuba’s right to enjoy national sovereignty, and unhesitatingly repudiate any attempt at curtailing such a right. However, at this historic juncture, we also do believe that we cannot sit idly by and allow for decent, peaceful and dedicated civil rights activists in Cuba, and the black population as a whole, to be treated with callous disregard for their rights as citizens and as the most marginalized people on the island. 

Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted! 

We call on the authorities and Government of Cuba to immediately and unconditionally free our brother, Dr. Darsi Ferrer.


Richard Adams, Jr.
Co-Convenor Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly (WPBPA)

J.B. Afoh-Manin, Esq.

Roslyn Alic-Batson

Marva Allen
Manager, HUE-MAN Bookstore & Cafe (New York)

Dr. Molefi Kete Asante [said to have admitted at a conference in New Orleans that he had been tricked into signing]
Historian, Author

Peter Bailey
Bethune-Davis Institute

Dr. Gloria Batiste-Roberts
President, National Association of Black Social Workers

Lili Bernard
Fine Artist

Marie Brown
Literary Agent

Khepra Burns

Dr. Iva E. Carruthers
Professor Emeritus, Northeastern Illinois University

Dr. Kathleen Neal Cleaver, Esq.
Professor, Emory University

Clarence Cooper
Manager, Sylvia’s Restaurant (NY)

Dr. David Covin    [Author of Press Release accompanying this petition package. Scroll down to view.]
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Sacramento
Past President, National Conference of Black Political Scientists

Evelyn Crawford
Audiovisual artist

Dr. Earl Davis
Former Director, Institute of African Studies, New York University

Ruby Dee Davis
Actress. 2007 Academy Award Nominee

Bill Day
Artist Photographer

Rev. Dr. Yvonne V. Delk (Ret)
United Church of Christ

Leonard G. Dunston
President Emeritus, National Association of Black Social Workers

Honorable Commissioner Betty T. Ferguson (Ret)
Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner

The Honorable Ambassador Ulric Haynes (Ret)
Former Executive Dean, Hofstra University
(New York), member of the US Council on Foreign Relations

Nzinga Heru
President, Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations

Marlon Hill, Esq.
Past President of the Caribbean Bar Association

Eugene Jackson,
Chairman and CEO of the World African Network

Dr. Winston James
Professor, University of California at Irvine

Guy Johnson

Leroi C. Johnson, Esq.

Dr. Ollie Johnson
Professor, Wayne State University

Dr. Joyce E. King
President Academy for Diaspora Literacy, Inc.

Dr. Arthur Lewin
Professor, Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York

Dr. Shelby Lewis (Ret)
Former Project Manager, Special Programs, United Negro College Fund

Dr. Ruth Love

Dr. Acklyn Lynch
Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Dr. Julianne Malveaux
President, Bennett College for Women

Honorable Congresswoman Carrie Meek (Ret)
House of Representatives of the Unites States of America

Dr. Claudia Mitchell-Kernan
Dean and Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies, University of California at Los Angeles

Dr. Michael Mitchell
Professor of Political Science, Arizona State University
Editor of the National Political Science Review

Dr. K. C. Morrisson
Professor, Mississippi State University
Past President, National Conference of Black Political Scientists

Melvin Van Peebles
Film director, playwright, and author

Lori Robinson
Editor, Vida

Dr. Mark Sawyer
Professor University of California at Los Angeles

Bernestine Singley, Esq.

Dr. Ann Smith
President, The Gamaliel Foundation

Dr. Donald H. Smith.
Past President, the National Alliance of Black School Educators

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.
Pastor Emeritus, Allen Temple Baptist Church

Edward S. Spriggs
Former Executive Director of Hammonds House Galleries and Resource Center

Susan Taylor
President, National CARES Mentoring Movement,
Editor Emerita of ESSENCE magazine

Dr. James E. Turner
Professor, Africana Studies and Research Center,
Cornell University

Makani Themba-Nixon
The Praxis Project

Patricia Valdés
Marketing Specialist

Dr Marta Moreno Vega
President, The Caribbean Cultural Center
African Diaspora Institute

Dr. Ron Walters   [wrote in continued support of this petition:
Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics
University of Maryland College Park

Dr. Cornel West
Professor, Princeton University

Randy Weston

Al Whack
Executive, National Cable Communications (NCC)

Rita Coburn Whack
Broadcasting Producer

Antonia Williams-Gary
Miami Consultant

Dr. Conrad Worrill
President, National Black United Front

Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus, Trinity United Church of Christ



NEWS RELEASE  — EMBARGO until Monday, November 30, 2009 at NOON.
CONTACT: Dr. David Covin
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Sacramento
Past President, National Conference of Black Political Scientists
covindl@csus.edu8 (916) 288 3060


In a landmark “Statement of Conscience by African Americans,” 60 prominent black American scholars, artists and professionals have condemned the Cuban regime’s stepped-up harassment and apparent crackdown on the country’s budding civil rights movement. This statement is the first public condemnation of racial conditions in Cuba made by black Americans.

Traditionally, African Americans have sided with the Castro regime and condemned the United States’ policies, which explicitly work to topple the Cuban government. Yet this landmark statement by prominent African Americans condemns the growing persecution waged by the Cuban government against Afro-Cuban movements.

It warns: “Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted.” 

It also denounces the “callous disregard” for the “most marginalized people on the island.”

The statement is signed by scholar and Princeton University professor Cornel West; famed actress Ruby Dee; former Essence magazine editor and current president of the National CARES Mentoring Movement Susan Taylor; Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux; UCLA Vice Chancellor Claudia Mitchell-Kernan; Chicago´s Trinity United Church of Christ’s pastor emeritus, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright; former Black Panther activist Kathleen Cleaver; retired Congresswoman Carrie Meek; professor emeritus University of Maryland College Park and Rev. Jesse Jackson presidential campaign manager Ron Walters; and film director Melvin Van Peebles. 

The statement also calls for the “immediate release” of Dr. Darsi Ferrer, one of black Cuba´s most prominent imprisoned civil rights leaders who has been on a hunger strike to bring attention to the crisis. A physician, Ferrer has angered Cuban authorities by setting up independent “people’s clinics” housed in private homes and garages to attend to the growing numbers of impoverished blacks who no longer receive medical attention from the state. Ferrer was jailed on criminal charges four months ago and consigned to a maximum security prison for common criminals in the outskirts of Cuba´s capital Havana. 

The U.S. State Department estimates Afro-Cubans make up 62 percent of the Cuban population, with many informed observers saying the figure is closer to 70 percent. 

Afro-Cubans are experiencing strong and growing instances of racism on the island, with their 25-odd civil rights movements reporting a wide-range of discriminatory practices in hiring, promotion and access to Cuba´s socialized medicine and educational system. 

Young black Cubans bitterly complain of aggressive racial profiling conducted by police, and Cuba´s jail population is estimated to be 85 percent black, according to black Cuban civil rights activists. Some 70 percent of Afro-Cubans are said to be unemployed. 

In such conditions, a vigorous rebirth of Cuba´s black movement, banned in the early years of the Cuban Revolution, is occurring. Cuban authorities are responding with violence and brutal civil rights violations.