DETROIT (AP) — The Fidel Castro that Sam Riddle and many other African-Americans admired was not the revolutionary dictator who plunged Cuba into economic ruin and held the island nation in an iron grip.
To them, he was a freedom fighter who cared about improving the lives of all Cubans, regardless of race.
Castro, who died Friday at age 90, sought out black leaders. He met with Malcolm X in 1960 in Harlem, New York’s most celebrated black neighborhood. He also had a close relationship with South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.
“It was Fidel who fought for the human rights for black Cubans,” said Riddle, political director of the Michigan Chapter of the National Action Network. “Many Cubans are as black as any black who worked the fields of Mississippi or lived in Harlem. He believed in medical care and education for his people.”
The dictator’s efforts to achieve racial equality mean he “will never be a monster” to his many admirers, Riddle added. “To me, he’s the essence of humanity.”
Castro led a rebel army to victory in 1959 over the country’s pro-U.S. Batista government. Many Cuban elites fled 90 miles north to Miami, where they spent decades in exile. After his death, many Cuban Americans in the United States celebrated.
Some of those who fled to Miami “had looted Cuba … and exploited the poor and the working class,” said Riddle, 70, who also teaches media at a Detroit community college. “Now those are the same individuals who have twisted the story to demonize Fidel Castro in death.”
Under President Barack Obama, diplomatic relations with Cuba are being reopened. President-elect Donald Trump has criticized the Obama administration’s stance on Cuba and threatened Monday to “terminate” the U.S. detente with the Cuban government.
After the revolution, Castro declared an end to segregation. However, the number …read more