Stop maneuver against Cuba

From March 14-April 22, the 61st session of the UN Commission on Human Rights will take place in Geneva, where once more the U.S. government will try to pass a resolution against Cuba.

It is a manipulated and selective treatment of the topic to justify the intensification of the policy of blockade and aggressions by the greatest power on the planet against a small country, in violation of International Law. The commission must represent every UN member-state and ensure respect for the rights of all men and women worldwide.

It is significant, however, that within the commission, during last year’s sessions, it was not possible to evaluate, or even debate, the atrocious violations of human rights taking place in U.S. prisons in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The U.S. government has no moral authority to set itself up as a judge of human rights in Cuba, where there is not a single case of missing persons, torture or extra-judicial killing and where internationally recognized health, education and cultural levels have been reached despite the blockade.

We, the undersigned, request the countries represented in the commission not allow it to be used to legitimize the Bush administration’s anti-Cuban aggressiveness, when the current war-mongering policy led by Washington makes predictable an eventual escalation of very serious consequences.

We also call on journalists, writers, artists, professors, school teachers and social activists to address their governments and express by every possible means that this dangerous maneuver stop.

Rigoberta Menchú, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Alice Walker, Russell Banks, et al., From countries around the world

They tried it before

Alan Greenspan, longtime chair of the Federal Reserve Board, the most powerful appointed position in the country, has suggested to Congress that the government fight deficits with a national “consumption” tax, meaning a sales tax by another name.

As a historian, I remember that leaders of Congress suggested a “national sales tax” to balance the budget at the height of the Great Depression. Public outcry and a revolt by progressives in Congress stopped them from implementing that crazy idea. Then, the deficit was in the vicinity of $20 billion. Today it is well over $6 trillion, thanks to military spending and tax cuts for the wealthy (it was $1 trillion when Ronald Reagan became president, $4 trillion when Bush I left office, actually dropped under Clinton and has entered the stratosphere under Bush II).

In 1932, the only way to solve the depression crisis was to get rid of Herbert Hoover and elect a progressive government, not to hurt people with a regressive sales tax. Today the only way to deal with the deficit crisis is to resist and eventually defeat Bush and replace him and his henchmen with a progressive Congress and president, not to hurt people with a regressive “consumption tax.”

Norman Markowitz, New Brunswick NJ

What was DAR policy?

I read your article about Marian Anderson [by Carolyn Rummel, 3/12-19]. You included the story about her performance at the Lincoln Memorial. Mark Twain once said that “falsehood goes twice around the world before truth gets its shoes on.”

Years ago someone connected with the DAR wrote to Ann Landers/Abby Van Buren about the story. According to this person the DAR did not have a “whites only policy” in 1939 and had booked many Blacks on other occasions. That is why Marian Anderson had asked to book Constitution Hall. It wasn’t available because someone else had booked it for that date earlier.

Which story is true? I don’t know, though someone could go to the newspapers and see what performances were presented at Constitution Hall in 1937-1939, and check the “had booked other Blacks on other occasions” statement.

David Olson, Via e-mail

Carolyn Rummel responds: According to a Feb. 26, 1997, PBS program on Marian Anderson, in 1939 “Anderson’s agent tried to book her into Washington’s Constitution Hall, owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Anderson was told that no dates were available, but DAR policy also stipulated that all contracts contain a clause saying, ‘concert by white artists only.’”

In the May 18, 1993, edition of The New York Times, writer William H. Honan reported that sources familiar with the incident attributed Constitution Hall’s “white artists only” policy to then-manager Fred E. Hand. Hand instituted the policy after a racially motivated incident occurred during a Roland Hayes recital at the hall in 1931. The policy remained in place, with the tacit approval of DAR’s executive committee, until Hand’s retirement.

A bold step

The national movement for reparations recognition and compensation for descendents of the victims of the slave trade and its racist aftermath has come full circle. On March 4 Philadelphia City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown boldly stepped forward and introduced legislation that would strongly urge Philadelphia businesses that existed during the period of slavery to publicly disclose whether they profited from Black misery, as many Northern corporations still existing most certainly did.

Blondell’s law, if passed, says corporations wanting city contracts must come clean about their investments in Black enslavement. The legislation is modeled on successful legislation in Chicago, municipalities in California and other jurisdictions. Disclosure could be a possible first step towards an apology and eventual settlement or lawsuit to deny the corporate entity its ill-gotten gains.

In another progressive move in the battle for reparations, on March 10, attorneys, led by Charles J. Olgetree of Harvard, filed a historic petition with the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs are petitioning the high court to allow plaintiffs to proceed in the lower Oklahoma court in their case for reparations and recognition of a crime against humanity committed by the city of Tulsa in 1921. Today we may call what happened in Tulsa an act of state-sponsored domestic terrorism or we might call it “ethnic cleansing.” However we describe it, Black people and their property were just violently wiped out under the approving glare of a municipal and state government.

A.S. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, Philadelphia PA