In celebration of Black History Month, the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum presented a showing of Robin J. Hayes’ Ph.D., documentary “Black and Cuba” on Wednesday.
Taking place in 2002, the film features nine diverse Yale University students on a journey to New Havana, Cuba seeking a revolution from racial injustices. Though the students sought revolution, they discovered much more.
The documentary shows that Cuba’s government is based on a system where economic equality exists for all. With a two percent unemployment rate, 100 percent literacy rate, and free healthcare for everyone, it is easy for students who attended the trip viewed Cuba as a nearly carefree utopia.
The perpetualization of “The American Dream” in mainstream media makes it simple for Cuban citizens to view America as a utopian society as well. The film unveils the truth about both societies and presents a cross-cultural connection. Instead of a revolution, during the trip, the students discovered that change in their own communities is certainly possible.
“Cuba is a place with a lot of contradictions like everywhere.” Hayes told Colorlines Daily News. “It's made important gains, no doubt about that. But they also are still struggling with certain things–like, freedom of speech and ongoing racial tension–just as we've made gains and are still struggling in U.S.”
African-American students at Predominantly White Institutions have been protesting due to racism and a demand for equality for centuries. This documentary gives an inside look at the several similar racial experiences Afro-Cubans and African-Americans face and continues to open the perspective on human rights and the continuation of the black student revolution.
“We spent a lot of time having candid conversations with all kinds of people—rappers, students, teachers—and learning as much about their impressions of life in the United States as we did about their experiences in Cuba,” Hayes told IPS News.
As student activism remains prevalent today with outbreaks of revolutions at prestigious universities such as Princeton, Oxford, Harvard and Yale, Hayes presented an alternative approach to the Afro-Cuban culture and uncovered the connections and similarities that lie between black Cuban’s and black Americans.
The documentary is an insightful work of art that reveals the truth about Cuba’s history and puts myths about “The American Dream” to rest. With the help of her revolutionary peers, Hayes’ captivating quest through the once forbidden island captures stories and commentary from the native Cuban point of view.
“The journey changed my life in that it gave me a great deal of optimism about the possibilities of change. Afro-Cubans and African Americans have overcome a great number of obstacles, but there is still a lot of work to do."