with two of the five displays about the Five
by Dennis Gilbert
Mar. 24, 2010
This March in Eugene, Oregon, many more people found out about the Cuban Five (Eugene is a city of 137, 000, home of the University of Oregon and is located in the Pacific Northwest of the US just north of California.) Interest was generated by several events connected to the touring art show of work by Antonio Guerrero, and momentum was built for several next steps. The events were organized by the Eugene Free the Five Committee and sponsors included the Latin American Solidarity Committee, American Constitutional Society, PanAsian Community Alliance, UO Public Interest/Public Service Program, Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, and UO Law School Office of Career Services.
On March 5, an exhibit of Antonio Guerrero’s work opened during the First Friday Art Walk. The show, From my Altitude - Art works by Antonio Guerrero, was in the Fenario Gallery located in central downtown Eugene. The exhibit went beyond Antonio’s work with displays on the case of the Cuban Five, including five floor to ceiling banners featuring excerpts from their sentencing comments in December 2001, and two video stations with video on the Five and life in Cuba. A local artist and a video-media artist, both in the Eugene Free the Five Committee, helped in designing the show, which was an art installation in itself.
For four hours, from 5 to 9 pm, people poured through the gallery to looking at Antonio’s work and learning about the Cuban Five, often for the first time. The evening featured traditional Latin American music by the local group Lo Nuestro and Cuban-inspired food prepared by student club members of the local community college culinary program. Many people had enthusiastic comments about the evening, gratitude for finding out about the Cuban Five, and sympathy for the Free the Five cause.
The following Wednesday, March 10, Leonard Weinglass spoke at the University of Oregon Law School. The talk by the legendary advocate and now an attorney for Antonio Guerrero was titled: "The Case of the Cuban Five - After Five Decades Defending Political Trials." Leonard was introduced by Eugene Committee spokesperson Dennis Gilbert, who in addition, introduced a variety of ways people can get involved and find out more information. An audience of seventy-plus heard a profound personal and historical story of the evolution of the court system increasingly at service to the national security apparatus, and analysis and insights into the Cuban Five case. The presentation was followed by a long question-answer period. Following that, Weinglass retired to a discussion hosted by law student groups to talk about how students might engage in this sort of advocacy. Two law students were leaders in the Eugene Free the Five Committee.
The next morning before leaving Eugene, Leonard met for breakfast with a group of Latino activists interested in the Cuban Five. That meeting solidified one next step in the local campaign, working to raise the case to the Eugene Human Rights Council and the City Council.
Two days later on March 12 in the evening at the gallery, fifty people attended a lively and powerful bilingual poetry reading, in which poets in the local community read Antonio’s poetry in Spanish and English, followed by selections of each of these poets. Classical guitar music was another highlight of the evening as well as more opportunity to see Antonio’s art work. The poets read beneath the five banners, with photographs of the Gerardo, Rene, Antonio, Ramon, and Fernando, so that their eyes looked out over the gathering, and several people commented that they felt their presence that night. The Eugene Committee is planning to host further poetry readings in the same format, since this one was so moving and successful.
The following week, March 19, an evening of Cuban music by popular, local musician Jessie Marquez, was the final event at the gallery before the end of the show March 20. Eighty people arrived for the concert with more coming later. There was a good discussion of the Cuban Five, with most of the audience hearing about the case the first time that evening. The music was outstanding, and more people volunteered to be part of the effort to Free the Five.
These events have established the Eugene Free the Five Committee as a solid feature in the local political landscape, and built momentum for further engagement in the Free the Five campaign and discussion of Cuba generally. On April 17, there will be an all-day conference called "Cuba Awakening – Breaking Cold War Stereotypes." The Free the Five campaign will be one part of the program. The events organized in March have been a stage for advertising this conference. In addition, people attended from out of town interested in hosting Antonio’s art in Salem and Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, and gained further enthusiasm. Materials added to the show locally will be provided to the National Committee to Free the Five, so that it can be used elsewhere. We plan to put together a video of the events in Eugene.
Dennis Gilbert is a leader in the Eugene Free the Five Committee and a physics professor at Lane Community College in Eugene.