Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Radical Avicolli-Mecca Slams
'Poorly Produced' Mariela Castro Talk

(Castro, center, answers a question at a forum last week in San Francisco. Credit: Jane Philomen Cleland, BAR.)

 Since I skipped last Wednesday's talk at the gay community center with Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, I asked my friend and longtime queer leftist radical Tommi Avicolli Mecca for a report because he attended the event.

Before we get to his report, I want to say that Jeff Cotter of the Rainbow World Fund, who hosted and organized the talk and other activities with Mariela while she was in San Francisco, has been asked to engage in dialogue with local activists who feel he singed bridges in his backyard by only working with gay electeds and ignoring grassroot folks. If Cotter agrees to such a dialogue, I'll let you know.

Here's what Tommi has to say about the May 23 talk:

Honestly, there were a lot of problems with the Mariela Castro event. First of all, the interviewer [local gay TV personality Liam Mayclem] was ill-prepared to talk to her. It was obvious that he had not done any homework on Cuba or the history of the queer movement there, or even the history of involvement of gay liberation in this country with Cuba (the Venceremos brigades of the 70s, for instance), and at times his questions were downright embarrassing.

Then there was the lack of audience participation (we had to hand in cards and who knows who decided which were worthy of asking? Judging from the questions they chose, it was obvious only the most lame questions were deemed worthy).

The choice of politicians and appointees to introduce the event was disastrous. Talk about setting the wrong tone. And what event was [Human Rights Commission executive director] Theresa Sparks attending? A benefit for Human Rights Commission, perhaps? She talked mostly about her own organization and not the subject at hand. It was obvious she had not done any homework on Cuba.

Why weren't activists asked to say something? Songwriter/activist Blackberri, who was in the audience, has been to Cuba many times and could have given a good perspective on things.

And why was Liam Mayclem chosen as interviewer in the first place? How much more depth could have been lent to the interview if someone from KPFA Radio, for instance, who covers Cuba regularly or someone from the Latino community who is familiar with the country could have done it.

Frankly, I'm tired of LGBT politicians and appointees being our spokespeople. Activists need to reclaim our movement. Electing folks to office or pushing for political appointments may seem like a useful strategy for change, but when it results in politicians and appointees becoming our spokespeople, it's a disaster (and it disempowers our community).

Scott Wiener does not represent me. He has no LGBT international record to speak of, yet he was allowed to make opening remarks. He represents downtown interests. Is that the state of our movement? Harvey Milk's old seat occupied by someone who represents downtown interests? It makes me sick.

 All in all, a poorly produced event.

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