Friday, March 6, 2009

Artists Send Letter to Obama About Cuba

Grammy-winning Jazz artist Arturo O'Farrill (pianist and director of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra) appeared earlier this week on Democracy Now! (video excerpt above) and spoke about a recent letter signed by many US artists and producers asking the Obama administration to normalize cultural exchanges between US and Cuba.

Part of the letter says:

"U.S. policies towards Cuba – worsened many times over by the previous administration and criticized throughout the world – have prevented us from engaging in critical communication and collaboration with our Cuban counterparts, compromising our nation’s cherished ideals of freedom of expression and preventing cultural interchange between two societies that share a historic relationship lasting over two centuries."

In his interview, O'Farrill responds to travel restrictions on Cuban families:

"Well, I mean, all I can think about is my mom, whom I keep in touch with every day. I talk to her every day. I see her once or twice a week, and she’s a major part of my life, warts and all. We all have mothers. I mean, we need them in our lives. We all have sons, daughters, wives, cousins, brothers. And the emotional impact—and I see it on my friends, because I have many, many Cuban expatriate friends, and I see the impact on their lives and the huge gap in their understanding of existence that occurs because they don’t have access to those whom they love."

And concerning the US embargo towards Cuba...

"We do business with North Vietnam. We do business with China. I mean, it’s insane to hold onto an economic embargo that has absolutely nothing to do with anything substantial... I think that the economic embargo is something that needs to eventually be really considered as something that is old, dusty, and needs to be put to pasture."