News

Ann Brown of The Network Journal writes about her interview with Angie Hancock and Experience Harlem:

angieinsideSeven years ago, Experience: Harlem was launched by Angie Hancock as an information and entertainment portal for all things Harlem. Today, it has been the go-to site for anyone—from New York residents to first-time visitors--wanting to connect and “experience” the special venues and well kept-secrets that Harlem has to offer. After moving to Harlem in 2003, Hancock, CEO of Experience: Harlem, fell in love with the historic New York neighborhood and wanted to allow others to have the same experience. In addition to the website, she also compiles a comprehensive guide also named Experience: Harlem, which is now in its 4th edition. Under the Experience: Harlem umbrella, Hancock hosts events at various Harlem restaurants and publishes a Experience: Harlem newsletter as well. For more information, visit ExperienceHarlem.com.

Source: The Network Journal

To read the interview with Hancock, visit: http://www.tnj.com/small-business/black-entrepreneurs/experience-harlem-becomes-go-to-destination-portal-historic-neigh

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art is receiving a $1.8 million gift from Oman, the largest donation in the museum's history.

jonetta coleThe gift announced Wednesday will fund a series of programs called "Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa." It will focus on Omani arts and culture and the links between cultures in East and North Africa and the Middle East. Oman is a country of 4 million on the southwest coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Museum director Johnnetta Betsch Cole says the gift is a significant milestone for the museum, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

Dr. Cole, who has served as president of both Bennet College in Greensboro, NC. and Spelman College in Atlanta, the only two black female colleges in the nation, as director oversees a collection of 9,100 objects in the only national museum in the United States dedicated to the collection, exhibition, conservation and study of the arts of Africa.

 

harvey-price steel-drumChristine Barba reports for The University of Delaware Review on a music professor who is setting up a steel-drum band in Israel to unite Jewish and Arab students:

Traveling with 24 cases of musical instruments in a foreign country was not an easy feat, says [University of Delaware] Music Professor Harvey Price, upon his return from his trip to Israel. Price boarded the plane to Israel with so many instruments because he is starting a steel-drum band there for Jewish and Arab students.

Since Israel was established in 1948, there has been tension between Jews and Arabs over territory. Price says he started this band because he wanted to unite students from different religious groups and change their outlook toward one another. “It could be a really amazing movement, or it could impact 20 or 30 kids every year, so that would be great too,” Price says. “The idea is to get a group going probably in a year or so that is capable of touring and showcasing the idea that Arabs and Jews can work together and create music. They’ll play concerts in Israel and Europe and the United States.”

Price traveled to a village in the north of Israel in the Galilee region, where the Mar Elias Educational Institution is located, a school known for working with multi-ethnic groups. He says he joined sixth-grade Arab Muslim and Christian students, along with Uri Nadir, a music teacher in Israel, who will continue practicing with the band after he leaves. The Jewish students, who live farther away, will join the group next month, Price says. Currently, their goal is to teach 20 students—10 Arab students and 10 Jewish students—who were selected by teachers in Israel, Price says.

Price says he has been to Israel about six to eight times, and he previously created two other youth bands in Israel who also play steel drums. One band is made up of Ethiopian refugees who came to Israel, and the other band is comprised of abused and neglected children, he says.

[. . .] During his trip, Price taught students songs from Trinidad because he said people typically associate music from the Caribbean with the steel drum and also taught students about the history of the steel drum. The students have no prior musical backgrounds, Price says. He says he chose the steel drums because they are excellent teaching tools. “As opposed to a string orchestra where it takes about a year to get a sound out of a violin, with this, you can get a sound out of it immediately, and it’s a really beautiful sound,” Price says. [. . .]

Source: Repeating Islands

For the complete article, go to http://www.udreview.com/mobile/music-professor-develops-steel-drum-band-in-israel-1.3112501.

 

adjaye insideAccording to writer Sergie Willoughby in an article for The Network Journal, architect David Adjaye is forging a new kind of global architecture:

 In 2009, Tanzania-born architect David Adjaye was commissioned to design the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., set to open in 2015. Now, he has won the Wall Street Journal Magazine’s 2013 Innovator Award.  

With a global design firm that has offices in New York, London, Berlin and Ghana, 47-year old Adjaye has worked on several high-profile design projects including private homes for celebrities; an affordable apartment complex in Harlem; and a furniture line with noted design house Knoll.  He reportedly beat out 69 other architects when he won the $500 million Smithsonian contract.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Adjaye says his upbringing, travels and African identity greatly influenced many of his design ideas for the new museum: "My father articulated a set of ideals to me, always very softly. Just certain points about being strong about your identity, about who you are and not being intimidated by other cultures. And to understand that there's a world that exists beyond national boundaries."

The article goes on to describe the museum's structure: As seen in digital renderings, the structure appears as stacked inverted pyramids, a silhouette inspired, says Adjaye, by Yoruban sculpture. The patterning of the decorative bronze grilles on the museum's façade, reminiscent of African metalwork, will allow light to filter into the building in a beguiling pattern, just as with the thatched lattices of some traditional African dwellings. The museum's very form, squatting massively on the last real buildable plot near to the Washington Monument, seems to suggest the earthy monumentality of such ancient African sites as Timbuktu and Great Zimbabwe. As he puts it, Adjaye's objective is to establish a kind of "classical" African sensibility, an architecture capable of forging a link between African American cultural traditions and their common roots in Africa itself. 

Source: The Network Journal  - http://www.tnj.com/technology/david-adjaye-architect-nat%E2%80%99l-museum-african-american-history-and-culture-gets-innovator-a

                                                  

THE INAUGURAL BARBADOS phillis wheatley2014 CALLALOO CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP

Poetry and Fiction Writing

Director & Editor of Callaloo
Charles Henry Rowell

May 18-24, 2014
The Department of Language, Linguistics & Literature, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill

TO APPLY:  Applications must be submitted online athttp://www.callaloo.expressacademic.org no later than February 14, 2014. Each applicant must submit a brief cover letter and writing sample (no more than five pages of poetry or twelve pages of prose fiction). The application should be submitted under the BARBADOS CALLALOO CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP category. An applicant may apply in only one area: poetry or fiction. Otherwise the applicant will not be considered for admission.


Accoring to wirter David Smith in this article for The Guardian, "The former South African president's long imprisonment and devotion to politics has left a family squabbling over the legacy of Nelson Mandela.":

Mandela-Family-Visiting-N-008

Nelson Mandela's family tree is tall with many divergent branches. Robbed of its patriarch, the tree must now try to withstand an ugly and unpredictable storm: a fight for his legacy that could turn Mandela against Mandela.

The former South African president married three times and fathered six children. Three predeceased him: one as an infant in 1948, another in a car crash in 1969 and a third from an Aids-related illness in 2005.

Mandela's surviving children are all women: Makaziwe, with his first wife, Evelyn Mase, and Zenani and Zindzi by his second wife, Winnie Madikizela.

Only Mandla, the eldest grandson, has followed him into parliament. Mandla was the first of the Mandelas to comment after his death, saying he was strengthened by the knowledge that his grandfather was finally at rest.

"All that I can do is thank God that I had a grandfather who loved and guided all of us in the family," Mandla said in a statement. "The best lesson that he taught all of us was the need for us to be prepared to be of service to our people."

All of his family suffered from Mandela's long imprisonment and his devotion to politics. Makaziwe reflected: "Tata [father] has had his time in politics and I think tata could not relate. He could maybe relate better to the grandchildren but to us, the children, all he knew is to be a strict disciplinarian and to provide. My dad provided to an extent the material things. But would I say tata was emotionally available? No, I don't think that he was."

Mandela divorced Winnie in 1996 and married Graça Machel. According to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, he leaves behind 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren but unlike the Kennedys or the Nehru-Gandhis, they could not be regarded as a political dynasty. The most damaging factional split is between the descendants of Evelyn and Winnie, or Mandela's "first" and "second" families.

In his biography Young Mandela, David James Smith writes: "Among the first family there is a feeling that they have been dispossessed, written out of Mandela's life. Among Winnie's family there is a sense that his first family have sometimes wanted to exploit Mandela's name, and the tensions between the two families have occasionally boiled over into open hostilities."

The first family has seen a power struggle between Makaziwe and Mandla, an African National Congress MP who bears a striking resemblance to the statesman and is seen as his political heir. Mandla has been dogged by allegations of bigamy and trying to sell the TV rights to his grandfather's funeral, which he vehemently denies.

Earlier this year Mandla insisted that there was no conflict in the family, but these words rang hollow in July when, as Mandela lay critically ill in hospital, a bitter feud spilled out into the open. Sixteen family members led by Makaziwe won a court case against Mandla over his 2011 decision to secretly exhume and rebury Mandela's three late children in the village of Mvezo, where Mandla is chief and has built a visitor centre. Within hours Mandla's gates were forced open and the bones collected and reburied in Qunu, where Mandela will be laid to rest. In response Mandla gave an angry press conference denouncing family members "squabbling" over Mandela's money.

mandelaNow the great unifier has gone, the Mandelas will either come together or fly apart. The eldest granddaughter, Ndileka, has spoken candidly about deep fissures among them. "Things are always bubbling beneath the surface," she told the Sunday Times magazine in 2013. "For me, I've come to accept that it's a fallacy to portray us as being together when the whole world knows we have huge differences. And those differences do exist, like any other family. It's just a pity that ours are played out in public."

She said of Mandela, whose health was then fading: "He's the glue that keeps us together. I shudder to think what will happen when that glue is no longer there, but we rally round and put our differences aside. Well, I'm not so sure we put them aside, but we pitch up for him."

The first family is all too aware that, while Evelyn is widely forgotten, Winnie remains a larger-than-life "mother of the nation" who was still close to her ex-husband at his death. A flawed heroine of the anti-apartheid struggle, she is unlikely to keep a low profile in the coming days or to bite her lip if she believes Mandela's memory is being betrayed.

A glimpse of potential conflict over his funeral was offered at his 90th birthday when Winnie and her family stayed away, reportedly after learning that Makaziwe would use it to launch her House of Mandela wine label.

Another crack emerged in 2012 when Winnie accused the governing ANC of "shabby treatment" and boycotted a Mandela memorial lecture. Her granddaughter, Swati Dlamini, spoke out in her defence, but Ndileka attended the lecture and claimed to be speaking on behalf of the entire family.

Meanwhile, Swati and another granddaughter, Zaziwe, have been accused of exploitation after starring in a reality TV series, Being Mandela, while promoting a LWTF (Long Walk to Freedom) fashion line of T-shirts bearing Mandela's image.

Most worryingly, there are fears of an unseemly struggle over Mandela's inheritance. Already Makaziwe and Zenani have launched a legal action to remove his long-time friend and lawyer, George Bizos, from the boards of two investment funds. Mandla opposed the suit while Bizos and his allies claim it is a pre-emptive effort to grab control of Mandela's considerable assets.

"There will be other assets, too, that Madiba's heirs will wrestle over when the time comes to wind up the estate," the Star of South Africa warned in an editorial, referring to Mandela by his clan name. "The squabbles will be bitter and vicious if the first salvoes in this war are anything to go by.

"If this process is not properly managed, there is the very real risk that the memory of a selfless icon who helped free a people, then build a new nation, could forever be tarnished by the greed of his own seed, who cumulatively do not appear to have a shred of the integrity of the man they all now want to feed off."

That is certainly the last thing Mandela would have wanted. He spoke of his regret at neglecting family life down the years and was presumably pained by whispers of discord towards the end.

His granddaughter Tukwini once said: "We've always asked him, 'Grandad, how do you want us to honour your name when you're gone?' He would say, 'Well, that's entirely up to you, I can't dictate to you, but my hope is that you guys will always do something positive to honour the name and that you will manage the name in a way that's dignified.' Those are the only two requirements from him in terms of how we manage the Mandela name and how we honour it."

 

Source: The Guardian : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/06/nelson-mandela-family

Top photo: Winnie Mandela with children

brazilSão Paulo, Brazil - Brazilian tourism officials say that the country has stepped up efforts to lure more foreign tourists as Brazil gears up to host 2014 World Cup.

Brazil is keen to make the most of its time in the global spotlight -- in 2016 Rio will host South America's first Olympics while the World Cup sees the event return to the land of samba for the first time since 1950. With Germany providing the most visitors from Europe -- around a five percent share - Embratur said it has also held some 180 roadshows at trade exhibitions there with a particular focus on eco-and adventure tourism.

Even so it added that some three fifths of the 5.7 million tourists who visited in 2012 came for "sun, sea and sand." Argentinians account for the largest share in total at around 30 percent with travellers from the United States second with an 11 percent share based on 2012 figures. The Brazilian Luxury Travel Association has focused on bolstering a US share largely comprising high-spending clients.

Away from the luxury sector, 109 new hotels, resorts and hostels are under construction across the 12 World Cup host cities, according to the tourism ministry. Brazil hopes to lift tourist numbers to ten million by 2020, taking the share of GDP the sector accounts for directly and indirectly from a current 8.6 percent past 10 percent.

The sector contributed almost $80 billion to GDP in 2011, according to official figures, as well as almost three million jobs. Even so, this country of more than 200 million people is racing against the clock to modernize its ageing airports and general transport as well as tourist accommodation infrastructure as the World Cup looms closer.

 

Source: canoe.ca, eturbo News

cherie butlerOne of America’s newest national parks now has its first superintendent. Northeast Regional Director Dennis R. Reidenbach has selected Cherie Butler, a 21-year veteran of the National Park Service, as superintendent of Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument.

Ms. Butler has been serving as the monument’s acting superintendent since March of this year.

“Cherie has direct experience translating complex and sometimes controversial history into compelling public programming and interpretive media — an essential task in the development of the many new national park site,” said Mr. Reidenbach. “All these skills will be essential, not just for the success of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, but also to support the new leadership model for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program and develop strategies to further elevate one of our signature partnership programs.”

Established by Presidential Proclamation on March 25, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument commemorates the life of the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, a fearless woman who enabled many enslaved people to emancipate themselves and escape to freedom in the North. The new national monument is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and includes large sections of landscapes that are significant to Tubman’s early life in Dorchester County and evocative of her life as an enslaved person and conductor of the Underground Railroad.

Established by Congress in 1998, The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program of the National Park Service works in collaboration with local, state, and federal entities to promote programs and partnerships to commemorate, preserve sites and other resources associated with, and to educate the public about the historical significance of the Underground Railroad.

“I look forward to exploring new and innovative ways to share the powerful life stories of the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman, a remarkable woman whose legacy continues to impact the nation and the world to this day,” said Ms. Butler. “I am committed to strengthening current relationships, while also opening doors to new ones. Ms. Tubman’s history may be rooted in the waterways, roads and trails of Maryland, but her messages about freedom, honor and courage, resonate around the world. The success of the new park and the national program will only be achieved through continued collaboration and cooperation with neighboring, national and international communities.”

Before her acting superintendent assignment at the new monument, Butler was the Northeast Regional Office Management Assistant. This position is a two year appointment specifically designed to develop future superintendents. In that role, she was the key point of contact for technical and program management actions by the Northeast Regional Director and Deputy Regional Directors. She also supported regional communications and legislative affairs. During her time as management assistant, she also served as the acting deputy superintendent at Boston National Historical Park and Boston African American National Historic Site. Ms. Butler came to the regional office from the position of Chief of Interpretation and Education at the seven Manhattan Sites in New York City. Prior to this, she served as the Chief of Interpretation, Education and Cultural Resources at the African Burial Ground National Monument from 2009 to 2011 — another new national monument. She has also held a number of supervisory and interpretive positions at Independence NHP and the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island.

Key sites in Harriet Tubman National Monument include Stewart’s Canal, dug by hand free and enslaved people, including Tubman, between 1810 and the 1830s. Stewart’s Canal is part of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and, although part of the new national monument, it will continue to be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The monument also includes the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free black man who used coded letters to help Tubman communicate with family and others. The Jacob Jackson Home Site was donated to the National Park Service by The Conservation Fund for inclusion in the new national monument. The State of Maryland’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Visitor Center will be another key site in the national monument when it opens in 2015.

Ms. Butler, a native of Arkansas, holds a Bachelor of Communications degree from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with post graduate studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. Ms. Butler has already begun her assignment.

 

Original Source: http://maryland.newszap.com/cambridgedorchester/124934-92/butler-named-first-tubman-underground-railroad-national-monument-superintendent

 

 

carib repFourteen Caribbean nations are suing the governments of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands for reparations over what the plaintiffs say is the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade.

During a United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said the European nations must pay for their deeds. “The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity – a legacy which exists today in our Caribbean – ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples,” Gonsalves said. “The                                                                         European nations must partner in a focused, especial way with us to execute this repairing.”

The lawsuits – which are likely to amount to a lengthy battle – are being brought by The Caribbean Community, or Caricom, a regional organization that focuses mostly on issues such as economic integration. They will be brought to the U.N.'s International Court of Justice, based in The Hague in the Netherlands. It is not immediately clear when court proceedings will begin.

The countries will focus on Britain for its role in slavery in the English-speaking Caribbean, France for slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a Caricom member and former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America. They have hired British law firm Leigh Day, which waged a successful fight for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government as they fought for the liberation of their country during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s.

According to Martyn Day, a lawyer from the firm, the first step will be to seek a negotiated settlement with the governments of France, Britain and the Netherlands along the lines of the British agreement in June to issue a statement of regret and award compensation of about $21.5 million to the surviving Kenyans. "I think they would undoubtedly want to try and see if this can be resolved amicably," Day said of the Caribbean countries, speaking to The Associated Press in July. "But I think the reason they have hired us is that they want to show that they mean business."

Caribbean countries Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda already have national commissions on reparations, and each country that does not have a commission has agreed to set one up. The 14 Caricom nations voted unanimously to wage the joint campaign, saying it would be more ambitious than any previous attempt.

In the United States, the idea of reparations has surfaced and disappeared numerous times. After the end of the Civil War, about 400,000 acres of land along the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts was taken from former slave owners and set aside for freed slaves, who would each be granted a 40-acre plot of land to farm and make a living. It was the first attempt in the U.S. at reparations, and was reversed by President Andrew Johnson after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Most recently in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama said he did not support reparations for the descendants of slaves, which put him at odds with the NAACP, The Urban League, the SCLC and about two dozen members of Congress who sponsored legislation to create a commission on slavery. The House issued an apology for slavery in July 2008, and the Senate followed suit in 2009, but neither mentioned reparations.

Caribbean officials have not specified a monetary figure for the lawsuits, but Gonsalves and Verene Shepherd, chairwoman of the national reparations commission in Jamaica, both mentioned the fact that Britain at the time of emancipation in 1834 paid 20 million pounds – the equivalent of 200 billion pounds today – to British planters in the Caribbean. "Our ancestors got nothing," Shepherd said. "They got their freedom and they were told ‘Go develop yourselves.'"

Source: Repeating Islands

For full original, see http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/9/27/14-caribbean-nationssueeuropeancountriesforreparationsoverslaver.html

The World Bank issued a report, “Africa’s Tourism Set to Boost Economic Growth, Create New Jobs, and Now Outpace Other Regions for New Tourism Investment.” While the full report may be accessed via its main entry portal www.worldbank.org , ETN reports on sections of africa jshown below for ease of reference.

Sub Saharan Africa’s tourism industry is set to spur more economic growth for the continent and directly employ 6.7 million people by 2021, according to a new World Bank report released today.

The report—Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods—says that tourism accounted directly or indirectly for one in every 20 jobs in Sub Saharan Africa in 2011, and is one of the few industries on the continent in which women are well represented as employees and managers. Sub Saharan Africa is outpacing other regions in tourism growth.

The report examines the potential of African countries to improve and expand their tourism sector, and suggests that 33 of Sub Saharan Africa’s 48 countries currently have the capacity for tourism success through establishing strong political support for developing the industry and attracting increased private investment to help finance and sustain it.

The report cites successful examples of countries including Cape Verde, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and others, who have simplified their tourism policies, liberalized air transport and diversified tourism while protecting their communities and environments, which created a positive investment climate for tourism development.

“Africa’s private companies are increasingly attracting regional and international investment and the returns on investing in Africa are among the highest in the world,” says Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa. In close alliance with the private sector, governments must also do their part to create better transport, electricity, infrastructure, and other key services to develop tourism for more broad-based growth and improved livelihoods.

Tourism is increasingly attracting regional and international investment, and returns on investments in the sector remain among the highest in the world. Global hotel chains are expanding across Africa, recognizing investment potential and committing millions of dollars in new projects over the next few years to meet increased demand from both international tourists and the continent’s own fast-growing middle class. 

seychelles 75Seychelles President James Michel has been conferred with the “African Development Excellence Award” during the African Investment and Development Awards Ceremony held in New York to coincide with the holding of the United Nations General Assembly. The award was collected by Vice President Danny Faure on behalf of President Michel and the people of Seychelles. The award was presented by Dr. Ken Giami, the CEO of African Leadership Magazine and founder of the Centre for Economic and Leadership Development, an NGO with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

President Michel conveyed the following message through the Vice President on the occasion of the ceremony: "I am deeply honored to receive the African Development Excellence award. I accept it on behalf of the people of Seychelles and I dedicate it to them. I consider the con ferment of this prestigious award as recognition of our achievements as one of the best governed countries in Africa, stemming from the hard work and commitment we have put in a human centered approach to development."

In his keynote remarks on the occasion of the ceremony, the Vice President shared some of Seychelles’ experiences in terms of development and economic reforms that helped transform the Seychelles economy in 2008. He also highlighted Seychelles confidence in the power of intra-African investment as a driver of development. He noted the positive trends in terms of African tourism and stated that Seychelles is committed towards enhancing Africa's potential in terms of tourism development through the African Union.

In terms of future perspectives, the Vice President stressed that sustainable development must be embraced as an opportunity for African nations. He cited renewable energy and the potential of the blue economy as being catalysts for the development of Seychelles as well as the wider region.

The Vice President also stated that while Seychelles was a small state, it had shown that it could make a big contribution, and was thus also positioning itself for a bid for a non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council for the year 2017- 2018:

"While we are a small nation, we believe that all voices count. Our experiences in establishing viable maritime security provides a template for wider international cooperation in stabilizing our region, and we look forward to strengthening our contribution through this bid."

The Vice President said that Seychelles small size could be a source of strength rather than weakness, and that Seychelles was determined to ensure this was the case.

"We are the smallest nation in Africa, but we are determined to ensure that our small size is not a weakness but a strength. Our flexibility, our unity of purpose, and our development of a harmonious and united society have given us tools that have allowed us to continue to progress and ensure that we sustain the political will for often difficult governance decisions."

Source: Seychelles Ministry of Tourism and Culture
ETurbo News

jessejacksonA Reuters article by Marc Frank says that U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson arrived in Cuba, where he is staying (at Havana's Hotel Nacional); he has various items on his agenda—all in the hope of facilitating improved relations with the United States. His visit to the island is hosted by the Roman Catholic Church. Jackson, who has visited Cuba several times and met with former President Fidel Castro, said "The church is concerned about peace ... and Cuba's relations with the United States and the rest of the Caribbean. I hope we can facilitate that."

Asked if he would meet with imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross, Jackson said, "I don't know, but I would like to." Gross has been jailed in Cuba since December 2009 in a case that has put the brakes on a brief improvement in long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations. In a March 2011 trial, Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison for installing internet networks for Jewish groups under a secretive U.S. program the Cuban government considers subversive. The United States insists Gross was merely helping the local population get connected as part of a democracy-building project. According to the article, in an open letter to Castro in March 2011, Jackson said, "I appeal to His Excellency President Raul Castro to release Mr. Alan P. Gross on humanitarian grounds."

Jackon was in Colombia earlier this month where he urged Colombia's FARC rebels to free former U.S. Marine Kevin Scott Sutay, whom they kidnapped in June. At the moment, Cuba is hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and more than 30 of the guerrilla organization's commanders are in Havana. The article suggests that Jackson may meet with some of them while in Cuba.

For original article, see http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/27/us-cuba-usa-idUSBRE98Q1BM20130927

Source: Repeating Island

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