In 2007, I was part of a U.S. delegation invited by Presidente Chavez to Caracas for the unveiling of the Dr. Martin Luther bust-Busto Martin Luther King Paselos Insignes. The delegation was organized by Joseph Jordan Director of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill). I was able to see first hand the efforts of the Bolivarian Revolution, like the land reclamation projects. I was struck by the engagement of the people in their society, many of them carried their dog-eared Venezuelan Constitution in their pockets every day. And why not? They had helped to create it. They were genuinely excited about building futures. The knowledge of African and African American History as well as the Black Liberation Movement by the Venezuelan people was remarkable. We were treated like dignitaries while in the country and were given access to the people and to many of the country’s programs like the Comités de Tierra Urbana (Urban Land Committees or CTU).
My comrade, Genevieve Williams Comrie, wrote a great piece for Al-Jazeerah.com about Chavez that I’d like to share because of her unique perspective as an Afro-descendant:
Presidente Hugo Chavez and race : The shift from avoidance to inclusion
“Racism is very characteristic of imperialism and capitalism. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth and curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it is African.” – Hugo Chavez, September 21, 2005
The death of democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias (1954-2013) has evoked serious thoughts and reflections on the meaning of his life and the process he led from peoples and communities throughout the Americas and the world. Despite much criticism by many right wing governments and people in the West, Hugo Chavez led a process in Venezuela that symbolised the new assertiveness and self-consciousness of nations in Latin America that saw a future for themselves, liberated from the heavy-handed, oppressive and economically draining policies of their powerful neighbour from the North. Read more