Throughout the pandemic, a global coalition of organizers, musicians, medical professionals, and academics have coalesced around encouraging the U.S. government’s collaboration with a Cuban medical brigade that has helped other countries around the world combat the coronavirus.
This endeavor, touted as the “Get Out of Cuba’s Way” campaign, recently entered a new stage centered on strengthening the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade’s presence on the African continent, some parts of which have been ravaged by COVID-19 and the ebola virus.
As lead organizer Obi Egbuna Jr. explained to The Informer, the campaign strategy involves engaging African leaders and reminding them of the diplomatic relationships forged between Cuba and African countries during the 20th century.
“We will engage the Southern African Development Community (SADC) because it’s become the driving force of Cuban solidarity on the African continent,” Egbuna said.
“We’re anticipating an eager response in the east and west, and we will include the north. We will also engage the Cuba Friendship Associations on the African continent,” Egbuna added.
“We need them to provide for us a compositional breakdown on the African continent. After that we’ll engage different organizations who frequent these places.”
Supporting the Cuban Medical Brigade
In February, the “Get Out of Cuba’s Way” campaign hosted its second artistic tribute that featured performances from artists from across the African diaspora and recorded grassroots organizations’ endorsements.
That event, themed “Assisting and Elevating Cuba’s Medical Efforts on African Soil,” signified the start of conversations about establishing memorandums of understanding with the African Union, SADC, Economic Community of West African States, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, and New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
Supporters said these documents would espouse support for the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade and align with ongoing efforts to pressure the U.S. to allow Cuban doctors within its borders.
Weeks before the campaign’s Feb. 27 event, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that he would nominate the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade for its assistance at the height of the pandemic.
Last year, the brigade dispatched more than 200 Cuban doctors to South Africa who helped quell the spread of coronavirus. In total, the brigade reportedly treated more than 38,000 people living in Cape Verde, Angola, Kenya, and several other African countries.
A Year in the Making
Since the launch of the “Get Out of Cuba’s Way” campaign last spring, more than 100 individuals and organizations have elicited support, including the Sankofa Homeschool Collective, Marc Lamont Hill of Temple University in Philadelphia, Samia Nkumah of the Kwame Nkrumah Pan African Center in Accra, Ghana, and veteran activist Dorie Ladner, formerly of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
However, the U.S. government hasn’t shown any signs of embracing the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade or lifting a trade embargo against Cuba.
Even so, the “Get Out of Cuba’s Way” campaign has also found a supporter in Dr. Lucy Perez, a pediatrician who has traveled to the island nation on numerous occasions and developed an affinity for the medical brigade’s work.
“Cuba has offered their doctors during Hurricane Katrina [and] in some of the other hurricanes or natural disasters we’ve had in this country,” said Perez, a specialist in adolescent medicine, and HIV and substance abuse.
“They’ve offered their support in the arena of primary care for communities that have been underserved and unserved,” Perez continued. “Cuba feels a global oneness to make sure that humanitarian services get to everyone. This has been very refreshing and it speaks to the Hippocratic Oath that all physicians take.”