By Greg Gilman | Reuters – Fri, Apr 12, 2013
LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Jay-Z responded to critics of his Cuba trip
with a song called "Open Letter" and now "21 Jump Street" director Phil
Lord has responded to the song with an open letter of his own, blasting
the rapper for "being a bad artist."
Although Jay-Z's Cuban excursion with his wife, Beyoncé, and both their
mothers was approved by the U.S. Treasury Department, Lord - the son of
a Cuban refugee - told the Huffington Post that the rapper's newest
single upset him to the point where he had to speak his mind.
Read the entire letter below:
An Open Letter to Jay-Z
Dear Mr. Z,
I just heard your new track, "Open Letter," released today. It's got
everything I love about your music: looping internal rhymes, an
infectious beat, and imagery that draws me into a kind of swaggering,
Speaking of defiant fantasies, I've been following news of your recent
trip to the island nation of Cuba. As the son of a Cuban refugee, and
cousin and nephew to many Cubans on the island, I cringe when Americans
visit Cuba for a fun island vacation. For one thing it's illegal (which
nobody seems to care about), but more importantly, it's either ignorant
of or calloused to the struggles of Cubans on the island. I actually
encourage my friends to travel to Cuba, to bear witness to one of the
great tragedies of our time, to learn about the real Cuba, to put a
human face on the caricature of Americans that the Castros propagate.
Exchange and travel between our two nations should be a catalyst for
change, as it has been even in my own family. But for me, Cuba is not
the place to have a fun, sexy, vacation. Because for Cubans on the
island and living elsewhere, it's not.
So when I heard of your visit, I thought to myself, Jay Z seems like a
smart, thoughtful guy. He doesn't realize what he's walking into. He
probably just thinks Cuba is a chic place to relax with the family. He
probably just doesn't know the things I know.
He likely doesn't know that the Cuban tourism industry is run by the
Cuban military, so when he spends money at an officially sanctioned
hotel, or restaurant, he is directly funding the oppressors of the Cuban
He doesn't know that most Cubans have poor access to independent news
sources, the internet, books, and food.
He doesn't know that Cuba has two health systems, one for the
well-connected, and one for everyone else.
He doesn't know that before Castro, the Cuban peso traded one-to-one
with the dollar, and that since then, the Castros have raided the
nation's coffers and introduced widespread poverty to a once prosperous
He doesn't know that my ancestors fought to free Cuba from Spain, and to
set up a democracy to ensure that they would always be free.
He doesn't know that in spite of those dreams, my mother and her family
fled for their lives from this regime way back in 1960, as did *two
million* other Cubans.
He doesn't know about the thousands of people executed by firing squads
led by sexy t-shirt icon Che Guevara.
He doesn't know about the dissidents, artists, and librarians that
currently rot in Cuba's prisons, and the thousands more who live in fear.
He doesn't know about Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an Afro-Cuban dissident who
died in a Cuban prison in 2010 after an 80-day hunger strike.
He doesn't know that a U.S. Citizen, Alan Gross, is currently serving a
15-year sentence in a Cuban prison for providing phones and computers to
the members of the Cuban Jewish community.
He doesn't know that all attempts by our government and private citizens
to secure his release have been scoffed at.
He has likely forgotten about all those who have died in the Florida
Straits, trying to float on makeshift boats to freedom.
He doesn't know that contrary to popular understanding, Amnesty
International reports that repression of dissidents in Cuba is actually
on the rise.
He doesn't know that when an international music luminary shows up in
Cuba, his presence is unwittingly used as propaganda to support the regime.
He doesn't know that artists in Cuba, with whom he was supposedly having
a cultural exchange, serve under the close supervision of the
government, and don't enjoy the freedom to defiantly name check the
President, call out a few senators, threaten to buy a kilo of cocaine
just to spite the government, or suggest that they will follow up their
purchase with a shooting spree, as rapped about in "Open Letter."
He doesn't know that just because our country applies a different, some
say hypocritical policy to China, it doesn't make either regime any less
oppressive, or any more acceptable.
He doesn't know that when people say "I've got to visit Cuba before it
gets ruined," I think to myself, "It's already ruined. And by the way,
ruined by what? freedom of speech? walls that don't crumble? shoes? Do
you mean ruin Cuba? Or ruin your fashionable vacation in Cuba?"
He doesn't know that when I really start to think about all this, I get
so mad I can't sleep.
He doesn't know that when he's wearing that hat, smoking that coveted
contraband cigar, he looks like a dupe.
He doesn't know how much good he could be doing in Cuba, for Cubans,
instead. Bearing witness, supporting artistic freedom, listening.
He doesn't realize that as someone privileged to be born in a free
society, one in which someone could come from nothing and become a
celebrated music, sports, fashion, business and political mogul, it's
not only his good luck to be able to bring to light the needs of the
less fortunate, it's his obligation.
But then, Jay-Z, I heard your new song, and paid attention to the lyrics.
I heard you bragging about your "White House clearance."
I heard you talk about how much you enjoy Cuban cigars.
And I heard you tell the President I voted for, "You don't need this
shit anyway, chill with me on the beach."
You reject the responsibility to speak up for an oppressed people, even
while you take up your own cause with gusto.
Then I figured it out.
You actually know all of this stuff, you just don't care.
That's not just being a bad citizen, or a bad neighbor.
It's being a bad artist.
It's Nihilism with a beat.
http://news.yahoo.com/jay-z-blasted-21-jump-street-director-over-202918787.html;_ylt=A2KJ2PZacWpRjHwAcrjQtDMD Continue reading
In solidarity with Cuba's voices of opposition to Castro's tyranny
BY MARIO DIAZ-BALART AND ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
As we celebrate Passover and Easter, we cherish the freedom to practice
our beliefs and express our views, but are also reminded of those 90
miles away who suffer under an evil communist dictatorship. As the
beacon of democracy, we stand with pro-freedom activists in Cuba who are
struggling to achieve those same essential liberties.
On Monday, South Florida will have the opportunity to hear, once again,
the tragic story of an oppressed people under the thumb of a despotic
regime. Yoani Sánchez uses social media to shine a light on the dark
rule of the Castro brothers. Through her blog and writings, Yoani
reveals the plight of the Cuban people to the international community,
raises awareness on the extent of the regime's brutality, and gives
voice to those silenced by oppression.
During her recent visit to Washington, we, along with our congressional
colleagues, discussed with Yoani the ongoing dire situation in Cuba.
This event illustrated the bipartisan and bicameral support for the
cause of democracy in Cuba. We discussed the gross human-rights
violations on the island as Yoani conveyed the atrocities committed
against the Cuban people and the denial of their rights of free speech,
press, and assembly. We expressed to Yoani that, even if we do not agree
on every point, we stand in solidarity with the opposition voices in
Cuba and reaffirmed that they are not alone in their struggle.
This month, we remember the 2003 Black Spring crackdown in Cuba where 75
dissidents were unjustly imprisoned. Unfortunately, little has changed
since that time. The Ladies in White continue to be harassed, kicked and
beaten by Castro's state security agents just for marching in peace to
church. The Castro regime has the blood of pro-democracy advocates on
its hands, and we remain deeply concerned for the health and lives of
those brave activists who continue to speak out.
During the years of the Obama administration alone, pro-democracy
leaders Orlando Zapata Tamayo (d. Feb. 23, 2010), Juan Wilfredo Soto
García (d. May 8, 2011), Laura Pollán (d. Oct. 14, 2011), Wilman Villar
Mendoza (d. Jan. 19, 2012), Harold Cepero (d. July 22, 2012) and Oswaldo
Payá Sardiñas (d. July 22, 2012) have lost their lives at the hands of
the Castro dictatorship. These deaths underscore the grave risks assumed
by pro-democracy activists such as Antonio Rodiles, Sara Marta Fonseca,
Yoani Sánchez, Jorge Luis García Pérez ("Antunez"), José Daniel Ferrer
García, Marta Beatriz Roque, Berta Soler, Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and
many others when they simply express their views.
We also cannot forget the appalling case of Alan Gross, a U.S.
humanitarian aid worker who was arrested in December 2009 and remains in
prison for the "crime" of helping Cuba's small Jewish community access
the Internet. He is reportedly in poor health after having lost 100
pounds in prison while his daughter and mother are both battling cancer
in the U.S.
According to the Human Rights Watch 2013 World Report, "Cuba remains the
only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of
political dissent. In 2012, the regime . . . continued to enforce
political conformity using short-term detentions, beatings, public acts
of repudiation, travel restrictions, and forced exile." Numerous NGOs
have documented the sharp rise in detentions, arrests and other acts of
repudiation in Cuba, but the numbers could actually be higher due to
many who are imprisoned on trumped-up charges that are difficult to
document. For example, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and
National Reconciliation reported that there were 6,602 documented
political arrests in 2012, which was markedly up from 4,123 in 2011 and
2,074 in 2010.
Unfortunately, many in the international community fail to acknowledge
the Castro regime's egregious human rights record and brutal suppression
of fundamental liberties. However, with the help of Yoani and other
pro-democracy advocates, the Castro brothers have failed to silence the
Cuban people who are increasingly demanding real change.
Cuba's growing opposition movement is more united than ever. Due to its
heroic efforts, democracy will prevail on the island. May it be soon.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart are Republican members of
Congress representing South Florida.
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/30/3313987/in-solidarity-with-cubas-voices.html#storylink=misearch Continue reading