Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coexisting: My Summer Fellowship Experience

I am Puerto Rican. Period. This is something I have always been extremely proud of. I like knowing where my roots are, where I come from, so I have a good sense of where I am going. In fact, one of the reasons why I became involved with Raíces was because I couldn’t bear that there was an entire Cuban generation, and their children and grandchildren, in exile; Cuban or not Cuban, I had to do something. While I had grown up playing with dinosaurs and remote control cars (believe me, I wasn’t very girly), some of my friends were leaving Cuba and starting anew in a foreign country. This, I couldn’t bear. It made my childhood hardships, the scraped knee, the bee stings, seem like nothing.

This summer, a very wise man told us, “You have an incredible advantage. You are the missing link, the bridge, precisely because you’re both American and Cuban.” Although I have always appreciated learning languages and being fluent in two, I refused to understand that acquiring a new language was like acquiring a new piece of a different identity; it brought you closer to that culture. Because I speak English, I feel much more comfortable in an American setting than most of my countrymen; I guess you could say I’m more “Americanized.” Does that mean I am not Puerto Rican? Not at all. I guess I just have a little bit of both. I guess two languages, two identities (and even more), can coexist in one person… I guess you can be a little bit of everything and still be true to every single component of yourself. It's okay to be American and Cuban; Cuban and Puerto Rican. And it's not just okay--it's a beautiful beautiful thing.

As Raíces is a Cuban-American nonprofit organization, I felt we needed to stay true to our Cuban roots (yes, sometimes I do refer to myself as a CubaRican). And this obviously includes having our website in our own language: Spanish! So after long hours of hard work, my fellow Fellow Rafa Delgado and I, along with Wali’s help, managed to finally introduce Raíces (officially) to the world of bilingualism. Spanish represents our beginnings. We speak it at home, with friends and family… we had to have our website represent our true essence. I also managed to assist my fellow Fellows Sasha with the planning of the Summer Blast mixer, Alfo with the new C4C box design, and Rafa with his informational campaign on opportunities for RDE members to study abroad in Spain.

These 10 weeks were extremely inspiring and fulfilling for me. I made amazing friends, who I truly consider my herman@s at heart, and got the opportunity to reconnect with already-familiar Raíces’ brothers and sisters. After 10 weeks of hard work, long (yet fun) days at the office, I decided this was my niche—whether I was Cuban or not; this is precisely where I have to be because I believe in this movement. As the newest RDE Management member, the “Ops Baby” (as I like to call myself), I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us Roots! Thank you for embracing me and allowing me to be a part of this family without even having to ask. It was truly an unforgettable summer and the beginning of a new series of adventures! I love you all!

And remember: "Cuba y Puerto Rico son de un pájaro las dos alas."

~ Karla "La Boricua"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Fellow Experience

As soon as I received the notification that I would be invited to the 2010 Roots of Hope Fellowship in the new office I knew I would be in for a great experience but I had no idea what it would entail. Looking back at my accomplishments and experiences as well as those of the other fellows, I can honestly say I made the best decision I possibly could have coming to work for Riaces. Not only did I add some value to the organization with my accomplishments, but I learned a great deal about myself in the process. The fellowship was a wonderful combination of learning, working, and socializing. Although there were some kinks and bumps along the way, considering it was the first fellowship in the history of the organization, I saw the potential Raices has to attract young, bright, and passionate minds to act.

I was originally assigned to work with the Programming Team, specifically working on the Cell Phones for Cuba project. I did commit the majority of my time to C4C but, as the other fellows would probably agree, we all would help each other with our respective tasks and projects. One of my tasks was to create a new phone collection box to meet the needs of the Gavina Coffee Company from California. So while I would be working with Karla on the design, she and I would help out Sasha with the organization of the Summer Blast including the wording of messages and the appearance of the invitation. Teamwork was a very important part of the fellowship and we relied on it considering it was only the 4 of us in the office most of the time. In addition to the box design, I organized a gathering of Raices members to help organize, catalog, and package used cell phones that had been collected in the last few months. This shipment of over 250 phones ended up giving us about $500 dollars for the C4C project. Throughout the summer I stayed in contact and helped set up pick up dates for individual donations which resulted in about 50 phones from mostly individual donations. Towards the end of the summer I was able to bring together 8 student leaders from Miami representing 6 different universities from across the country. We were able to speak with experienced members of the Raices team to formulate a list of potential projects to increase the C4C collection effort. We left the meeting with a plan to keep in contact and create a C4C resource package that would go to any university requesting the resources RDE has to offer.

During the last few weeks of the summer I inherited two new tasks both involving updating Student Network materials. The Student Network contact sheet needed renovation and reorganization to focus on students currently in college. This small project was begun in coordination with a few interns. It has yet to be completed but it is on its way. In addition, the Student Network Toolkit appeared very outdated and I was asked to begin researching other non-profit/human-rights groups for ideas on how to update the toolkit. I was able to design a rough outline of a potential new toolkit but the actual editing and input of information has not been started.

The experience as a whole was an awesome one but I definitely can point out favorite parts from the fellowship, two specifically. Probably the best and most valuable part of the fellowship was the leadership series I attended during the summer. Through this fellowship I was able to meet some of the most impressive and influential people in this community and in some cases, the world. I was able to listen to personal accounts of triumph despite uncertainty, making the American Dream a reality, and the reality of sacrifice. RDE has given me access to an incredible number of quality leaders who I would not hesitate to contact for advice.

My other favorite part of this experience was making friends with the rest of the wonderful group of fellows, as well as member of the Roots team. Rafa, Karla, and Sasha were able to contribute to the fellowship with their diverse perspectives and backgrounds. Not only did I learn from their stories and come to appreciate their input, but I gained three new friends by the end of the summer. I know we will keep in touch as we go our separate ways and it will make this summer experience even more of a lasting one.

After attending the Cornell Cuba Conference this April I was incredibly impressed with the organization’s accomplishments and plans for the future. I was amazed by their organization, how smooth the conference ran, and the number of valuable panelists they were able to bring to the conference. Leaving the fellowship this summer I remain impressed with the passionate people within the organization, the interesting supporters from all walks of life, and the huge goals Raices has. I also see the great amount of work that has to be done to keep up the awesome record. For this reason I plan to stay involved with Raices in whatever capacity I can while in college. Though I did not apply to the Student Network Director position, I will remain involved with the students at my school and those within our network outside helping to spread our influence across the country.

Thanks to all the Roots of Hope members that made this Summer Fellowship possible!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Amnesty International Calls for Urgent Action for Reina Tamayo Danger



The mother of a Cuban prisoner of conscience who died after hunger striking has been repeatedly harassed and intimidated in an attempt to stop her from organizing marches to commemorate her son's death. The next march is planned for 15 August.

Reina Luisa Tamayo is the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience who died on 22 February 2010, having spent several weeks on hunger strike whilst in prison. Since her son's death, Reina Luisa Tamayo has organized weekly marches on Sundays in the town of Barnes, Holguin Province, Cuba, to honour her son's memory.

Relatives and friends accompany Reina Luisa Tamayo on these weekly marches from her home to attend mass at the Nuestra Señora de la Caridad Church, in Barnes and from there to the cemetery where Orlando Zapata Tamayo is buried. Last Sunday, 8 August, the group reported that as soon as they tried to leave Reina Luisa Tamayo's house to start their march, they were confronted a few metres away from the house by hundreds of government supporters who blocked their way and beat some of the participants. They were pushed back to the house and followed into the house's garden. The participants tried twice more to leave the house and resume the march but they were again violently confronted by the government supporters, who stayed outside the house until late in the afternoon. According to Reina Luisa Tamayo, during all this time a police patrol was close to her house watching as the events unfolded and failing to intervene.

The group have reported how prior to 8 August, they have also been confronted by government supporters and state security officials who have gathered around Reina Luisa Tamayo's house and prevented them from marching, sometimes preventing them from reaching the church, the cemetery, or both. They have also reported how state security officials and police officers have set up check points on the routes to Reina Luisa Tamayo's house on the day prior to the march to prevent people from reaching the house and joining the march.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Spanish or your own language:

  • Calling on the authorities to ensure an immediate halt to the harassment and intimidation of Reina Luisa Tamayo by government supporters, and that of her relatives and friends and any other citizens who seek to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association;

  • Calling on the authorities to permit Reina Luisa Tamayo and others to march peacefully as is their right on Sundays.


Head of State and Government

Raúl Castro Ruz Presidente

La Habana, Cuba

Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Foreign Ministry); +1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)

Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)

Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency

Interior Minister

    General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra

Ministro del Interior y Prisiones

Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba

Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.



Additional Information

Reina Luisa Tamayo is one of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), a group of women relatives and friends of prisoners detained during a major crackdown on government critics in March 2003. In 2003, over several days, the Cuban authorities arrested 75 men and women for their peaceful expression of critical opinions of the government. They were subjected to summary trials and were sentenced to long prison terms of up to 28 years. Amnesty International declared the 75 convicted dissidents to be prisoners of conscience, 32 of them remain in prison.

Damas de Blanco organizes peaceful weekly marches in Havana where they distribute flowers and call for the release of their relatives and friends. In March 2010 Damas de Blanco organized a daily march for a week to mark the seventh anniversary of the arrest of their relatives. On 17 of March 2010, their march was forcibly broken up by Cuban police, who briefly detained several women. Some of the women claimed that they were beaten by the police.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We're calling YOU! Opening for Student Network Director

Call for Candidates: Student Network Director

Young, Dynamic, Student Leader Wanted

Raíces de Esperanza (Roots of Hope) is a national non-profit focused on empowering youth to become the authors of their own future. Our network of more than 3,200 students and young professionals across the U.S. empowers youth through community organizing, education, and leadership development initiatives.

At this time, we are seeking a Student Network Director to construct and lead a dynamic team of campus representatives from around the nation, to conduct a vital effort to invigorate and expand the Roots of Hope student network. In leading this team, the Student Network Director will serve as the point person for facilitating collaboration among student groups nation-wide and mobilizing the network for extraordinary initiatives that require large-scale support. The ideal candidate for this role will have a leadership style that empowers his/her leadership team to work together as a cohesive unit to accomplish goals and objectives collectively.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Collaboratively develop a strategic vision for a student network with a team of student leaders at campuses around the country
  • Facilitate collaboration, coordination and communication among affiliated student groups on projects and programming
  • Develop and manage practical systems to ensure communication and cooperation between campus groups and campus leaders
  • Serve on RDE's Management Team
  • Serve as the central point of contact for all RDE activities on a collegiate level and liaise between the student network and RDE's Management Team
  • Participate in one-on-one leadership trainings and coaching sessions with other leaders in Roots of Hope
  • Qualifications
  • Executive level experience leading a Cuban-American student organization or similar affinity group on a major university campus
  • Have a strong, established network of Cuban-American student leaders throughout the country
  • Possess a wealth of knowledge of the Cuban context
  • Exhibit a commitment to developing a culture of collaboration and trust
  • Be a self-starter with an entrepreneurial spirit
  • Experience or high interest in strategic team management, including motivation and accountability
  • Demonstrate a desire to enhance leadership and team-building skills
  • Character reflects the core values of Raices: Hope, Dignity, Humility, Compassion and Smart Passion
  • Professionally Bilingual - English and Spanish

How to apply
Please send your resume and cover letter to the Search Committee at: sndsearch@raicesdeeesperanza.org


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

¡¡C4C llega con fuerza a Madrid!!

Hace unos días, y gracias a las gestiones del Vicerrector de Alumnos Alfonso Martínez-Echevarría, la Universidad CEU San Pablo de Madrid aprobó la instalación de urnas recolectoras de teléfonos celulares en sus facultades, iniciándose así la andadura de Cell Phones for Cuba en España.

La idea es reunir durante todo el curso lectivo 2010/2011 un buen número de teléfonos celulares entre la comunidad universitaria de una institución que cuenta con cerca de 7.000 estudiantes. Estas unidades serán recicladas y con el dinero obtenido la delegación española de Raíces conseguirá teléfonos válidos en Cuba que se harán llegar a jóvenes isleños.

Además del CEU, varias asociaciones universitarias españolas han comprometido su apoyo en el proyecto y difundirán la iniciativa entre sus redes estudiantiles. Gracias a ello, la delegación española de Raíces y C4C tendrán la oportunidad a partir de este invierno de participar en coloquios, charlas y debates juveniles, donde podremos exponer nuestra labor.

Por otro lado, Miguel Cruz, responsable del proyecto C4C, participará el próximo noviembre en el XII Congreso Internacional Católicos y Vida Pública (CCVP). Este evento, organizado por la Universidad CEU San Pablo, reúne cada año a católicos de todo el mundo que destacan por su vocación de servicio público. En el CCVP de 2010 habrá una presencia muy relevante de cubanos, pues además de Miguel tomarán parte Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, coordinador del Movimiento Cristiano de Liberación de Cuba, y Alejandro González Raga, periodista cubano y ex preso de conciencia. Alejandro reside actualmente en Madrid como exiliado y sus hijos forman parte de la delegación de Raíces de Esperanza en España.

Junto a los cubanos, participarán en el Congreso dirigentes políticos, directores de medios de comunicación, varios rectores Universitarios, académicos y líderes sociales llegados desde Europa, África y América. Se tratará de una oportunidad única para promocionar C4C a nivel internacional.

Por otro lado, hemos cerrado con la Universidad CEU San Pablo un acuerdo marco que facilitará que miembros de Raíces vayan a estudiar a Madrid, ya sea un curso de su carrera universitaria, ya sea en verano para la Summer University de la institución.

Con la colaboración de la compañera Karla Vergara y el equipo de comunicaciones estamos empezando a elaborar una campaña informativa interna para que los miembros de Raíces conozcan las posibilidades de estudio en España.