Barbadian social and human rights activist, lawyer and Pan-Africanist David Comissiong has been awarded a Medal of Friendship by Cuba for his work in support of the Cuban Revolution and its principles.
He received the award, granted by Cuba’s Council of State, from President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) Kenya Serrano in Havana.
Comissiong is a founding member of the Cuba-Barbados Friendship Association and is the current Coordinator of the Caribbean Chapter of the International Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Activists in Defence of Humanity. He met on several occasions with the now late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and has been a tireless promoter of unity between the two countries, as well as integration among Caribbean nations, ICAP said.
Vice president of ICAP Fernando González emphasized Comissiong’s solidarity with the Cuban people as they waged several battles, including the fight against terrorism and the half-century-old United States embargo of Cuba; the effort to return Cuban boy Elián González to his father in Cuba during the much publicized immigration battle with the child’s relatives in Miami in 2000; and the freedom of the Cuban Five – Cuban intelligence officers who were arrested in September 1998 and later convicted in Miami of conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, acting as an agent of a foreign government, and other illegal activities in the US.
González, one of the Cuban Five, referred to Comissiong’s relentless actions to strengthen ties between the Barbadian and Cuban people through educational, cultural and other projects with ICAP.
He also recalled the visit of Castro to Barbados in 1998 for the Emancipation March, where Comissiong shared the podium with the Cuban revolutionary leader and delivered a speech that was later published in his book, The Wide Streets of Tomorrow: Essays & Speeches on Barbados, the Caribbean, and the African Diaspora.
González stressed that Comissiong’s family also shared his love for Cuba. His wife Sally, also a lawyer, is a member of the solidarity movement with Cuba, as well as his daughters and son, one of whom graduated from university in Cuba.
In accepting the award, Comissiong told of meeting Castro in the early 1990s and telling him: “I do not speak to you just as a Barbadian, but as a black person, as an African man, and the first thing I want to say is that I want to thank Cuba for what it did in Africa.”
“Then he thanked me and he referred to what the governments of Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago did when they jointly decided in 1972 to tighten ties with Havana in defiance of the United States,” the Barbadian recalled.
Comissiong noted the deep connection between Barbados and Cuba, saying that many important things that have been done in his country in its 50 years of independence were due to its relationship with Cuba.
“We love Cuba and for us to express solidarity means not only doing something for Cuba but also for ourselves,” said the main man behind the creation of the new Caribbean Chapter of the Network in Defence of Humanity which was launched in Barbados in October 2015.
“In this world full of negativity and decadence, Cuba stands as a beacon of hope, noble values, humanity and human feelings. So it has a huge responsibility in this world, but we also know that the Cuban people are strong, of great spirit, and if we work and fight together we will get that better world that is possible.”
(Photos by: Karoly Emerson)