Cuban American National Foundation on Jay Z and Beyonce Visiting Cuba

MIAMI – Jay Z and Beyonce’s recent visit to Cuba has garnered much attention to the island, but leaves much to be desired. The celebrity couple, having risen to stardom and global acclaim, is the epitome of the American Dream. They have taken full advantage of the freedoms and opportunities they have been given simply by being born in this country, and have managed to earn a prosperous life for themselves. What is more, they stand on a platform of influence and have the ability to make positive change in the world.

While the couple tour Old Havana surrounded by bodyguards and officials, they carry on a lifestyle that is unavailable to Cubans in their own country and propagate the lies of the Cuban government. Indeed, there is no such thing as freedom [of expression] in Cuba. Moreover, until January of this year, strict travel laws banned most citizens from leaving the island, and those that have recently obtained passports still face uncertain futures upon their return.

Our hope is that Beyonce and Jay Z see through the facade presented to them and use their trip and their status in the world as spokespeople for the oppressed who face daily injustices and human rights violations. Perhaps Jay Z will offer recording contracts to talented underground Cuban rappers who are not allowed to perform outside of their bedroom for fear of repression. Maybe Beyonce could shine a light on the lives of Cuban ballet dancers and relate to the outside world the story of their seven friends who recently defected to the U.S. and Mexico in order to one day become the next superstar on stage at the Super Bowl. These acts of solidarity and support for the cause would help in promoting Cuban issues in the media aside from the political rhetoric we have become so familiar with, but they would only barely put a dent in understanding and rectifying the complex struggle of 12 million people.

Unfortunately, the opportunities we are given as Americans do not hold true for people on the island they are visiting. The sad fact is that if Jay Z and Beyonce lived in Cuba, they could not have become Jay Z and Beyonce – not just because of the regime’s oppressive laws, but also because of the reality of their racial bigotry against Afro-Cubans and people of color. Ask Roberto Zurbano, an Afro-Cuban who was recently removed from his job by Cuban government officials for his March 23rd op-ed in the New York Times titled “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun.” Though different in political ideology and historic timing, one wonders if Jay Z and Beyonce would have visited Nelson Mandela in apartheid South Africa? If so, why not visit the dozens of Mandelas in Cuba being discriminated for the color of their skin?

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