In December 2014, US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, initiated a new era in Cuban-U.S. relations by announcing they would end more than 50 years of hostility and non-recognition and embark on a new course of normalized relations between the two countries. Since the announcement, both countries have developed a host of initiatives and agreements unseen since the pre-Castro era. In March 2016, President Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba in 88 years. A period of normalization seems to be quickly unfolding, but what impact will it have on Cubans of African descent? How are these rapid transformations affecting Cuban social and racial hierarchies? In the pre-Revolutionary era, US domination in Cuba exacerbated racial hierarchies on the island. But can this current process of normalization produce new possibilities for Afro-Cuban political struggle and engagement? How will the recent U.S. election disrupt the normalization process? As Cuba and the United States enter this new phase of its history, the time has come for scholars and cultural producers to intervene in these debates on in Cuba and the United States.
This one-day symposium explores how the process of normalization is affecting Afro-Cubans and ongoing struggles for racial equality on the island. The symposium features some of the pre-eminent scholars, intellectuals, and artists whose work uniquely speaks to the questions the conference seeks to address. Unlike many debates on contemporary Cuba, this symposium will place the current moment within a historical context of other critical conjunctures (1898,1933, 1959) in Cuban-U.S. relations. Columbia’s location in the heart of a number of Black diasporic and Caribbean communities makes it the ideal setting for this event.