2010 Delegation at the Malecon, Havana
The US Women and Cuba Collaboration grew from a dialogue in 2001 of women who represented the leadership of three organizations already engaged in analysis of US policy on Cuba and in bridge-building efforts with women's organizations in Cuba. These organizations were Hermanas: Sisterhood in Central America and the Caribbean (Princeton, NJ), LELO: Legacy of Equality, Leadership and Organizing (Seattle, WA), and WILPF: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (US Section, Cuba Committee).
The founders of the US Women and Cuba Collaboration wanted to go beyond what any of their organizations could accomplish individually. Cindy Domingo, Tammy James, Shad Reinstein, Sherry Rials, and Jan Strout began discussions of forming a new organization that would represent demographically and geographically diverse women's leadership, representing women from theirs and other existing organizations who had ties to Cuba, and as well to draw in and organize women not yet affiliated with Cuba work. At the time of this organizational conversation, Hermanas, LELO, and WILPF-US had a proud combined 130-year-history of crossing borders and doing the global work of forging international relations on a people-to-people basis.
From the beginning, Collaboration goals have been to effect changes in US policy toward Cuba, to pursue the work of normalizing relations with the people of Cuba, and especially to learn from the example of Cuban women and the Cuban Revolution about women's rights and racial and economic justice as a model to build a more progressive, anti-racist women's movement in the US. Since September 11, 2001, the Collaboration has also analyzed and redefined ideas of national security to call for real security based on just and peaceful relations, written fact sheets on the Right to Travel and on Reproductive Rights, edited a special Resist Fund newsletter on US-Cuba policy, contributed to the EveryWoman's Movement tabloids, appeared in Sojourner magazine, and spoken at numerous community, college, university and national and international conferences.
The Collaboration founders, with like-minded others, begin an ongoing series of women's conversations and roundtables on Cuba to generate ideas, participation and endorsements for the Collaboration, and in May, 2002, the group held a National Women's Leadership Summit on Cuba in San Marcos, Texas, at the Stonehaven Retreat. Nearly forty women attended, including four from Cuba, representing nearly twenty organizations and networks. They struggled around issues of anti-racism, leadership and direction, but they deepened relationships, participation, and their commitment to the shared goals of collaborative work.
As the Collaboration has developed, it has always worked closely with Cuban women. The Collaboration has strong ties with the FMC (the Federation of Cuban Women), Cuban women diplomats in the US and Cuba, the Cuba Interests Section in Washington, DC, Women's Studies programs at the University of Havana, the Casa de las Americas in Havana, as well as community development projects and Sister Cities throughout Cuba. They regularly sponsor Cuban women on US speaking tours so they can speak for themselves, and hold empty chairs at events when the US government has denied Cuban visitors their visas for travel to the US. They have held Cuba Film Festivals in Seattle which brought together a variety of solidarity activists, current and future travelers to Cuba, and the merely curious, for great cinema and discussion on how to change policy toward Cuba.
In 2004 the Collaboration held a Leadership Retreat in Seattle for about forty women who came from across the country representing leadership in several areas of Cuba work, including education and media, advocacy and organizing, Sister City outreach and the campaign to Free the Five. Activities since then have included local, national and international work through networking, outreach, education, legislative advocacy, media, organizing national delegations, participation in International Women's Conferences in Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba, and strategic planning retreats.
The broadly representative National Advisory Committee includes activists, artists, educators, media makers, organizers, and writers, and the Collaboration works with a wide range of national and international organizations to realize goals. In addition to the three founding organizations, groups the Collaboration currently works with, or has worked with in the course of its history, include: