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LGBT Lives in Contemporary Cuba

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September 15, 2012

Program Locations:

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Langston Hughes Auditorium

Although Cuba has made major advances in LGBT rights in recent years, homophobia remains a problematic human rights issue. A panel of scholars, writers, and activists, featuring Jafari Allen, Emilio Bejel, Mabel Cuesta, Ignacio Estrada, Leannes Imbert, and Achy Obejas, will discuss continuing challenges.

Jafari Sinclaire Allen (Ph.D., Columbia) is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies at Yale University. Professor Allen works at the intersections of queer sexuality, gender and blackness. A recipient of fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council Sexuality Research Program, and Rockefeller Foundation [Diasporic Racisms Project]; he teaches courses on the cultural politics of race, sexuality and gender in Black diasporas; Black feminist and queer theory; critical cultural studies; ethnographic methodology and writing; subjectivity, consciousness and resistance; Cuba and the Caribbean. Dr. Allen is the author of the critical ethnography, ¡Venceremos?: The Erotics of Black Self-Making in Cuba [Perverse Modernities series of Duke University Press, Fall 2011], and editor of Black/Queer/Diaspora– a special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies.
 
Emilio Bejel, poet, critic, and narrator, was born in Cuba, and has lived in the United States since the 1960s. He received his Ph.D. in Spanish and Spanish American literature from Florida State University (Tallahassee). In 1997 he was a member of the jury for the Casa de las Américas Literary Prize. He has published several books of literary and cultural criticism, among them Gay Cuban Nation, as well as several poetry collections. He has also published three versions of an autobiographical narrative: The Write Way Home. A Cuban-American Story (translated into English by Professor Stephen Clark), El horizonte de mi Piel (in Spanish), and O Horizonte da Minha Pele (in Portuguese). His latest scholarly book, José Martí: Images of Memory and Mourning, has been released by Palgrave Macmillan in September, 2012.
 
Mabel Cuesta is a Cuban born essayist and writer. Her education was completed amongst University of Havana (Cuba), University Complutense of Madrid (Spain) and The Graduate Center, City University of New York (United States). Cuesta has also dedicated a big deal of her professional career to teaching Latin American Literature, Literary Theory and Spanish Language. Her research focuses on Spanish Caribbean female authors, both in their homelands and abroad as well as in LGBT topics. She has published several peer reviewed articles in Cuba, United States, Canada, Brazil, Honduras, Colombia, Spain and Mexico. She is currently an Assistant Professor of US Latino/a and Caribbean Literatures at the Hispanic Studies Department of University of Houston.
 
Ignacio Estrada Cepero is the Executive Director of the Cuban Alliance Against AIDS.
  
Leannes Imbert Acosta is an independent journalist with CUBANET and holds a degree in Special Education. In 2007 she founded the Cuban Movement for Homosexual Liberation (MCLH), which became the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Observatory (LGBT OBCUD). Leading this organization, she has conducted campaigns to demand and promote the right to freedom of sexual orientation and the civil rights of the LGBT people. She organized the first Gay Pride March held in Cuba in 2011, the first "Coming Out" march, and founded, together with other LGBT and Human Rights activists, the Cuban LGBT Platform (LGBT PLAC). Despite strong repression from the Cuban government,  she continues many projects such as: a critical investigation of  UMAP (Military Units to Aid Production, created in Cuba in the early 1960s), and the Truth and Memory project, aimed at exposing the crimes and abuses that have been perpetrated against LGBT people in Cuba over the past 50 years.
 
Achy Obejas is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Ruins (Akashic Books, 2009), Days of Awe (Random House, 2001) and two other books of fiction. Her poetry chapbook, This is What Happened in Our Other Life (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2007), was both a critical favorite and a best-seller. She edited and translated, into English, Havana Noir (Akashic Books, 2007), a collection of crime stories by Cuban writers on and off the island. Her translation, into Spanish, of Junot Díaz’ The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead, 2009)/ La Breve y Maravillosa Vida de Óscar Wao (Vintage/Mondadori) was a finalist for Spain’s Esther Benítez Translation Prize from the national translator’s association. She is a member of the Editorial Board of In These Times, the editorial advisory board of the Great Books Foundation, and a blogger for WBEZ.org.


Initial funding of the LGBT initiative provided by Time Warner Inc., with additional support from M.A.C. AIDS Fund, Arcus Foundation, and Friends of the LGBT Initiative.

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