The Boston premiere of “Humor from my Pen,” an exhibit of 32 political cartoons that illustrate the wit, humor and dignity of Gerardo Hernández, opened with a kick off reception of 80 people on March 15th. The exhibit, on display at Arts at the Armory in Somerville, MA is sponsored by The July 26th Coalition and the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. Both groups were buoyed by the turnout and enthusiasm.
Nalda Vigezzi, a co-chair of the National Network On Cuba, welcomed everyone to the reception and introduced the speakers.
Local poet Richard Cambridge opened the short program by sharing one of his poems about our neighbor Cuba. Richard is an award winning poet and co-founder of Singing with the Enemy, a troupe of poets, musicians and performance artists which brought awareness of the devastating effects of the United States’ economic blockade on the people of Cuba. His poem set the mood of friendship for the evening.
Michael Avery, former President of the National Lawyers Guild and counsel of record on one of the 12 amicus briefs filed on behalf of the Five in 2009 before the US Supreme Court, read a moving solidarity statement by Gerardo, who is serving two life sentences in Victorville, CA:
“Someone once said that “humor liberates” ( …and if nobody said that, I will say it now…) and for me it is something that “gets us out” for at least a few moments from behind the walls where we have been unjustly imprisoned for almost 15 years. …
On behalf of all of us I want to thank you for being here today and for the solidarity that it represents in our struggle for justice. We know that the key to our inevitable freedom lives in that solidarity that continues to grow world wide.”
Nancy Kohn, a local activist with the International Committee, then presented a short overview of the history and significance of the Cuban Five. She encouraged people to become involved in the movement demanding that president Obama free the Five and invited everyone to join the activities in Washington DC from May 30 to June 5.
The gallery then became crowded as people experienced each cartoon, many of which illustrate Gerardo’s love for his homeland and pride in Cuba’s ability to withstand decades of attacks from the U.S. A repeated theme was the sheer hypocrisy of the U.S. war on terror.
Arts at the Armory visitors included people who had never heard of the Cuban Five and had their eyes opened through the artwork of Gerardo. Many took the time to write short messages of solidarity to Gerardo which will be sent to him at Victorville Penitentiary. The display will be in the gallery until March 23rd when it will move to Hartford, Ct.
The exhibit has already generated publicity in local English and Spanish language media.
Arts at the Armory hosts a busy Winter Farmers’ Market each Saturday in the performance hall next to the gallery. Many shoppers stopped in to see the cartoons and asked about the artist. Bringing the story of the Five to such large new audiences energized the organizers in Boston. It also made Gerardo’s situation and humanity more tangible.