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Lectures on Multiculturalism 2004


Rev. Suarez: The Role of Nonviolence, Antipoverty Initiatives, and Liberation Theology in the Cuban Revolution
Date: Tuesday, Feb 10, 2004
Time: 7:00-9:00pm
Press Release Page

Speical Notice:

We regret to announce, Rev. Raul Suarez was denied a visa by the
State Department to visit the United States. See news report from Providence Journal

This year’s program is specially dedicated to Rev. Suarez who was not able to come due to the denial of visa at the U.S. embassy in Cuba.

Replacing Rev. Suarez for the Annual Lecture will be Dr. Miren Uriarte from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Professor of Human Services & Rev. Lucius Walker, Executive Director, Pastors for Peace.

Rev. Raul Suarez. Executive Director of the Martin Luther King Memorial Center and Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Havana, Cuba and an official of the Cuban government will deliver the University of Rhode Island’s Tenth Annual Lecture on Multiculturalism titled ” The Role of Nonviolence, Antipoverty Initiative, and Liberation Theology in the Cuban Revolution” on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 at 7:00pm in Chafee Auditorium, Kingston, RI.

A prominent theologian, activist and government official, Rev. Suarez is well known throughout South America and the Caribbean as arguably Cuba’s foremost advocate of liberation theology. Its origin credited to the speeches and writings of Gabriel Gutierrez of Peru during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s liberation theology focuses on the role of the Church and the example of Christ in liberating the poor (as well as the elites) from the poverty of powerlessness by eliminating structural inequalities in the social political and economic process; from the poverty of inauthenticity by developing heightened individual, community, and spiritual consciousness through social engagement; and from the poverty of sin by restoring all members of society into harmony with each other and communion with God, thereby realizing the kingdom of God on earth.

Three major milestones in the ministry of Rev. Suarez were attained upon his assumption of the stewardship of Ebenezer Baptist Church and the initiation of a church dialogue with the Cuban government in 1971. The founding of the Martin Luther King Memorial Center in 1987 and his selection as Representative in the Cuban National Assembly, the legislative branch of government, in 1991 his tenure at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Marianas, a predominantly black and poor community, has resulted in the conversion in demographics from predominantly white to predominantly black. His presence in the National Assembly has given a greater voice to a civil rights agenda, including opposition to capital punishment. But his most important legacy is the work of the Martin Luther King Memorial Center, profoundly influenced by the theology and social activism of the African-American civil rights leader. An ecumenical organization established on the principles of Christian Liberation theology, the King Center offers programs under four rubrics: (1) popular education, emphasizing strategies for community organization and development; (2) community service, centering on housing, the elderly and low-income communities. (3) social and theological study and research, promoting cooperation and collaboration within the religious community in Cuba and in Latin America; and (4) international solidarity, establishing links to centers, religious groups, and non-governmental organizations around the world. The work of the King Center is largely supported by international non-government organizations in the United States, Canada, and Europe, such as Oxfam and Pastors for Peace. Under the umbrella of the King Center, Rev. Suarez has also founded Caminos: A Social Theological Review, to which he is a frequent contributor.

Initiated by the University of Rhode Island Multicultural Center, the Annual Lectures on Multiculturalism seek to promote strategies that encourage individuals, organizations, and groups to develop global ways of knowing, global building of relationships, and global problem solving. Previous speaker in this series have been bell hooks, the nation’s leading black cultural critic (1995). Christopher Edley, Harvard professor of law and legal counsel to President Clinton (1996). Alvin Poussaint, Harvard psychiatrist and child studies researcher (1997). Cornel West, then Harvard professor of African-American Studies (1998); Lani Guinier, Harvard professor of law (1999); Robin D. G.. Kelley, one of the nation’s outstanding social historians and a scholar of hip hop culture (2000); Patricia J. Williams (2001), Columbia Law professor and a pioneer of critical-race theory; Bob Moses, SNCC civil-rights pioneer and founder of the groundbreaking Algebra Project (2002); Paul Gilroy, Yale sociology and African-American British cultural studies (2003).

Though he has visited the United States in 1997 and 1999 on diplomatic mission without incident, Rev. Suarez may be refused a visa for travel to the United States. Under current State Department regulations, members of the Cuban government are generally prohibited from traveling to the United States. If he is unable to secure visa approval, Rev. Suarez will deliver the lecture via videotape.

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