At SF Black Film Festival, new doc sheds light on race in Cuba

‘Black and Cuba’ screens at San Francisco Black Film Festival Friday, June 13, 2 p.m., at the Jazz Heritage Center (at Yoshi’s), 1320 Fillmore St., San Francisco

San Francisco – An enthusiastic crowd is anticipated at the San Francisco premiere of the documentary film “Black and Cuba” this Friday, June 13. Directed by Robin J. Hayes, PhD, a professor and human rights advocate, the documentary follows diverse Ivy League students as they band together and take a field trip to the enigmatic island of Cuba. The controversial Caribbean nation’s population is approximately 60 percent Black.

Harlem-Chorus-Lineszy-Lorraine-Reynolds-narrates-‘Black-and-Cuba’-web, At SF Black Film Festival, new doc sheds light on race in Cuba, Culture Currents
The “Harlem Chorus,” composed of Lineszy, Lorraine and Reynolds, narrates the new film, “Black and Cuba.” – Photo: Black and Cuba/Progressive Pupil

“The diversity of the Black community is a source of strength,” says Hayes, who is African American. “For too long, the contributions of Caribbean and Afro-Latino communities have been made invisible in our history. ‘Black and Cuba’ changes that.”

With gritty scenes of Afro-Cuban life and narration performed by a trio billed as the “Harlem Chorus,” “Black and Cuba” explores why the U.S. and Cuba are not yet post-racial or colorblind. The students’ encounters with rappers, housing project residents and youth show that struggles with racial stereotypes, employment discrimination and racial profiling continue in Cuba and the United States.

In archival footage, “Black and Cuba” features historical figures including Fidel Castro, Angela Davis, Che Guevara and Malcolm X. The longstanding connections between African Americans and Cuba are highlighted. The documentary also discusses the continued impact of the decades old U.S. embargo of the island.

“The U.S. Embargo against Cuba has been detrimental to the human rights of both Cubans and Americans,” says Kathryn Striffolino of Amnesty International USA, who appears in the film. “It’s an incredibly antiquated policy.”

The screening is part of the 16th annual San Francisco Black Film Festival (SFBFF) and will take place at Yoshi’s in the historic Fillmore neighborhood. SFBFF “identifies filmmakers, screenwriters and actors … who are contributing to the cinematic legacy of African Americans” and expands the notions of “Black filmmaking” to a global perspective, according to its website,