New School News

Milano Professor Channels Social Change with “Black and Cuba”


Pundits talk about a post-racial society, but what would it take for America to become such a place? “Black and Cuba,” a new documentary film by New School professor Robin Hayes, shows us a possible way to get there. As a Yale graduate student in 2002, Hayes and nine of her peers traveled to Cuba for two weeks to document the effects of the 1953 revolution on race relations on the small communist island.

What they brought back was a renewed faith in the ability of social movements to instigate change and an appreciation of the benefits of a strong state welfare system. A rough cut of “Black and Cuba” will be screened in Tunis, Tunisia on Friday at this year’s World Social Forum, an annual meeting of advocates and nongovernmental organizations to push for a more cohesive global civil society.

“Many of us don’t think of Cuba as being a black country, but it’s 60% black,” said Hayes, who is now producing the film. “We don’t realize what’s gone into that. The revolution provided a safety net that led to the decline of inequality and with that racial segregation.”

Struggling to channel study of the civil rights movement into continued tangible change in their own community, the Yale students saw the Cuban experience as an example. “We were asking ourselves, ‘What kinds of change should we be working for’ and the answer we saw in Cuba was increased job opportunities, universal health care, expanded access to education.” For Hayes, the most important step in seeing these changes reproduced is a greater representation of people of color in all industries, something that can be addressed through education.

Completion of “Black and Cuba” is slated for 2014, just in time for the 2014 film festival circuit. To watch a trailer from the documentary, click here.

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