Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cuban-born musician writes Obama after invite for White House performance is withdrawn

Cuban-born musician writes Obama after invite for White House
performance is withdrawn

Multiple Grammy-Award winner Paquito D'Rivera has penned a letter to
President Barack Obama questioning whether the decision to "veto" his
participation in an upcoming performance at the White House is due to
his stance against the Castro regime, now that relations between Cuba
and the United States have been restored.

In the letter dated April 11, 2016, D'Rivera — who has previously played
at the White House — says he fears that his exclusion is the result of
his long-standing stance against oppression in his native Cuba, that he
is concerned the decision was made without the Obama's knowledge and as
a form of manipulation by the Cuban government and that as a citizen of
a free nation he feels a duty to bring the matter to the attention of
the most powerful man on Earth.

Here is the full text of the letter.

Dear Mr. President:

A few months ago, the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute informed me
that they had proposed that I participate in International Jazz Day, an
event organized by UNESCO that will take place at the White House on
April 30th, and will have you, Mr. President, and First Lady Michelle
Obama, as hosts. This concert will feature many loved and admired
colleagues of mine such as Chick Corea, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Heath,
Dave Holland, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Christian McBride, John
McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Sting, and
even my former Cuba-based colleague Chucho Valdés. I was delighted and
put the rehearsal schedule and dates on my calendar.

I regarded this invitation as recognition of my contribution to American
culture that, throughout the years, has earned me the appointment as NEA
Jazz Master, honorary doctorates from Berklee School of Music and
University of Pennsylvania, , Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend, and the
Presidential Medal of the Arts, among other awards. So imagine my
surprise when, a couple of days ago, I received a phone call from the
Monk Institute informing me, without any further details, that my
participation did not pass the vetting process by the White House. That
is all the information that was given.


If the matter at heart here were my cultural contribution to Jazz and
American culture, I wouldn't take the time to write you this letter, Mr.
President. I have played the White House before. However, I fear that
this "not passing the vetting process" may have to do with my
decades-long vocal position against the dictatorship that oppresses
Cuba, my country of birth, and my support of human rights and democratic
values that you defended so well a few weeks ago in Havana. This
wouldn't be the first time that I have suffered discrimination
instigated by the Cuban dictatorship, due to my democratic convictions,
even in the United States. And still, this occasion strikes me as
particularly troublesome, given that it is an event in which you, Mr.
President, will be the host. You, who just a few days ago defended in my
native-land the principle that "citizens should be free to speak their
mind without fear, to organize and to criticize their government and to
protest peacefully," and praised the accomplishments of the Cuban exile,
of which I am a proud member.

Mr. President, I write to you because it concerns me that your genuine
goodwill gestures towards the Cuban people could be understood as a call
to be complacent towards the demands of the dictatorship that oppresses
it; that these gestures may be taken as a pretext to marginalize, even
on American soil, Cuban exiles who defend the right of the Cuban people
to express freely and to decide their destiny democratically. It is
telling (and I pray that I'm wrong) that if the Cuban regime is willing
to exert this level of spite and pressure against a public figure in
another country — and not just any other country, but the United States
— one can only imagine the level of impunity with which the Castro
regime acts against Cuban private citizens at home.

It concerns me, that if this is an act of political discrimination
against me, it will take place in your house — which is the house of all
Americans, given its symbolic weight. It concerns me because it is
easier to bear individual discrimination against my person — no matter
how painful and humiliating it may be — than the idea that in the name
of coexistence with other governments, regardless of their repressive
nature, there will be a violation of the basic principles of free speech
that so many generations of Americans have fought for over centuries —
principles that are a model and a beacon of hope for a considerable part
of humankind.

I suppose that this decision to "veto" my presence was made without your
knowledge, but my exclusion from the show will be made public. It is my
civic duty as a citizen to warn you that even an event celebrating a
musical genre that embodies the aspiration of freedom could be used
precisely to do the opposite. Because of my respect towards you — which
has only increased recently due to your performance in my native country
— I believe it is my duty to inform you that your status as host is
possibly being manipulated by the very people who deny the very
principles that allowed you to become the President of this country, and
which allow me to address the most powerful man on Earth with absolute
freedom and without fearing repercussions.

Most respectfully,

Paquito D'Rivera

Source: Cuban-born musician writes Obama after invite for White House
performance is withdrawn | In Cuba Today -

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