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Happy Birthday Fidel

San Franciscans honor the life of the world's
longest reigning revolutionary leader

Members of Dance Brigade perform a dance ode to honor the life
of Cuban President Fidel Castro at Dance Mission Theater on Saturday.
The event was co-sponsored by Casa Cuba Resource Center.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Luke Thomas

August 14, 2006

Cuba's President Fidel Castro, the world's longest reigning leader, celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday from the confines of a hospital bed after undergoing surgery stemming from reported gastrointestinal bleeding.

In honor of Castro's achievements - a socialist revolutionary who overthrew the corrupt government of Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and led the transformation of Cuba into a one-party socialist republic - San Franciscans across the political divide paid tribute to Castro during a spectacular evening ensemble of music, song, dance and poetry, including poetic recitals from San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman.

Dance Brigade headlined the evening's lineup performing a graceful mix of dance to a rhythmic assortment of Cuban standards while archival film footage of Castro was simultaneously projected onto a 30 foot canvass screen.

Krissy Keefer, Dance Brigade co-founder and Green Party candidate for the 8th U.S. Congressional District, wrote the performance' accompanying monologue.

Krissy Keefer, co-founder of Dance Mission Theater

Keefer explained how the performance piece Happy Birthday Fidel came into being.

"The actual Dear Fidel piece was originally created last year when we did the first Cuba-Caribe festival and I did it as a tribute to Fidel Castro because Cuba and Castro were being so heavily attacked by [Secretary of State] Condoleeza Rice and the Bush administration.

"So the piece we performed tonight, Happy Birthday Fidel, was inserted to commemorate Fidel's 80th birthday, which is being celebrated around the world.

"When we asked artists to perform they clamored to the event because in San Francisco Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution have a big place in peoples hearts in terms of their social activism. They recognize the contributions of the Cuban people and Fidel have made on behalf of all the people of the world."

Jack Hirschman

by Jack Hirschman
(reproduced with permission)

The president of the other America has fallen ill
and it is his birthday. We wish him Happy
Birthday and a speedy recovery.

By the other America, we don't simply mean
his brothers and sister in Venezuela, Bolivia,
Chile, Peru, Brazil, Haiti and the like.

We mean also the 37 million people living destitute
and in misery in these disunited States, of whom
six million kids go to bed hungry every night,

while a murder machine waves the false flag of security
and makes war on the poor of the world.
What is more insecure than the empty belly of a child?

The president of the other America knows that there is
a poverty that is the wealth of the world. Viva the poverty
of Cuba that makes even the comrade on the cross applaud.

Viva the dignity of Cuba, whose island arms stretch
all the way to the equality of love that is Africa.
There is a man who has understood that life is worth

nothing if it is not free, and freedom nothing if it is not
consciousness of necessity---principled, palpable and priceless.
That is Fidel. That is fidelidad. Be well, commandante. Feliz cumpleanos.

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