The Oxi Day Foundation delivered on Thursday the Oxi Award for Courage 2021 to Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), imprisoned since July 11 as a result of the protests on the island.
The award was also awarded to the Afghan leader Zarifa Ghafari, who was forced to flee Afghanistan with her family after the Taliban took over the country. She is currently a refugee in Germany.
The Cuban-American Senator Bob Menéndez was in charge of making the presentation of the recognition to Otero Alcántara. Said during the ceremony that as the son of Cuban refugees who came to the United States in search of freedom, he was moved by the award of the award to the young man.
“For years Luis Manuel has led a campaign against the Cuban dictatorship with his fellow artists in the San Isidro Movement and they have positioned themselves in favor of freedom of expression, democratic values and an end to the repression that the Cuban people have faced for seven decades.“, said Menéndez, who recognized that the MSI had a great impact on the panti-government rotestas of 11J.
“Unfortunately, tonight Luis Manuel cannot join us in accepting this award. Tonight he is in a Cuban cell, as a political prisoner of dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel and a cowardly regime that fears its own citizens. Tonight, Luis Manuel Otero’s courage, indomitable spirit and leadership continue to inspire, and we know he never gives up“he declared.
MSI members Claudia Genlui, Otero Alcántara’s partner, and the poet and activist Amaury Pacheco also took part in the ceremony virtually.
The Professor Anamely Ramos, who received the award given to Otero Alcántara, made a summary of the work of the artist and activist.
In Cuba “the totalitarian structure hinders independent and alternative spaces and shows you a path from the moment you are born: defend the revolution. In the midst of so much rigidity Luis Manuel made his way with his talent, sympathy and a lot of will. He became an artist, despite not studying at any school. He was able to overcome his disadvantageous circumstances (black, from a neighborhood, from a humble family) and become a benchmark in Cuban art and in the history of freedom in Cuba “, he considered.
For the MSI activist, “the most important thing” is that Otero Alcántara “broke many cycles of violence, personal and group, and only with the power that creation gave him and the greatest courage of all: believing in art and in people to change destiny. ”
He presented the winner as “that child who made sculptures of sticks and strips in his hands, generating beauty, where others only saw poverty and impossibility.”
“It is the same with Cuba, beyond the 800 political prisoners, of summary trials without defense, where you can be sentenced to six years for going out with a sign on the street, where people go on hunger strikes as a last resort to defend rights, where activists are fenced off in their own homes for months, where people prefer to cross the sea or the borders in order to flee. Beyond all that, Luis envisions the future that we will build together: a Cuba with everyone and for the good of all“, settled.
The Oxi Day Prize is awarded each year to a man and a woman from anywhere in the world who have taken courageous actions in defense of freedom and democracy.
Otero Alcántara was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2021. “His life, behavior and expression as a whole are so powerful that they can resist the aesthetic and ethical degeneration of authoritarianism. Art takes courage, which it has repeatedly shown,” said Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei.
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Cuban activist Anamely Ramos receives the Oxi Award for Courage awarded to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara