We are writing to share a unique opportunity to help support the work of Afro-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando. Her latest documentary, Sisters of the Heart, now in production, presents the little known story of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, a Black Catholic order that, since 1829, has educated poor children of African descent from Cuba to Haiti, New Orleans, Baltimore, New York and Costa Rica, as well as in Minneapolis and St. Paul where the order had schools at St. Peter Claver and at the Church of St. Leonard of Port Maurice.
Gloria Rolando’s work has been screened at many film festivals and garnered numerous awards. Her films are familiar to many in the Twin Cities where the Minnesota Cuba Committee, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and numerous educational institutions have shown her work, including 1912, Breaking the Silence, Reembarque (“Reshipment”) and Dialogue with my Grandmother.
Gloria is currently at the Oblate headquarters in Baltimore Maryland working on Sisters of the Heart. The story has a very personal connection for Gloria because her mother attended an Oblates mission school in Havana in the 1940s, one of the few educational opportunities for children of African descent before the Cuban Revolution.
Interviews with the sisters as well as with former students and their descendants in the United States and Cuba will be included in this powerful documentary. An important element of Gloria’s pioneering body of work is to recover a little known history that portrays the heroism, resilience and spirit of African descendants in Cuba and the Americas. She explains more about the inspiration for the film here.
Because of the importance of her work as an independent Cuban filmmaker, the Minnesota Cuba Committee has joined with other supporters around the U.S. to raise funds for her current project. We’ve undertaken this effort because ICAIC, the national Cuban film institute is only able to finance a limited number of films and many Cuban filmmakers must now partner with non-Cuban entities to do their work, The need to assist Gloria’s work is immediate as well as long-term since supporters have only raised a portion of the estimated $4,000 she needs for her work in Baltimore.
If you can help, please make your check to Minnesota Cuba Committee with “Gloria Rolando fund” in the memo line and send it to the Minnesota Cuba Committee at PO Box 600481, 1425 Minnehaha Avenue East, St. Paul, MN 55106.
If you would like your donation to be tax deductible, you can send it to the Caribbean American Children’s Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, and indicate that it is a donation for Gloria Rolando. Alberto Jones, the director of the fund, asks that donors join the foundation with a $25 membership fee. Information on sending donations that way can be found here.
Whatever support you can lend to this important project will be much appreciated. If you donate, we will send you regular updates about the progress of this documentary, and you will receive an invitation to a special donor reception that will take place in Minnesota with Gloria after the film is complete.
We are thrilled that Gloria is bringing us another film as she continues to document the Afro-Cuban experience. Please contact us at MNCuba@gmail.com or 612-367-6134 for further information.
Minnesota Cuba CommitteeBlack cuban families
A Necessary Introduction
My name is Gloria Victoria Rolando Casamayor. I am an Afrocuban filmmaker and a resident of Havana, Cuba. Since the year 1991, I have been creating and publishing a series of documentaries that I have called “Histories and Images of Our People” (with information on AfroCubaWeb). All of my work is related to the Afro-Cuban experience.
In Cuba, as in other countries of the African diaspora, many blacks do not know their own history because in mainstream education this legacy is intentionally submerged in the past. We have been given versions that omit our true voices. This lack of knowledge, these deficiencies lead to a lack of pride. As a result of this process, we ourselves are complicit in accepting the stereotypes that we are presented by the tourism industry. This too is happening in Cuba.
However, when we view the chapters that reveal the most authentic passages, when the leadership of blacks is central, it illuminates the past and creates a commitment with the present, because our people can more clearly lack of pride.
I have worked very hard all of these years to bring to light episodes that are inconvenient for the official history as in the case of “1912, Breaking the silence” – the history of the Independents of Color in the beginning of the 20th century and the massacre they were subjected to in that year (PIC: The Party of the Independents of Color).
Each chapter of “Histories and Images of Our People” plats a seed in the consciousness, mobilizing the minds of viewers within and outside of Cuba. Since 1991, I have taken more than 20 trips to the United States and have had the opportunity to present my work in universities and cultural centers across this country.
The most recent documentary “Dialogue with My Grandmother” (ICAIC, 2016, GRAND PRIZE CARACOL of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba) has been widely accepted because it is a tribute to all the women of the African Diaspora who with great courage, dignity and spiritual strength have been and are the fundamental pillar of our families.
Through my documentaries I am contributing to the debate around themyth of racial harmony . I am talking about the myth of racial harmony that the Republic has never achieved and I am presenting a solid path, which is compelling because it relates to every day life, the history of the black family and its origins, its struggles. This analysis in the Cuban context is effective because it awakens people’s spirit through stories and accounts with which they can identify because what I put in my films are the stories of the people. This is the goal of the project that I would like to present.
Below I have described more in detail the aspects of the project and ways to get involved with the documentary. Also, below you will find a link to an interview about the film (We will have these available on Vimeo) . Thank you very much for your consideration and your time.
Cuba and the United States: a passing fad?
Currently, many people are talking about the new relations between Cuba and the United States. Two countries of the American continent, separated by a difference in politics. For more than 50 years they were separated by their way of conceiving their own model of state and society.
Talking about Cuba, going to Cuba is becoming fashionable and the tourist industry of on the island celebrates this opportunity for interchanges that will undoubtedly be for the benefit of the country’s economy. But as an artist, as a producer in the audiovisual world, as a person committed to certain passages in the history of Cuba related to Afro-Cubans, I know perfectly well that those relationships, those bridges forged by anonymous heroes and heroines who are the ones who constitute the people tend to be forgotten.
The histories of the two countries have many points in common. Especially those events related to the descendants of Africans. More than transcendental dates and political decisions, our people, throughout time, have done their part, building their own bridges.
I am not attempting to create an inventory of these contacts and events, but I do want to bring them to those who are going to collaborate in my project, whose only aim is to follow a chain of human relations that have made history.
Cuban leaders such as Antonio Maceo, Jose Marti, and others lived in the United States. Among the Cuban tobacco farmers who lived in Tampa and Cayo Hueso, many were black. They were part of the legend that forged with their hands the independence of Cuba. The “Buffalo Soldiers” fought for the freedom of Cuba. In music, both countries found support for Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie. It would be a very long list and it is not necessary to name them all. I only want to find a space, to help to construct a bridge that permits me to raise the forgotten voices. We are in the decade of the African descendants proclaimed by UNESCO and each project of this nature that is approved and is funded is an act of affirmative action. This does not deal with a passing fad, this deals with justice and re-vindication
TItle of the Documentary
“Sisters of the Heart”
(Memories of the Oblate Sister of Providence
in the US and Cuba)
(No. 1 and No. 2)
Script and Direction
Gloria Rolando (CUBA)
email: gloria_AT_icaic.cu [ _AT_ = @]
(537) 867 69 36
(537) 862 79 04
The documentary project “Sisters of the Heart” is conceived of in two chapters. The first chapter recounts the origins of the Oblate Sisters of Providence and the other is dedicated to the work of the Oblates in Cuba. It is important to maintain this structure because the historical information is rich and fascinating.
For example, in the first part the audience will see information about the events that originated in the Haitian Revolution at the end of the 18th century: these produced a large wave of French emigrants, mulatos, free blacks, and slaves. In the Island of Cuba, especially in the eastern zone (Santiago de Cuba), the famous French coffee plantations were developed in the mountainous regions. However, the blacks and free mulatos also represent a very important social and cultural nucleus. In this context appears the family of Elizabeth Clarisse Lange, who would later become Mother Mary Lange, founder of The Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1829. To speak of these facts, we are going to rely on the voices of the historians from Santiago de Cuba who have specialized in the area of French-Haitian emigration in this area.
The year 1809 is very important in this first chapter. The French, and all of those who had arrived from Haiti, were expelled from Cuba by the Spanish government. It produced an unexpected avalanche towards the United States: New Orleans, Baltimore, Charleston, Philadelphia, etc. This tragic and complex historical process will be explained through interviews with historians from Cuba and the United States. In this way we can contribute to the understanding of something monumental that marks the life of the American continent. This is what explains the arrival of Elizabeth Clarisse Lange in Baltimore. And not only her arrival, but the arrival of many men and woman who created the foundations of Catholicism in the African American community of the 1820s, a time marked by slavery. And when we talk of New Orleans, we cannot forget the figure of Henriette Delille, founder of the order of black nuns, the Sisters of the Holy Family, in the year 1851.
Testimony from surviving Oblate students and their descendants in the US will be important in portraying the kind of education that was also brought to Cuba.
The second chapter will be dedicated to the presence of the Oblate sisters of Providence in the Island of Cuba. The arrival of The Order and its schools took place at the beginning of the 20th century. Then Mother Mary Lange had already passed, but the work continued with the same essential goal: the education of girls and adolescents,
In Cuba, poverty had grown in the countryside and the cities as a consequence of the thirty-year war for Independence. As they had in the United States, the Oblates of Providence dedicated themselves to the protection and education of young black women, a forgotten and vulnerable section of the post-slavery society. The schools, established in various provinces of Cuba (Habana, Matanzas, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, las Villas), promoted a foundation of general education in line with the Catholic Church. They helped their students prepare themselves for home and professional life. These black nuns were very well-known, loved and respected.
Central to this chapter will be a group of former students in Cuba. They fill in the gaps of memory. Time has passed, many have grayed, but they have not forgotten. Their personal anecdotes and photos form part of a memory and an image completely forgotten in Cuba today. But there must be justice. For this reason, I want to do this project that talks of the dignity and the struggle of these black Cuban families to educate their daughters at the beginning of the 20th century.
The closing of their schools in Cuba with the arrival of the revolution of 1959 was painful. We have anecdotes of this process which we will include; however, the most important thing is to remember, to highlight that they have a very special place in the history of education in Cuba. Young Afro-Cubans and others, who due to their age did not live through this experience, have the right to know who the Sisters of the Heart were.
Director and script writer for the project
Carmen Rosa Durán
Director of Production
Forthcoming: a section on how you can get involved.
Gloria Rolando can be reached at gloria_AT_icaic.cu (replace _AT_ with @)