Adios to Lucius Walker Jr. in Harlem

by Bill Hackwell

Funeral service for Lucius Walker Jr., Covenant Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. Photo: Bill Hackwell

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 18 — Funeral services for social crusader Reverend Lucius Walker Jr., 80, a longtime friend of Cuba, took place on Friday in the filled-to-capacity Covenant Baptist Church in Harlem.

Hundreds of people came from all over the country to pay tribute to this extraordinary fighter for the rights of poor and working people, and who was also a figure that stood firmly against many injustices committed by the US government abroad.

The cornerstone of his work over the last 20 years was his solidarity with Cuba practiced through the IFCO Pastors for Peace Cuba Friendshipment Caravans. There have been 21 US caravans to Cuba that have delivered more than 3,000 tons of humanitarian aid.

However, Walker´s rich history of struggle began during the civil rights movement, and it should also be noted that the Pastors for Peace organization has sent dozens of caravans to struggling, predominantly indigenous communities in Chiapas, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Lucius Walker Jr. in Seattle 1999. Photo: Bill Hackwell

Lucius’ body was in a simple pine casket surrounded by many large floral arrangements, including one from the Cuba Mission to the UN and one personally from Fidel Castro.

Those who came to bid farewell to him were a highly diverse group of different ages, races and religious beliefs.  Most had worked with Lucius on at least one of the Pastors for Peace projects, including many who directly took part in the caravans. The people who are the backbone of the caravans, the ones who drove the trucks and buses with aid, answered the phones, set up the meetings, those who carried bibles and bicycles with Lucius across the border on the first caravan, as well as the people who fasted with him to get computers and yellow school buses released to Cuba. Participants of every caravan were there at the church.

A man who had cooked meals for the caravans for years in the border town of McCallen Texas flew in from Los Angeles was present as were scores of religious leaders from different faiths as well as the entire spectrum of people from the US progressive movement. And of course the entire IFCO / Pastors for Peace staff sat together in honor of their leader. Members of the congregation of the Salvation Baptist Church in Brooklyn, where Lucius preached every Sunday, also turned out in numbers.

Lucius Walker Jr. with the Pastors for Peace Caravan. Buffalo, NY in 1995. Photo: Bill Hackwell

For the past 10 years, a special project of Lucius has been to recruit and support students from low-income US communities to study at the Havana-based Latin American School of Medicine. Currently there are 125 students from the US enrolled and 47 have graduated.

Twenty of those graduates made their way to the funeral, including several who had just returned from working with Cuban medical teams in Haiti. They noted that Lucius had always urged them to be revolutionary doctors and to serve as active agents for social change.

Ofelia Ortega, a Presbyterian theologian and co-president of the World Council of Churches, spoke on behalf of the Cuban people, thanking the Walker family for being such essential supporters of Lucius’ for so many years in his tireless and passionate work on Cuba.

Lucius Walker Jr. at the office of the late Sen. Jesse Helms in 1995. Photo: Bill Hackwell

She delivered greetings from Raul and Fidel Castro, and especially from all the Cuban children who have enjoyed the benefits of the pastor´s peace caravans.  She compared him to Cuban national hero Jose Marti, who called upon people to wage a campaign of tenderness, which is what Lucius did in such an exemplary fashion.

Also present at the funeral service was Cuban Ambassador to the UN, Pedro Nuñez Mosquera; former US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark, New York City Councilman Charles Barron; the Nicaraguan Ambassador to the UN, Maria Eugenia Rubiales de Chamorro; Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition; Jane Franklin, a writer on Cuba affairs; and Alicia Jrapko, coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five; as well as number of other personalities.

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