Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika: Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez

If being a writer implies sensitivity to the complex reality of human existence, then how can one not seek to end the conditions that suffocate all but a tiny number of those who walk this earth?

— Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez

Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez has influenced the thinking and the actions of generations of scholars and community activists. She provides intellectual understanding, leadership and direction to struggles against racism, sexism, antiimmigrant bias, and in support of social justice and peace. Betita is a master connector, bringing communities and individuals together and insisting that we recognize the profound connection between all humanity.

It was a night in Cuba that will live forever in the recesses of Betita's memory. In August 1967, she had traveled from Havana to an island south of mainland Cuba called the Isle of Youth. Prior to the revolution this island was the site where Fidel Castro had been imprisoned for attempting to overthrow the Batista regime. The island had never been developed economically, until the idea emerged during the revolution to develop it as a giant youth project. In 1967 some 60 camps were set up for young people to plant, cultivate and harvest crops, and raise cattle. Betita spent two weeks there with about 400 young women between the ages of 14 and 20. They were daughters of urban working-class people who had historically been very marginal in prerevolutionary Cuba. One night the director of the camp called the young women together in a huge courtyard to tell them about regulations that were to govern their activities at the camp. During the presentation she stated that one of the young women, Cusa, was being expelled from the camp for some unspecified reason. Cusa had asked for a second chance. In response to her request, the director threw the question open to the other young women. They all shouted "Yes!" Then they started playing music and singing the Internationale. The young women formed circles, holding hands and dancing and singing. Suddenly, as if by some invisible signal, they all rushed forward, forming a giant circle. They then rushed back, expanding the circle, then forward again. They did this repeatedly. Betita was overwhelmed by the poignancy of the young women expressing their solidarity with Cusa, the revolution and the spirit of unity. The moment called forth something deep within her to live up to that level of commitment to peace, justice and equality for the rest of her life.

War Times-Tiempo de Guerras Institute for Multi-Racial Justice Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement