By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
DES MOINES, Iowa, Sept. 26, 2018 — For more than 30 years, public officials, individuals and groups in Iowa have been advocating for better U.S. relations, trade and tourism with the neighboring island nation of Cuba.
That effort will be explored and renewed on Sunday, Oct. 7, with an afternoon forum “Why Cuba matters to Iowa” at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Des Moines.
The event is being coordinated by Plymouth’s 5-year-old “Cuba Partnership Team,” which established a “sister church” relationship with Ebenezer Baptist Church in Havana 18 months ago, and which has sponsored three other informational forums about Cuba.
One of the buses a Plymouth Church delegation used while on a visit to Cuba in spring 2017.
“This will be an afternoon of first hand descriptions of Cuban life and the affects of the U.S.-led blockade on the economies of both of our countries,” said Mark Doherty, co-chairperson of Plymouth’s Cuba Partnership Team.
He noted that since last April, Cuba has been led by a new president Miguel Diaz-Canel, and that perhaps there is a better chance now for improving relations between the countries.
The Oct. 7 program will be a feature of Plymouth’s observation of World Communion Sunday, and is open to the general public as well as all Plymouth members.
The keynote speaker will be Rev. Stan Dotson, a Cuba scholar, pastor, musician, tour guide and exceptional storyteller.
Rev. Stan Dotson directing the attention of Plymouth Church members on a visit to Revolution Square in Havana. Left to right around Dotson are Mark Doherty, Sheena Thomas and Neil Fagan.
Dotson, 56, a North Carolinian who currently serves as associate pastor of the progressive First Baptist Church in Matanzas, Cuba, will be spending the weekend at Plymouth, doing the scripture readings at services and performing with the church’s “Saturday Night Band.”
The Sunday afternoon forum, which will be held in Waveland Hall at the church, will begin with a Cuban lunch, catered by Ceviche restaurant from Des Moines’ East Village, at 1 p.m. The cost is $10 per person and tickets are now being sold after all Plymouth services, or you can arrange to get a ticket by calling the church office at (515) 255-3149.
The program, which is free, begins at 1:20 p.m. with Plymouth’s Rev. Valerie Miller-Coleman speaking briefly about the “sister church” relationship with Ebenezer Baptist Church in Havana.
Dotson will speak at 1:30. His address is made possible by a grant from the Plymouth Church Foundation.
Rev. Stan Dotson in a discussion in April, 2017, with noted Cuban religious leader Rev. Raul Suarez, also a longtime member of the National Assembly in Cuba.
At 2:15, the discussion will turn to the trade potential with Cuba for Iowa and U.S. farmers, as well as for ag businesses, with a presentation by Iowa Farm Bureau Federation president Craig Hill and Dave Miller, Farm Bureau’s director of research and commodity services.
At 2:45, Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, will speak on that Chamber of Commerce-affiliated umbrella organization’s longtime advocacy for lifting the U.S. government’s embargo of Cuba and starting normal trade and travel. The partnership has been involved in at least three tours of Cuba by Iowa business leaders in the last 15 years.
At 3:15 p.m., the day’s speakers will join together for a panel discussion. The group will conduct a Q&A session with the audience, and follow-up conversations are welcome afterward.
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