Award-Winning Features Writer, Editor, Columnist
& Commentator

Gregory Clay Header


Author: Gregory Clay

WASHINGTON ---- An honor guard trio of men dressed in regal uniforms and sporting stern facial expressions delicately manipulated taut rope-cords as a red-white-and-blue flag reached its zenith atop a flagpole on Monday. Then a sun-baked delegation of ladies and gentlemen joyously sang the Cuban national anthem in front of a gated mansion on 16th Street, about 2.5 miles north of the White House.

With that pomp-and-circumstance on a 95-degree day in Washington D.C., Cuba was open for diplomatic relations and international business with the United States for the first time since 1961. The Cuban flag, designed in alternating blue-and-white stripes with one star dotted on a red equilateral triangular chevron covering its left-hand side, flew atop the newly opened Cuban embassy at 10:36 a.m. Eastern time.

Hundreds of celebratory onlookers, with many chanting “Viva Cuba,” lined the path along 16th Street, a key thoroughfare in Washington, between Fuller and Euclid Streets and across the way from the consulate of Mexico. As the flag rose higher and higher on the metal pole, an eclectic crowd cheered louder and louder.

A crowd that was almost boisterous in tone as the flag reached its once-improbable perch on the grounds of the Cuban embassy, which is flanked by the embassies of Lithuania and Poland, and is housed in a building that once was the domain of Switzerland.

That domain changed on a day when water bottles were plentiful and opinions were ubiquitous as Cuba found the spotlight in D.C.

Juan Carlos Perez, a late 20-ish first-generation Cuban living in Washington, said Monday was a glorious and welcomed change for him, though a bit bittersweet. “I’m for this,” he said proudly. “But my grandfather was a political prisoner in Cuba. He died there.”

One woman eagerly carried a sign featuring just one all-caps word, “FINALLY.”

Other signs were inscribed with pro-Cuba-U.S. relations messages, such as, “Cuba Salsa Si, Embargo No” and “Welcome Cuba, End the Blockade Now.” A young woman who admitted Monday was her first day of work at, a female-led human rights advocacy group, zestfully showcased this inscription: “U.S. Y Cuba Amistad Siempre”, or in translation . . . United States and Cuba, Always Friends.

A cluster of black Cuban-Americans that gathered on the sidewalk played percussion instruments and sang Cuban songs as they rejoiced in the glory of the flag-raising.

One of them exulted, “God bless Obama.”

It was President Barack Obama who announced from the White House, in December, a restoration of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States. At the time, Obama stated on national television, “We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez led a delegation of about 30 people from the Caribbean island nation of approximately 11 million. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson and Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, paced the U.S. delegation. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, also was present for Monday’s event, which featured a strong law-enforcement presence.

At 10:54 a.m., the U.S. national anthem “Star-Spangled Banner” was played as a phalanx of television cameras from numerous U.S. networks from Washington to Miami (CNN and Telemundo) and internationally from Turkey to Japan captured the highlights of the ceremony.

More than 65 percent of the U.S. Cuban-American population of 1.8 million lives in Florida, with nearly 900,000 living in Miami-Dade County, according to The Miami Herald.

Though an overwhelming majority of the attentive observers seemed to cheer the festivities, a handful dissented.

One middle-aged white Cuban-American woman from Maryland displayed a sign with the inscription, “Freedom for Political Prisoners,” and adamantly explained, “No, I’m not happy today. This isn’t good for the Cuban people. The only people who benefit from this is the Cuban government.”

Asked what would make her happy in the relationship, she responded, “When the communism ends; we need free elections in Cuba.”

On Jan. 3, 1961, outgoing U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the closing of the U.S. embassy in Havana and severed all diplomatic relations with Cuba. The move came after the newbie Fidel Castro regime asked the United States to reduce its embassy staff. As accusations went back and forth --- Fidel Castro accused the U.S. of harboring embassy spies while the U.S. charged Cuba with an unwarranted promotion of Soviet-backed communism in the western hemisphere --- the two countries’ relationship declined to the point of no relations.

Interject the United States’ failed attempt to overthrow the Castro government in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the uber-tense Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which almost provoked a nuclear holocaust, a full-fledged Cold War was in the offing. Both events occurred during President John F. Kennedy’s administration.

Said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a Washington non-profit organization advocating improved relations between the nations: “As embassies in Washington and Havana open today, we begin a new chapter of engagement between our two countries. American diplomats will now be much better equipped to engage with the Cuban people and civil society. They will be in a stronger position to elevate issues of concern, like human rights, as well as expanding on areas of cooperation with Cuba.”

Likewise, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to travel to Havana next month for a U.S. flag-raising ceremony on Aug. 14. That occurrence will mark the first time a secretary of state has made an official visit to Cuba since 1945.

Eloy, a 63-year-old black Cuban who moved to the United States in 1980, offered a steep sense of optimism.

“I think people in Cuba will be helped by this,” he said as he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his passport with the inscription “Republica de Cuba,” embossed on the front. Eloy lives within walking distance of the embassy.

A staunch dissenter, Francisca, a woman of Cuban descent born in the United States, countered this way as she spiritedly screamed “Traitors” while holding a sign that read, “One Day Cuba Will Be Free”: “I’m very disappointed in the U.S. government. We’ve seen an increase in the number of political prisoners in Cuba since the announcement. We’ve seen an increase in the violence against pro-democracy protesters.”

However, freelance food-and-restaurant photographer Scott Suchman, a white American who lives two blocks from the Cuban embassy, reflected a very vocal majority on this day, while coolly smoking a Cuban cigar, in saying, “I think it’s great. (The flag ceremony) abolished this relic of the Cold War. I’m excited. It’s great to see that flag up there. It’s a huge leap forward for Cuba.”

An enormous undertaking of symbolism and reality on a hot, humid and happening day in the nation’s capital.

And add another adjective to this mix . . . that is, historic.



Freedom Summer Of Hope In 1964
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
The Ku Klux Klan, the most vile domestic terrorist organization of the 1960s, accosted three civil rights workers while they were driving near Philadelphia, Miss. The workers’ offense: trying to register southern black folk to vote and leading boycotts of segregated establishments. READ MORE

What about ‘Black Privilege’
By: Gregory Clay
We’ve been hearing a lot about the “P” word lately. It’s called “Privilege.” We’ve heard about White Privilege, Athletes Privilege, Educational Legacy Privilege, Presidential Privilege . . . . . Well, what about “Black Privilege.” The privilege to riot. We saw the out-of-control stepfather of Michael Brown screaming maniacally, “Burn This Bitch Down,” on Nov. 24 in riot-and-loot-torn Ferguson, Mo., three days before Thanksgiving

The Book of Cosby
By: Gregory Clay
It almost came tumbling down . . . . . .
for Bill Cosby, that is. The year was 1965. Cosby had been cast in NBC-TV’s new prime-time drama “I Spy.” Except there was one problem: Cosby couldn’t act. The network wanted him gone. But Sheldon Leonard, the show’s acclaimed executive producer, aimed to salvage Cosby, who at the time was known moreso for being a popular stand-up comedian.... READ MORE

No Video Means No Outrage
By: Gregory Clay
It happened several years ago on Bill Maher’s late-night network talk show, “Politically Incorrect.” Rapper-actor-so-called activist Ice Cube essentially surmised during the panel: NFL players are violent on the field so don’t expect them to be... READ MORE

Taping Richard Nixon
By: Gregory Clay
Marvin Kalb, moderator of the anniversary panel and elite CBS News diplomatic correspondent in the 1960s and '70s, posed the question this way: “Why are we so fascinated with Richard Nixon --- even 40 years later?” Perhaps it’s the negativity that the former president conjures up by the mere mention of his name. READ MORE

Choosing Sides In Ferguson
By: Gregory Clay
The year was 2007, a few days after former Washington Redskins defensive back Sean Taylor was murdered on Nov. 27. I hopped into a cab at 14th and F streets, downtown Washington D.C. The cab driver originally was from Reidsville, N.C. We were discussing the hottest topic in the nation's capital at that time --- the killing of Taylor by four black teenagers.. READ MORE

Why Black Neighborhoods Don't Need Police
By: Gregory Clay
Hard choices. And we’re not talking about Hillary Clinton's political aspirations here. These choices relate to Ferguson, Mo., a town of 21,000 that has become a case study in Third World anarchy in a western civilization following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.. READ MORE

Don Lemon and Bill O’Reilly told the truth
Journal Sentinel
There was an attack this past weekend. No, not with bullets and guns, but with angry, vengeful words. But with angry, vengeful words. Don Lemon, a news anchorman for CNN, issued what he hailed as "No Talking Points" on five ills that plague much of the black community. READ MORE

O.J. Simpson: 10 Years After The Verdict
The Augusta Chronicle, October 3, 2005
The tension was palpable. The anxiety was immense. The date was Oct. 3, 1995. The time was 1:07 p.m. EDT. That's when the court clerk announced Orenthal James Simpson was found "not guilty." It's been 10 years since that Tuesday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom; has it really been that long already? READ MORE

The City's A'Changin'
McClatchy-Tribune Wire Special Sections, July 2, 2012
WASHINGTON - It's a four-minute bus ride. That's all. It takes four minutes in the heart of Washington to see night and day, a city of stark contrast. We're talking neighborhoods here. Like many major cities, the nation's capital is defined by "pockets." READ MORE

A timeline of civil rights anniversaries from 1963
McClatchy Tribune, August 21, 2013
The date is when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his game-changing "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He started speaking at 3:01 that afternoon for 16 minutes. Timeless ... The year 1963 was a landmark time during the era of the civil rights movement. Here we are, remarkably, 50 years later. READ MORE

Sheryl Sandberg effect – Lean In or Lean Out
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Sheryl Sandberg created a national firestorm earlier this year when she said women should “Lean In” aggressively to maximize their careers. The $64,000 question, though, is how realistic is that for most women? Not every woman is like Sandberg, who is the Harvard-educated chief operating officer for Facebook. READ MORE

Guest opinion: Journalist Aynesworth has covered historic day for 50 years
Originally published November 22, 2013, Billings Gazette
The conspiracy theories are endless. They seem to multiply like locusts. Just who REALLY was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy? READ MORE

The Five Phases of B.J. Thomas - and the 'Raindrops'
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
The year was 1969. What was the "it" list? The upstart New York Jets shocked the world by rocking the vaunted Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. READ MORE

Making Their Marks - Historical and Cultural Contributions of Black Women
Prospectus News
Most of us know prominent black women in Hollywood - from Cicely Tyson to Halle Berry to Kerry Washington. We know superstar black athletes, such as the tennis-playing Williams sisters, and we remember bronze medalwinning figure skater Debi Thomas from the momentous Calgary Winter Olympics of 1988. READ MORE



Supreme Court, Trump travel ban, civility in politics

CBS-Army vs Navy Football Introduction

Gregory Clay On The O'Reilly Factor

Tax reform, North Korea, sexual misconduct.

What is

Sexual assault victim carries a mattress.

Blacks in the Winter Olympics

Although few Black Olympians take part in the Winter Olympics, several brought back medals to their home countries. Season 2014

Guest appearance on the Geraldo Talk Show

Watch More Gregory Clay Videos



The Daily Drum Reporters Roundtable - 7-23-14


Dionne Warwick - I Say A Little Prayer For You

Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush -Don't Give Up

Sounds Of Blackness - Chains


© 2017 Gregory Clay. All Rights Reserved.


Website Design By:

Listen Live Call +1 202-629-1365 Call +1 202-629-1365 Gregory Clay Facebook Gregory Clay Twitter Gregory Clay Linked In Gregory Clay Wordpress