2017 Cuba Retreat

2017 Cuba Retreat (17th Annual Retreat) January 26-30, 2017

Havana, a mix of past and present, freedom and restrictions, is alive with new energy and ingenuity.

Vintage classic american car in Havana, Cuba

THU JAN 26 –  MON JAN 30, 2017  Following the inspiring and educational Atlanta Retreat, we are thrilled about how fantastic the Cuba Retreat was for everyone! The Lonely Planet describes Cuba to be “like a prince in a poor man’s coat; behind the sometimes shabby facades, gold dust lingers. It’s these rich dichotomies that make travel here the exciting, exhilarating roller-coaster ride it is. Trapped in a time warp and reeling from an economic embargo that has grated for more than half a century, this is a country where you can wave goodbye to Western certainties and expect the unexpected. If Cuba were a book, it would be James Joyce’s Ulysses; layered, hard to grasp, serially misunderstood, but – above all – a classic.” Along with it’s rich history, Cuba has an abundance of music, art, and culture.

Please check out the amazing Program we had for Cuba.

WHEN: Thursday, January 26 through Monday, January 30, 2017

CUBA RETREAT COMMITTEE MEMBERS: Co-Chairs: Marilu Kernan, Maureen Strahan ; Committee:  Mary Abraham, Rebecca Boenigk, Jodi Bond, Trudy Coxe, Jill Kanin Lovers, Kathleen Mason, Carmen Mora, Pamela O’Rourke, Batia Plotch, Teresa Ressel,  Theo Schwabacher, Annette Taddeo

PLANNER: Leslie Dube

WHERE: Havana, Cuba

Have questions about traveling to Cuba? Click here for Q&A Document!

Event Recap by Mary Ann Peters

This has been a fabulous Grove retreat, nourishment for our minds and souls.  We have been given many ideas, to know, to remember and to do.

Under “Things to Know”, here’s a quiz Jeopardy-style.  Remember to answer in the form of a question!

(Click the plus sign in the right of the box for the answer)

This is the number of MOUs or agreements signed between the U.S. and Cuba since normalization began.

The largest supplier of food to Cuba (in spite of the embargo).

Now for some “Ocean Jeopardy.

These are the rainforests of the ocean.

These are the apex predators of the reef.

Here’s one that we should all know.

This was Hemingway’s favorite drink.

And for those who did the business track:

This is the preferred wood for making humidors.


We also learned that scarcity is the mother of innovation and how to cultivate new ideas with a team, about the unique challenges for small business in Cuba, about bold new ideas like floating cell towers and   so much more.

We will all take away different memories but some to cherish include the magic of the cathedral square at night, a photo shoot with two prima ballerinas in a time-warp mansion, cocktails at the historic U.S. ambassador’s residence, the stunning architecture of old Havana , back to the 50’s in a Ford Fairlane convertible  ( or other vintage car), music and art filling our senses –and first sip of that first mojito every evening (or afternoon).

And there are things we can do with what we learned.

–We can let our elected representative know our views on the future direction of the U.S- -Cuba relationship, whatever those might be.

–We can read about the secret diplomacy with Cuba that took place unbeknownst to the public over many years.

–We can stop eating grouper, especially goliath grouper.

— We can read Sandy’s handout and learn to spot possible victims of human trafficking.

–We can test our own implicit bias and learn to spot implicit bias around us.

— When faced with adversity we can construct safe places for ourselves and use our networks—including the Grove of course — for support and healing.

We learned above all that the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is not a simple one.

So when I say, “No es sencillo”, you say , “ES COMPLICADO!”

On behalf of all of us, thanks to the committee, including Maureen Strahan,  who could not be here, to Jill Kanin-Lovers, who stepped up like a champ, and of course to Marilu Kernan, who led planning for and execution of the retreat. And thanks to all the day chairs, ribbon-givers, complaint receivers and those Jill calls the DBs (designated bitches) who kept us more or less on time. Thanks to Leslie Dube and to Christina and of course deep thanks as always to Susan Stautberg whose vision has enriched all of our lives in so many ways.

More from the Panelists!



Our newest film, I AM JANE DOE, opens theatrically on February 10 in select cities. In Massachusetts, we are screening at the AMC Framingham 16. We would be delighted if you would take everyone you know to the theater opening weekend.

Online ticketing is available now via AMC or Fandango.

ABOUT THE FILM: I AM JANE DOE, narrated by Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain, chronicles the epic battle that several American mothers are waging on behalf of their middle-school daughters, victims of sex trafficking on Backpage.com, the adult classifieds section that for years was part of the iconic Village Voice.  Reminiscent of Erin Brockovich and Karen Silkwood, these mothers have stood up on behalf of thousands of other mothers, fighting back and refusing to take no for an answer.



50 % of all profits are being donated to organizations which serve Jane Doe children

Who Your Donation Helped

Donations were made to Juan Blandino elementary located in Regla, Cuba.

In 1999 Richmond CA officially established a friendship relationship with Regla Cuba along the lines of Eisenhower’s sister city program. The pairing of these two towns led to the first exchange of diplomats and dignitaries on the west coast between the two countries since 1959.  Richmond is an impoverished refinery town nestled on the San Francisco bay with a large Afro-American population and is riddled with gun violence and drug dealing.  Regla has a large Afro-Cuban population and is a refinery town located on Havana harbor. Regla is free of gun violence and hard drug abuse. Over 90% of the children in Regla complete secondary education and many go on to higher education; in Richmond the high-school graduation rates are traditionally in the 50-60% range. Of note, the dads in Regla are almost always involved in their kids lives. This in not the case in Richmond.

Laura Kanin-Peck spent most of her long career working in inner city Richmond (West Contra Costa Unified School District), usually in very difficult schools. She learned about the successes of Cuban education with like populations and established a sister school relationship between Cesar Chavez elementary in Richmond and Juan Blandino elementary in Regla. In 2003 she led an educator’s group of 58 people, mostly teachers, to visit Juan Blandino.  What the group witnissed was a school in a working class neighborhood with an engaged student body, with teachers devoted to their students. There was no divide between black and white students. Computer science is made available to all students. Although Cuba is officially non-religious, Regla, originally a slave depot, remains a center of Santeria (West African religion). This is reflected in the proliferation of Afro-Cuban folkloric dance, routinely performed by the children of Regla in school and in their famous dance troop “Las Guarachitas de Regla”. In short the Cubans have discovered a formula for success with a population very much like that in inner-city U.S.  This success is exemplified at Juan Blandino elementary.

Laura’s group was greeted with a tour, dance performances, and most importantly observation by the Richmond teachers of each of the classrooms at the school. The Richmond group came with generous donations of much needed school supplies. Laura is remembered to this day by the faculty at Juan Blandino.

Cuba 2017 Poem by Leigh Martin

Belizean Grove – Cuba 2017

I volunteered for this poem

As my rookie hazing

No shortage of material

You all are amazing

Like the woman doctor

Painting that highway line

We trailblaze

Not content to ride the pine

We immersed ourselves in

Healthcare, art, and education

Economics, gender, and

Reef deterioration

For innovation, scarcity is the

Mother of invention

For human trafficking, education

The only prevention

So here we traffic in ideas

Here we traffic in love

Here we stop to dance

Under the stars above

Then with minds refreshed

And pedicures glossy

We rode on buses hearing

Jokes about a…posse1

From restored paladars

To stalling 50s cars

We danced in the rain

And. Shut. Down. Each. Bar!

(we drank our fair share

of this vitamin R)

We were told that we’d learn

But not necessarily understand

To accept the contradictions

Of this rapidly changing land

Es complicado

Es complicado

Pero no es complicado

Cuando tenemos machango!2

To all you Stressed-out Ladies

Unwinding Together

I’m honored to call you S.L.U.T.s3

My sisters forever.

Long Live the Grove!

Long Live Cuba!


1 Ask Grace to tell you this one

2 Poet’s interpretation of the celebratory word Canela de Cuba was singing; dancing mandatory

3 © Susan Stautberg, opening remarks


An Epic Poem in Honor of the Magic Tara Pants
By Naomi McDougall Jones
On the occasion of passing them to a new Tara (in absentia)

It’s been almost a year now since first I was swept

As if off to Narnia, on a cruise ship we left;

Away from the world of mere mortals we drove

Into the singular paradise of the Belizean Grove


Impossible to translate to anyone not present

The caliber… nay quality… nay kindness of the tenants.

All female, all impressive, all peculiar in extraordinary ways

I knew very soon that now I would yearn to know them the rest

Of my days.


Then Edie sang “Cruising”; then we danced ‘til the dawn;

Then our minds were exploded by the panels we spoke on;

The pajama parties happened; tears and love were exchanged;

Susan said, “Go deep and fast,” far and wide the topics ranged.


An outsider all my life, as so many there said they’d been,

Here at long last was a group, that I badly wanted in.

We dined and drank (and drank and drank), gamboling ‘neath a glitt’ring sky

I was given these pants, a magical token, and my life gained

A new kind of



For after we disembarked and flew back from whence we’d come

Our time in the Grove was hard to believe; it was easy to feel

somewhat glum;

For how to explain that my mind and my heart and my dreams had

Swung open?

But they had. I was different. I couldn’t return. A new time in my life

Had just broken.


And after the days and the months had gone by and I lacked like an ache for the Grove.

In my drawer I could find, on my legs I could wear, silly pants, but

In truth: a treasure trove.

Slip them on and the memories and magic flood back, a wonderful

Secret you’ve got

(And through some form of witchcraft, I swear that they do, also, somehow

Make your booty look damn hot).


So although I’m at Neverville and not there in Cuba to pass sacred

Pants on their way

I’m sending this poem, an additional charm, bringing sorcery all year and


You’re in the Grove now, baby, and, although I am new, I can tell

You your life has just changed.

Signed, with love, your new sister. Now all I can say is get ready

For something wonderful (and strange).


Enjoy them J

With love,


January 26, Pre-Event Information

In Miami on the morning of January 26 before we departed for Cuba, it was a pleasure to to have Alexandra Villoch, President and Publisher of Miami Herald Media Co. join us for a Conversation With Alexandra Villoch (click here for her bio).

Event Agenda

Click here to view the Cuba Itinerary.