The San Miguel de Allende community joins social justice activists around the world in mourning the passing of Dr Cliff DuRand, who died peacefully at home with his beloved wife Julie and their two dogs, after a short illness. Cliff leaves a huge legacy and an international reputation for his fearless, tireless and relentless efforts to create a more just and equitable world. An inspirational activist-leader, this giant of a man was a gentle and humble conversationalist; an insatiable learner; a whole-hearted and encouraging teacher; a critical thinker with a huge intellect; and a loving husband, father and grandfather.
Cliff embraced the learning curve of social justice work with the same unreserved enthusiasm he applied to the struggle itself. He was a voracious reader, a prolific writer and an articulate speaker who reveled in the heated intellectual discussions and strategy meetings of movement groups. He brought a unique blend of revolutionary (and infectious) energy and a natural ease in the company of people of all backgrounds and interests. His friends describe his "courageous humility" and abiding respect for all, which set the tone at every meeting and was returned to him in every encounter.
In the 1970s, Cliff’s interest in communism drew him to the US-China People’s Friendship Association. After several trips to the People’s Republic of China, he became the China correspondent for the National Guardian (US) newspaper where he submitted regular columns until the paper folded in the early 1990s. From his tenure at Morgan State, he hosted path-breaking conferences for the Radical Philosophy Association, Black Philosophers and the Society for Women in Philosophy, encouraging participants to present papers to each other while they learned to listen to and trust each other. In 1974, he earned his PhD in Social Philosophy at Florida State University, writing a bold dissertation on Participatory Democracy.
In 1982, Cliff made his first visit to his beloved Cuba as one of six American philosophers to attend a conference – the first in Cuba since the Revolution. Cliff returned from Cuba with an intense commitment to the liberating goals of the Cuban revolution. He channeled his energy into co-founding with Bob Stone the Radical Philosophy Association (RPA), mobilizing a membership dedicated to fighting “capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, disability discrimination, environmental ruin, and all other forms of domination.” Their efforts were – and still are – guided by the vision of a society founded on cooperation instead of competition, governed by inclusive, responsive, democratic decision-making. The RPA also provided a culture of solidarity in opposition to the mainstream forces of capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy. Cliff served as Secretary-Treasurer of RPA for 13 years.
While in Cuba, Cliff had celebrated the joyful news that he (and a group of “radical” friends) had been successful in their low-ball bid to purchase a vacant public library building in Baltimore. The building was quickly converted into the Progressive Action Center (PAC) – a locus of radical politics and a home for “The Left” for 22 years. When the building was finally sold, the proceeds were used to fund progressive activities in Baltimore. It was during the early years of the PAC that Cliff met his beloved Julie, an activist in her own right with a similar footprint of human rights work in Central America. Their instant connection was obvious to all their friends, although it took Cliff more than four years to bring Julie to the altar!
Cliff’s ties to Cuba endured his entire life. Since 1990, Cliff has organized and led annual academic trips to Cuba for the Conference of US and Cuban Philosophers and Social Scientists. Held at the University of Havana, these conferences forged personal and academic connections, and bridged the gap created by over 40 years of the US-imposed blockade. Cliff, the "Venceremos" guy, struggled to speak Spanish but communicated seamlessly across the language barrier, setting the stage for multi-national connections around issues of anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, and social justice. In 2007, he was named Professor Invitado in the Faculty of Philosophy and History at the University of Havana, honoring his twenty-five years of conferences and educational tours.
In 2004, retired from Morgan State after 40 years, Cliff moved to Mexico where he and Julie chose to make their home in San Miguel de Allende. In San Miguel, Cliff found a critical mass of adventurous expatriates, a ready audience for his passionate approach to the ongoing struggle against neoliberal global capitalism. As previously agreed in the US, he worked alongside Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone to establish the Center for Global Justice (“RPA South”) and positioned it as a center for research and learning in the Global South.
Promoting "power, not pity," Cliff threw himself into his new environment, researching and documenting; helping to organize four major annual conferences and student internships; hosting study tours to cooperatives in Mexico; and constructing panel discussions and webinars on salient issues. Besides authoring hundreds of essays and presentations, Cliff co-edited Recreating Democracy in a Globalized State (2012) and edited Moving Beyond Capitalism (2016). He was determined to understand and expose the root causes of inequality and audaciously committed to the potential for change.
Cliff was an ardent teacher, projecting a sense of excitement in constructing, producing, and sharing new knowledge. His friends and students remember his uncanny ability to see what others were missing and thus widen and deepen everyone's understanding. His fidelity to the revolutionary struggle was accompanied by his appreciation for joy in life, his unwavering hope for the struggle and persistent faith in our collective potential.
He was one of the founders of Occupy Wall Street San Miguel de Allende and helped organize and participate in weekly programs every Monday for 8½ years. Those early connections led to lasting friendships which evolved into a Friday men’s breakfast of best friends for the last eight years. As an active member of the Unitarian Universalist fellowship of San Miguel, Cliff tapped his wide-ranging social action connections to bring speakers and topics that enlivened Sunday services and educated the attendees. He served in several Board and Committee positions over several years, bringing his passion for doing “the right thing” although no one ever saw him raise his voice or show anger. When discussions became heated or emotional, he listened intently, bringing a steady balance and calming wisdom. He was active, influential and revered in the Fellowship until his passing.
Julie grieves the loss of her soulmate, her one great love, her “Little Giant.” He is survived by his brother Curtis DuRand and was the loving father to six children of three marriages: Kimberley Edwards (Daniel) and Michelle DuRand (Paul Snelgrove); Nicole DuRand and Tia DuRand (Hiro Oda); grandchildren Kina and Makai Odad; and Gina Martin and Tony Carvajal (Antoinette), along with Andres Sarda, who was like a son to Cliff. His children recall always feeling respected and valued, even when their opinions and ideas differed from his. They treasure memories of his calm wisdom and infectious laugh, their shared outdoor time, and his fierce defence of the “little guy.” His grandchildren fondly remember their “El Zopilote” for his habit of finishing the food on their plates.
Even at 85, the announcement of his death caught Cliff’s family, friends and followers off guard. He seemed ageless, “no older in 2022 than in 2001,” still walking the steep streets of Havana and San Miguel with the physical vitality of someone forty years younger. We mourn the loss of the giant among men, holding in our hearts his smile, his good humor, and his unrelenting allegiance to the cause of socialism, anti-imperialism and the right of self-determination of peoples. The world is a better place because Cliff lived.
A celebration of Cliff’s life will be held at the Aldea Hotel, Friday, April 28th at 2 PM.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Center for Global Justice www.globaljusticecenter.org
For a time
He held together
A community of fellow travelers
All on the way
To places we hoped
Would make a better humanity.
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