Fred Mark, also known as Cuya Kemet, died of a stroke May 25, 2021, after a long illness.
He was such a stalwart Marxist that he organized study groups in his adopted Baltimore to read together classics like The Communist Manifesto, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, and V.I. Lenin’s Imperialism. Mark served for several years as manager of the New Era Bookshop, a Marxist book store that sold progressive and left-wing books, pamphlets, and newspapers.
Yet Cuya Kemet was no armchair radical observing the class struggle from a safe distance. If hospital workers were on strike, he joined the picket lines of his favorite union, Hospital & Healthcare Local 1199B, later SEIU Local 1199. He was an active member of the Baltimore Free Angela Davis Committee and the National Anti-imperialist Movement in Solidarity with South Africa. He joined a vigil in front of a BP service station protesting the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
He was also a member of the Communist Party USA, joining when he lived in Washington, D.C., and transferring to the Northeast Community Club when he moved to Baltimore. He served as Educational Secretary of the club. He was devoted to the Cuban Revolution, the speeches and writings of Fidel Castro, and the struggle to end the U.S. embargo. He listened regularly to Radio Havana broadcasts on his shortwave radio.
In the recent period, before his illness in the fall of 2020, as new, young members were joining the Communist Party in Baltimore, Cuya firmly advocated a Marxist-Leninist understanding of history and current events. He spoke often of the invaluable role of both Cuba and the Soviet Union in the anti-imperialist struggles of the recent period and of the USSR’s socialist legacy.
Fred Mark, Cuya Kemet, was born in Munich, St. Andrews, Grenada, Feb. 11, 1952. In his youth, he was an active member of the New Jewel Movement (NJM), distributing the NJM newspaper, risking his life, since the fascist regime of Eric Gairy had clamped a terrorist dictatorship on the entire Caribbean island.
Members of the Mongoose Gang roamed the island, attacking and murdering opponents of the Gairy regime. It came to a head when these terrorists attacked a mass rally, killing several, shooting to death a youth leader, Alistair Strachan. Fred’s father determined that his son’s life was in danger, and he must leave Grenada. He was 22 when he left Grenada in 1974. Fred flew to Montreal, Canada, where he lived several years before moving to Washington, D.C., and a life devoted to the struggle.
Margaret Baldridge, a friend and comrade, interviewed Fred last year. He told her about his youth in Grenada and his deep allegiance to the people’s revolution that toppled the Gairy regime on March 30, 1979. “For three-and-a-half years, the People’s Revolutionary Government did tremendous things for the small working class and peasantry of Grenada,” Mark said. “The PRG was close to the unions, especially the Seamen’s Union and the Waterfront union…. Youth also played a central role…. A lot of people looked up to little Grenada.” He paid special tribute to Maurice Bishop, leader of the PRG. The PRG government was overthrown by an ultra-left faction described by Fidel Castro as a “Pol Pot” cult, referring to the Maoist sect that seized power in Cambodia in the 1970s murdering a million people.
As for President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 invasion of Grenada, Fred Mark described it as a “shameful, calculated, heartless act of racism and white supremacy.”
Grenadian Senator Chester Humphrey has released a moving YouTube tribute to Fred Mark. “He was completely selfless, completely dedicated,” Sen. Humphrey declared. “I cherish the moments I spent together with him in the movement, and I mourn his passing.”
Humphrey recalled working together with Fred Mark in the movement against apartheid in South Africa, “leading the charge” to demand that the Barclays Bank terminate its investments in South Africa. Barclays did indeed end up terminating those investments, a victory in the powerful “divestment” movement that ultimately toppled the apartheid regime.
More recently, Humphrey added, Fred Mark joined in the Black Lives Matter drive to end the scourge of unarmed African Americans “dying at the hands of white police officers in the United States,” like Freddie Gray, who was murdered by Baltimore police officers.
Fred Mark is survived by his brothers J.T., Nesfield, Banfield, Bernard, and Hamlet Mark. His sister, Avis Mark, lives in Grenada. His brother, Nery, died several years ago. Other survivors include sister-in-law Pat Mark, niece Kayleen Mark, nephew Larry Mark, and many other relatives. A celebration of Fred Mark’s life is being planned.