My grandmother, mother, and I are pictured above. Three Dominican generations.
An overwhelming feeling of IMPOTENCIA engulfed me as I watched neo-nazi groups stop not one but two Black Lives Matter peaceful protests that were supposed to take place in Santo Domingo this week in solidarity with the current protests/marches in the USA and around the world. My heart broke, as I felt a sense of collective powerlessness and realized how many of us were triggered by this on many levels. Texts from Dominican friends expressed similar words: heart-breaking, depressed, triggering, speechless, impotencia, and so on.
Different Layers of Intergenerational Dominican Trauma
Many Dominicans with such limited access to education, are more focused on putting a meal on the table than learning about decolonized Dominican history, structural racism, and its causes (a privilege in DR), and thus resort to regurgitating the same hatred whipped into us for 500+ years.
Centuries of Spanish colonization, U.S. invasions, neoliberal imperialism, US-backed dictators, and 350+ years of slavery and genocide have resulted in systematic poverty, lack of access to quality education, and internalized anti-Black sentiment/colorism. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
All of which, today has manifested into:
1) A large diaspora / human capital flight aka Brain Drain where ~15% of Dominicans live outside of DR (1.6 million) and that doesn’t include first generations born in diaspora communities. Like me- an NYC-born Dominican-American (combined 2.2 million in the U.S.)
2) Our inability to carry out a peaceful Black Lives Matter manifestación in DR. Appalling for a country with the fifth largest African diaspora!
In all this, I am personally triggered/reminded of my own Bronx Dominican upbringing, often assuming the role of a parent– the norm for firstborns in the Dominican Republic/Dominican diaspora. We are encargado with translating, EDUCATING/teaching, fixing, cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and admin work. I did all this while navigating cross-cultural clashes and the effects of the aforementioned intergenerational trauma by 9 years old. Y ESO! At least I had U.S. citizenship privilege, was going to school, and learning to read and write – a luxury which many Dominicans on the island do not have.
And when we stop to think of all these things holistically and how they connect and manifest into so many of the roadblocks we often hit today with machismo, insecurity on the island, generational anxiety, homophobia, colorism, los correasos (beating kids with belts are a remnant of racial/slavery trauma), and on and on… dripping down for generations.
Europeans brutalized their own children for thousands of years prior to crossing the Atlantic to the New World and colonizing Africa. Historians and anthropologists have found no evidence that ritualistic forms of physical discipline of children existed in precolonial West African societies prior to the Atlantic slave trade.– American Psychological Association
Throughout the week, as my Dominican friends and I navigate the distress and pain from current day events both here in NYC and in Santo Domingo… And as we painfully watch Cardi B cancel/boycott travel to the Dominican Republic (for Dominican media’s berating of her supporting SOLIDARITY between Haitians and Dominicans),
I take a moment to clench my eyes closed and manually breathe in. Asking myself:
- We are HURTING – How and where do we even begin to HEAL?
- How can many of us productively impart the privilege of our education on a less colonized history, the complexities of our cross-cultural identities, and social/racial issues today, while preserving our own mental health?
- Which pieces do we effectively unpack to those around us without disregarding the socioeconomic/cultural nuanced complexities (which Westerners often fail to see)?
Personally, I like to start with joining meet-up groups about these topics (there are so MANY in Santo Domingo), sharing historical/educational facts in conversations, setting boundaries, channeling COMPASSION (barking at people just makes them shut down), and amplifying the local voices of those doing the groundwork on the island <– this one is huge. The Dominican diaspora (and Westerners in general) often fail to connect with, support, and INCLUDE the voice of locals fighting for change on the island.
In the Dominican Republic, progressive groups are forming, growing, and working hard to cultivate forward-thinking movements (DR has one of the biggest all-natural hair revolutions in the Americas). And many local individuals are actively working to empower, educate, & delve deeper into our de-colonized history and identities. SO MANY.
“They’re scared. Look at how loud they’re barking. It means our movement is growing”
^ Ruth Pion of Junta de Prietas (who was at the first BLM protest in Santo Domingo on Tuesday morning) assures me, in an effort to assuage my frustrations.
I take a deep breath, tightly grabbing on to the faint but growing silver linings.
SUPPORT Local Dominicans Doing On-the-Ground Hard Work
One of the strongest tools for healing are connection and community. What better way to start, than to support the local Dominicans and Haitians on the ISLAND doing on-the-ground hard work.
Here are a few of many Dominican-based Instagram accounts of groups, organizations, and individuals working towards Black Lives Matter/decolonizing efforts. Many are close friends of mine who I can vouch for both personally and professionally. And many I simply connected with by showing up at their events by myself, eager to listen.
Please feel free to suggest more in the comments below!
|Junta de Prietas – “Colectivo Feminista Antirracista Decolonial”|
|Jean Sano – Activist, Political researcher working at the UN, Human rights advocate and founder of Artibonito (educational trips to Haiti from DR)|
|Carlos Campillo – Incredibly knowledgeable historian, lawyer, speaker, gender activist & co-founder of Illustrato Magazine|
|Atlas Travelers – Showing a “different side to Haiti” and working towards bridging DR-Haiti the gap by taking travelers from DR on multi-day educational trips through Haiti.|
|Ruth Pion – Anthropology researcher & activist of Junta de Prietas|
|Fatima Gonzalez – Activist & Speaker|
|Cero Discriminacion RD – “Somos Dominicanxs unidxs por una República Dominicana justa, igualitaria y libre de discriminaciones”|
|Ana Belique – Passionate and renowned activists doing beautiful things on the island and one of the women arrested on Tuesday for the protest.|
|Reconocido – “Dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana que luchamos por inclusión plena en la sociedad dominicana, luchamos por los derechos de todos/todas”|
|Taino Studies – Research & workshop on Afroindigenous cultural studies, native medicine and Taino language.|
|Max Positivas – “Plataforma que propone construir nuevos hombres a partir del replanteamiento de las masculinidades tóxicas.”|
|Coloquio Mujeres RD – “Espacio para el diálogo necesario entre mujeres”|
|Munecas Negras RD – “Es una iniciativa que busca el empoderamiento de mujeres negras y niñas de la Rep. Dom.”|
|Afrociguapa – “Radicalmente antirracista y decolonial. Feminista.”|
Local EVENTS in Support of BLM/Decolonizing Efforts
By following the above accounts you are supporting activists, educators, and community leaders on the ground pushing for change. You can share their insights, help them gain more exposure so that other Dominicans can reach out, connect, and feel seen. Community is one of our strongest values in DR, and the safe spaces these events cultivate can make a world of a difference for many of us Dominicans looking to connect and grow together for a better DR.
And with so many virtual Zoom meetings, you don’t need to travel all the way to Santo Domingo to start or join a meet-up!
Please remember to sign up for Max Positiva’s talk (listed/pictured above) June 12 at 7 PM on Dominican systemic racism from a decolonized perspective. TWO of the speakers are part of our DR Heritage Tour! So I can vouch to their conocimientos.
Anti-Dominican Sentiment & DR Travel Boycotts
This is NOT to invite anti-Dominican sentiment which is so prevalent in Latin America against us Dominicans for being from a Black country. And this is certainly NOT to endorse or encourage DR travel boycotts. Most travel boycotts do NOT work and actually make things MUCH worse for the very people being oppressed. Further, if you’re going to boycott the Dominican Republic for racism, I think you’d also have to boycott your own country on those same grounds.
And please no “whataboutisms” because yes we know – You can find a lot of what I just mentioned not just in the U.S. but around different parts of the globe.
But right here and now, I’m focusing on my cultural heritage and Dominican community because I care about us and our growth, and I know we can do better.
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Many of Us Wouldn’t Be Here Without Black Americans’ Efforts During the Civil Rights Movement: 𝟭𝟵𝟲𝟱 🇺🇸𝗜𝗺𝗺𝗶𝗴𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗔𝗰𝘁 & 𝗕𝗟𝗠 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘁𝘀 If you ask your families when/how they first got to the US, chances are they’ll say the very first relative arrived after 1965. This is likely because up until then, the US restricted 98% of immigration quotas for Northern Europeans to “preserve the ideal of American homogeneity. However, when the Civil Rights Movement (led by Black Americans) resulted in the Civil Rights Act (1964) which outlawed LEGAL(!) racial discrimination/segregation, it also opened up the door for the US Immigration Act of 1965 which allowed POC to immigrate to the US. Do you get the magnitude of that? 🤯Without the thousands of Black Americans who fought in the Civil Rights Movement, many (if not most) of us US Latinos would NOT BE HERE TODAY/would’ve been in a country that allowed LEGAL SEGREGATION. Think: South Africa’s apartheid which just ended in the 90s. Further, as historian @yisforyawada notes: the economic gains of many Latinx, Arab, South Asian small businesses are also gains from Civil Rights Act! “As well as Affirmative Action in business ownership throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Blacks have always been a cornerstone of rights that are enjoyed by everyone else, including white women.” Wow! So next time you’re chatting with your Latino/Asian/etc family, consider educating them about this, especially if they are denouncing the BLM protests or expressing anti-Black sentiment. Remind them that BLM marches today are the ones from the 50s/60s that allowed them to move to the US! Note 1: Puerto Ricans & Mexicans tambien han luchado. The US border expanded into Mexico ‘til the 1900s & PR has been US-occupied since 1898. Note 2: The Civil Rights Act was passed a whole 100+ years AFTER slavery was abolished. Imagine the effects of those limitations TO THIS VERY DAY. And yet POC are expected to “get over it” and “lift ourselves up from our bootstraps” when we’ve barely had access to bootstraps & are still dodging the obstacles. Photo by: Cuba’s @ebonyevenorth