As black intellectuals here try to muster a movement to embrace the nation’s African roots, they acknowledge that it has been a mostly fruitless cause. Black pride organizations such as Black Woman’s Identity fizzled for lack of widespread interest.
There was outcry in the media when the Brotherhood of the Congos of the Holy Spirit — a community with roots in Africa — was declared an oral patrimony of humanity by UNESCO. “There are many times that I think of just leaving this country because it’s too hard,” said Juan Rodríguez Acosta, curator of the Museum of the Dominican Man. Acosta, who is black, has pushed for the museum to include controversial exhibits that reflect many Dominicans’ African background. “But then I think: Well if I don’t stay here to change things, how will things ever change?”
A walk down city streets shows a country where blacks and dark-skinned people vastly outnumber whites, and most estimates say that 90 percent of Dominicans are black or of mixed race. Yet census figures say only 11 percent of the country’s nine million people are black.
To many Dominicans, to be black is to be Haitian. So dark-skinned Dominicans tend to describe themselves as any of the dozen or so racial categories that date back hundreds of years — Indian, burned Indian, dirty Indian, washed Indian, dark Indian, cinnamon, moreno or mulatto, but rarely negro.
The Dominican Republic is not the only nation with so many words to describe skin color. Asked in a 1976 census survey to describe their own complexions, Brazilians came up with 136 different terms, including café au lait, sunburned, morena, Malaysian woman, singed and “toasted.”
"The Cuban black was told he was black. The Dominican black was told he was Indian,” said Dominican historian Celsa Albert, who is black. “I am not Indian. That color does not exist. People used to tell me, ‘You are not black.’ If I am not black, then I guess there are no blacks anywhere, because I have curly hair and dark skin.”
Using the word Indian to describe dark-skinned people is an attempt to distance Dominicans from any African roots, Albert and other experts said. She noted that it’s not even historically accurate: The country’s Taino Indians were virtually annihilated in the 1500s, shortly after Spanish colonizers arrived.
Researchers say the de-emphasizing of race in the Dominican Republic dates to the 1700s, when the sugar plantation economy collapsed and many slaves were freed and rose up in society.
Later came the rocky history with Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Haiti’s slaves revolted against the French and in 1804 established their own nation. In 1822, Haitians took over the entire island, ruling the predominantly Hispanic Dominican Republic for 22 years.
To this day, the Dominican Republic celebrates its independence not from centuries-long colonizer Spain, but from Haiti.
"The problem is Haitians developed a policy of black-centrism and … Dominicans don’t respond to that," said scholar Manuel Núñez, who is black. "Dominican is not a color of skin, like the Haitian."
Dictator Rafael Trujillo, who ruled from 1930 to 1961, strongly promoted anti-Haitian sentiments, and is blamed for creating the many racial categories that avoided the use of the word “black.”
The practice continued under President Joaquín Balaguer, who often complained that Haitians were “darkening” the country. In the 1990s, he was blamed for thwarting the presidential aspirations of leading black candidate José Francisco Peña Gómez by spreading rumors that he was actually Haitian.
"Under Trujillo, being black was the worst thing you could be," said Afro-Dominican poet Blas Jiménez. "Now we are Dominican, because we are not Haitian. We are something, because we are not that."
Jiménez remembers when he got his first passport, the clerk labeled him “Indian.” He protested to the director of the agency.
"I remember the man saying, ‘If he wants to be black, let him be black!’ ” Jiménez said.
Resentment toward anything Haitian continues, as an estimated one million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, most working in the sugar and construction industries. Mass deportations often mistakenly include black Dominicans, and Haitians have been periodically lynched in mob violence. The government has been trying to deny citizenship and public education to the Dominican-born children of illegal Haitian migrants.
When migrant-rights activist Sonia Pierre won the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2006, the government responded by trying to revoke her citizenship, saying she is actually Haitian.
"There’s tremendous resistance to blackness — black is something bad," said black feminist Sergia Galván. ‘‘Black is associated with dark, illegal, ugly, clandestine things. There is a prototype of beauty here and a lot of social pressure. There are schools where braids and natural hair are prohibited."
Galván and a loosely knit group of women have protested European canons of beauty, once going so far as to rally outside a beauty pageant. She and other experts say it is now more common to see darker-skinned women in the contests — but they never win.
An AMAZING display of solidarity from Atlanta, New York, DC, Philly, London and back to Nigeria. Men, women and children showed up in their Gele’s (headwraps) for rallies and protests today in an effort to push for more coverage and aid in finding the abducted Nigerian girls. #BringBackOurGirls
(These photos are not mine, they are photos from the twitter. Please feel free to tag anyone you may know that is in these pics)
hey there resilient22. look it.
Photo by:Digital Fusion Pro
Al Green creatively hallucinates a ‘new world,’ indicts the more insidious falseness of the world as we know it. (Listen, for example, to ‘Love and Happiness.’) What is it in the falsetto that thins and threatens to abolish the voice but the wear of so much reaching for heaven? … I’m suggesting, the falsetto explores a redemptive, unworded realm—a meta-word, if you will—where the implied critique or the momentary eclipse of the word curiously rescues, restores and renews it: new word, new world.
Philadelphians Stand in Solidarity with the Chibok234
Above are images from a rally I attended today held at Love Park in Philadelphia, PA. The objective of the demonstration was to show support and solidarity toward the hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by terrorist group, Boko Haram, over two weeks ago.
Local activists, poets, and professors addressed the crowd to express their frustrations with the lack of international media attention the story has received, the perpetuation of rape culture that enables these acts of violence, and the world’s refusal to acknowledge black people’s humanity.
The crowd broke into chants of “Black Girls Matter,” “We are Africans,” and “Bring Back Our Girls” while walking through downtown Philadelphia in an effort to raise awareness of this situation as well as stress the importance of protecting the well-being of black girls across the globe.