Photography and Text by Lilibeth Montero, Copyright 2018
National Dominican Student Conference
On March 23th- 25th 2018 I attended the National Dominican Student Conference in New York City. The conference featured speeches from famous Dominican’s like Orange is the New Black star Dascha Polanco and rapper Amara La Negra. The conference was designed to be an open and safe space for students of Dominican descent to discuss openly about the issues facing the Dominican community.
One of the main issues facing the Dominican community concerns their identity. After, 174 years the Dominican Republic continues to face the consequences of European colonialism. Once long ago, the Dominican Republic and Haiti were a single Island. But with colonialism, the Island was split into two creating a deeply divided society. Now 174 years later the Dominican Republic and Haiti remain divided. Today, the Dominican youth has accepted and embraced their African routes, however the older Dominican generations continue to deny their African ancestry. Older generations of Dominican people are incredibly racist to Haitians, and value lighter European features. The students at the conference go by the name “Afro-Latinas” or “Afro-Latinos” embracing both their African and their latin American side. The Dominican community is struggling at finding an identity. Questioning if they are “black” enough, or “latin” enough.
Another aspect of the conference focused on mental health, a taboo subject in the Dominican community. For so long, Dominicans were forced to live in silence. The older generations of Dominicans for so long attempted to hide the sun with their thumb. The conversation was a passionate and heartwarming one.
The conference ended on March 25th with a Traditional Dominican breakfast. At the end of the conference, it was clear students felt empowered and left with hope. Hope to better their community, and confidence that other Dominican students are working hard to make a difference.
About The Author: Lilibeth Montero is a freshman enrolled in the School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Lilibeth Montero, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/lilibeth-montero-whats-in-my-bag/