If #BlackLivesMatter, We Need to Talk About the Dominican Republic

by Veronica Agard

Within the past 48 hours, over 100,000 people were made stateless by the Dominican Republic’s government. Their offense for deportation? They and their ancestors migrated across the mountain border from Haiti into the Dominican Republic for a better life.

Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, and thus migrants from the country often seek out economic stability and a better future for their families in other countries, including the neighboring Dominican Republic. They were not met with support. Instead, an occupation by the United States military set the stage for the rise of one of the most brutal dictators in the world, Rafael Trujillo, who initiated and endorsed the state-sanctioned murders of thousands of Haitians, known as the Parsley Massacre.

Indeed, the situation for Haitian-Dominican people has historically been one of extreme violence.

This week, the Dominican government continued with their anti-Haitian tactics by putting forth new legislation, TC 168/13, that would see thousands of Haitian-Dominicans be deported to Haiti. Many Haitian-Dominicans “do not exist” legally, as they do not have birth certificates or anyway of proving their citizenship. Thus, they are subject to the inhumane work conditions on modern plantations, “domestic” work, and other forms of exploitative labor. By sending them home, many are arguing this is the Dominican Republic’s way of practicing ethnic cleansing.

Organizers on the ground, particularly the late Sonia Pierre, have been calling out their government for years. But where is the collective outrage from the Diaspora? Where are the “watchdogs” of the “free world,” like the United States and the United Nations? By sending them home to a state that accepted foreign aid at the sanctity of its women and girls, the Dominican Republic is responsible for the violence and deaths of thousands.

This form of bloody anti-blackness in the Western Hemisphere is nothing new, but the power of #BlackLivesMatter has allowed for the conversation to transcend borders. Like my mother, who is an African-American woman descended from slavery in the Deep South, always says, “We are really the all same, we just got dropped off in difference places.” However, this compassionate logic hasn’t reached the masses in the United States. Yet.

This past Monday in New York, a rally was organized by Emmanuel Pardilla and the folks of Black Lives Matter in the Dominican Republic, a group working to amplify the activism of Haitian-Dominicans on the ground in the Dominican Republic. Pardilla, an Afro-Caribbean, was motivated to organize a solidarity action in front of the Dominican Consulate by the “understanding that something had to be done.” He went on to say that “policies do not necessarily speak for Dominicans… the government is not the voice of the people.”

Standing tall in the rain, the action disrupted the “business as usual” consciousness that permeates Times Square, and made the goal of the group known. Pardilla highlighted that “it is important for us to organize our people here in the Diaspora so that we can take direct action on the island as a collective.” Basta ya. Enough is enough.

Amanda Alcantara, an Afro-Latina feminist writer and poet, AKA Radical Latina, also attended the action, emphasizing that “anti-Blackness in the Dominican Republic hurts not just Dominicans of Haitian descent, but also Dominican people themselves based on the shade of their skin.”

What can we do now, you ask?
  1. Sign this petition calling for a CARICOM intervention as opposed to an US intervention. 
  2. Hold the UN Peacekeepers in Haiti, who are sexually assaulting women and girls for the supplies they need, accountable. 
  3. Follow these hashtags to see what’s happening around the globe: ‪#‎DominicanosPorHaiti‬ ‪#‎WeAreAllDominican‬ ‪#‎YoTambienSoyHaiti‬ ‪#‎Ayiti‬ 
  4. Find and connect with like-minded folks and host solidarity actions in your area and make sure that all Black lives (women, girls, trans folks, American, Caribbean, and beyond) are spoken into power. Then go and find people who don’t agree with you and spread the word on what’s happening to our people. 
  5. African-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Africans, we have to continue to have these conversations ourselves on what our collective Blackness looks like and needs to survive and thrive in a system that was never meant to benefit us. 
Breathe. Heal. Organize. Because Ferguson is New York, is Baltimore, is Santo Domingo, is Port-au-Prince.

UPDATE: Shortly after this article was written, the Dominican government announced that they are granting those affected by the new constitutional law a “45 day grace period,” as a means to allow Haiti to “prepare” for the influx of people.

Photo credit: Tony Savino / Facebook

Veronica Agard is a regular contributor at For Harriet. Thriving in New York City, she is a Program Associate at Humanity in Action, a City College of New York graduate and a Transnational Black Feminist with the Sister Circle Collective. She tweets at @veraicon_.

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