The concept of the Roundtable emerged in December 1997, when over 200 Dominican American leaders from around the country met in Miami, FL, to discuss the educational, economic, legal, social and political status of the more than one million people of Dominican origin in the United States. This historic gathering was organized and hosted by the Dominican American National Foundation of South Florida under the leadership of Margarita Cepeda. President, and Radhames Peguero, Executive Director; the Office of New York State Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat; and Rhode Island’s Quisqueya in Acton Youth Organization. Embracing the theme “The National Agenda,” the conference included workshops and symposia addressing education, public policy, healthcare, immigration reform, community empowerment and economic development, among other topics, with attendees from states and cities with large Dominican populations
Following the Dec. 1997 conference a meeting was organized that brought together at Alianza Dominicana, Inc. in NYC a broad spectrum of Dominican community leaders. The participants created a National Interim Steering Committee to develop the formal structure and initial agenda of the Roundtable. In April of 1998, the interim steering committee met at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute of the City College of New York to plan a path forward that included several other gatherings designed to secure the grassroots and leadership buy-in necessary to ensure the Roundtable’s success and effectiveness, For example, during a working conference held in Washington, DC, in June 1998, 47 Roundtable participants met with federal officials to introduce the Roundtable and its national agenda,
In January 1999, the National Interim Steering Committee elected the Official DANR Board of Directors, its officers, and its first president, Mr. Victor Capellan, from Rhode Island. In May 1999, the Roundtable gathered again in Rhode Island, at a public conference attended by over 600 people. The main topic of this 2nd Annual Conference, celebrated in May 1999, was “Toward the New Millennium – Strengthening Organizational Development for Dominican Communities in the United States.” In addition to numerous educational symposia, the Rhode Island conference formally gave attendees the opportunity to provide input to the national steering committee concerning the structure, future activities, and vision of the Roundtable.
In February 2000 the Roundtable was incorporated in Washington, D.C. With the theme, “Dominicans in the United States: Americas’ New Face,” the 3rd Annual Conference was celebrated in NYC on Oct. 6-8, 2000 with great success. and the DANR Board elected its second president, Hon. Adriano Espaillat, from New York. In 2000 the DANR arrived at a level of organizational development which included: successfully organizing the first Roundtable event in NYC in partnership with Columbia University and major corporate sponsors, establishing membership participation, allowing members in good standing to vote for a new Board of Directors, increasing the numbers of members entering the organization, and obtaining the Federal Exempt Status.
The Roundtable opened its headquarters in Washington DC and appointed Jose R. Bello as its Executive Director on Oct. 1st 2000.With the theme “Empowerment through Education: The Way for Dominican Americans” the 4th Annual Conference took place on Dec. 7-9 in Washington D.C. At the closing of this conference, Ana Garcia-Reyes was elected third president of the DANR leading a diverse 27-member Board of Directors with an Executive Board made up of eight members, of whom seven were women.
During 2002, DANR registered thousands of voters with the Dominican American Voter Registration and Participation Program in Manhattan, New York and ran the Dominican Internship Program, which placed Dominican students in the World Bank the Inter-American Development Bank and the US Senate Committee for International Relations. DANR also held two important meetings in Washington, DC, the Dominican American Business Legislative Meeting, where Dominican business leaders met with US legislators to discuss policy issues affecting our community, and our 5 th Annual Conference entitled, “Our Local Empowerment Builds Our National Power.” During the Conference, Ms. Margarita Cepeda-Leonardo was elected fourth president of the DANR. In addition, DANR published a 2002 Dominican American Calendar, to promote Dominican American artists, as well as, initiated an important advocacy agenda before the US Congress, the US Census Bureau, and INS, as to secure the rights of Dominicans in the United States and Puerto Rico.
In April, DANR organized its first Congressional Delegation to the Dominican Republic, with the participation of 10 Members of Congress led by Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC). In Washington, DC. DANR celebrated its second Business Legislative Meeting, as well as another successful edition of the Dominican Internship Program, and this time in partnership with the Group of Dominican Professionals of DC, In NYC, DANR sponsored a Dominican Heritage Celebration, and honored Dr. Hugo Morales, as the first Dominican Trustee at the City University of New York, as well as Hon. Adriano Espaillat, as Chairman of the New York State Black Puerto Rican And Hispanic Legislative Caucus. In conjunction with other national Latino organizations, DANR actively advocated in favor of Affirmative Action programs by filling two historical amicus briefs before the United States Supreme Court. DANR also advocated for several immigration and education bills that once passed will benefit immigrant students in the United States. As part of its yearly activities, DANR published the 2003 Dominican American Calendar to educate the public about our history in the United States, and celebrated is 6th Annual Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey on October 10-12, 2003, with the theme “Dominican American Future: Health & Economic Empowerment. Creating Access in Health, Finance, and Education through Political Participation,”
The DANR enters the international debate on Free Trade by lobbying the United States Congress and the US Trade Representative to include the Dominican Republic in any Central American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. The DANR invites members of the Dominican and Puerto Rican community to hear opinions and comments from Congressman Charlie Rangel, Bronx Boro President Adolfo Carrion, and representative of the Dominican and Puerto Rican governments to discuss the positives and challenges of a free trade agreement between the United States and The Dominican Republic. In the summer of 2004, the DANR continues its Dominican Internship Program in Washington, DC. Also during the summer, the DANR initiated the first ever Youth Leadership Day in Providence, RI with the goal of empowering our nations youth with the tools to achieve the goals set out by our Dominican youth. During the tragic days following the deaths in Jimani, Dominican Republic, the DANR collaborates with the many communities around the country to bridge communications, thus helping to consolidate the relief efforts among the various states in the U.S. The DANR went to Chicago for the first time ever to participate in the National Hispanic-Latino Agenda Summit, in which DANR President Cid Wilson was the keynote speaker in helping the conference to present a national Latino agenda to both the Democratic and Republican parties. In August, the DANR receives honorary membership to the Dominican American Chamber of Commerce of Florida in Miami and honors founding Vice President Margarita Cepeda-Leonardo for her community support. DANR President Cid Wilson gives keynote address to the Lawrence, MA, Dominican community at the Lawrence, MA Dominican Parade Dinner. In September, the DANR releases its comprehensive report on Dominican Voter Capacity in the United States. The DANR also hosts its 7th Annual National Conference at The City College of New York – CUNY in New York City,
Sept. 17-19, 2004.
The DANR embarked on one of its boldest national initiatives ever, by launching its DANR National Unity Tour Around America, which included meeting, listening, supporting, and strengthening our local Dominican communities in 15 U.S. states and territories. The “Tour” took a full year and 35,000 miles of travel around the country, including Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, and Texas. Many of these meetings resulted in new statewide Dominican organizations. DANR President Cid Wilson was the keynote and graduation commencement speaker at multiple venues through the nation including Kean College (NJ) EEO Program, EBC Bushwick High School of Brooklyn, Emerson High School of Union City, NJ, Gregorio Luperon School in New York City, George Washington High School in New York City , and many more. The DANR launched the Dominican Leadership Institute in Washington, DC with great success. In addition, the DANR teamed up with the Dominican Power Vote USA initiative to register thousands of voters in New York City . DANR President Cid Wilson gave opening remarks at the Dominican Independence Day reception at The White House featuring US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. For the 3rd year, the DANR hosted a Congressional Day in Washington, DC where the DANR met with members of Congress and the U.S. Senate from both political parties to discuss pro-Dominican legislation and initiatives. The DANR strengthened its national partnerships with prominent Latino organizations such as the NCLR, LULAC, NALEO, PRLDEF, MALDEF, ASPIRA, the Hispanic Federation, The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, the Cuban American National Council, and many more national organizations. The DANR held its 8th Annual National Conference in Boston, MA at the Univ. of Massachusetts-Boston on October 7-9, 2005.
This year the DANR reached new milestone in the organization’s development and accomplishment. The organization has ensured that Dominican-Americans living throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico are represented in the mayor policy debates and decision-making forums. To begin, on January 19, 2006, for the first time in the DANR’s history, its President, Cid Wilson, led a round of meetings in Washington, DC with major non-profits Latino organizations in an effort to build collaboration among the many organizations, and to further the organization’s standing as a national organization.
These important rounds of meetings included the most prominent Latinos organizations such as The United State’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Council of La Raza (NCLR), ASPIRA, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), among others. As previous years the DANR was invited to deliver remarks at the White House’s Dominican Independence Day reception held in the Indian Treaty Room of the Old Executive Office Building. On April 27, 2006, the DANR hosted its 4th Annual Legislative Day in Washington, DC at the Longworth House Office Building. This event included a DANR Legislative Breakfast which provides and excellent opportunity for members of Congress to update the DANR board members, general members and staff on legislative issues important to the Dominican community, including immigration, education, health, economic empowerment, and the upcoming 2010 census. Among the participating congressional members were: Senator Robert Menendez (D–NJ), Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Congressman William Pascrell (D-NJ). After the conclusion of the Legislative Breakfast, DANR Board Members completed their visit with one-one meetings with Congressional members and their staff, including Congressman John Tierney (D-NJ), Congressman James Langevin (D-RI), Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Robert Andrews (D-NJ), and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). Throughout the year DANR continued its tireless advocacy and program development to ensure that the Dominican voice is heard and included at all levels of the policy debate on issues such as Immigration, Dream Act, Voting Rights, and the English only Amendment/ Orange Card. During the 2006 calendar year DANR undertaken several successful fundraising efforts at the local level. In the month of May and June, Rhode Island and New York Board Members organized a “Dominican Making Waves” boat ride which provided an opportunity to unite the community and strengthen their involvement in DANR’s mission and overall efforts. In September, the DANR in collaboration with the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation organized a fundraising reception at the residence of Dominican Ambassador honoring legendary Baseball Hall of Famer, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, as well as rising Dominican-American actresses, Judy Reyes, Dania Ramirez and Judy Marte.
The DANR entered a new era when it elected Victor Capellan as the new President of the DANR, succeeding Cid Wilson. It is Mr. Capellan’s second time as President. The DANR added Pennsylvania and Connecticut as states that would have national board representation. DANR President, Victor Capellan delivered remarks at the Dominican Independence Day reception at The White House featuring US Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez. The organization held its fifth Annual DANR Dominicans on the Hill Day in Washington, DC with a record attendance of members of Congress. The DANR expressed its importance that Congress support and pass pro-Dominican American legislation. In collaboration with other national organizations, the DANR fought for comprehensive immigration reform, against the increased in fees by the USCIS, and in support of the DREAM Act. While Congress did not pass these important legislative bills, the DANR vowed to continue its legislative offensive to support the DANR’s national agenda. The organization organized community meetings in New York, NY; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Providence, RI; Orlando, FL; and Miami, FL; to build on collaborative relationships with local Dominican leaders. The 2nd Annual Dominicans Making Waves event in Providence, RI was a great success. The DANR Student Advisory Council and the DANR Corporate Advisory Council were created. During the tragic days following Tropical Storm Noel, the DANR set up a centralized website to facilitate national communication among local organizers and set up a fund to support the victims in the Dominican Republic. In a symbolic moment in DANR history, the 10th Annual National Conference convened in Miami, Florida where it started 10 years earlier.
The DANR continued to make significant inroads fulfilling its mission to create a national voice for all Dominicans living in the U.S. This year, the DANR created significant new partnerships and programs, including alliances to promote and strengthen more cultural exchanges among diverse groups and organizations. During the 10th Annual DANR Conference in Miami, DANR launched its first Corporate Advisory Council which provides an opportunity for private and public sectors partners to advise and collaborate with DANR in identifying ways to improve corporate responsibility efforts, develop strategies to increase funding for non-profit organizations, and to secure continuous corporate support and partnership. In addition, this year, the DANR joined efforts with The Jewish American Committee to undertake a Latino-Jewish Mission to Sosua, Dominican Republic.
The mission was an inspiring success in educating the 27 member delegation about the Jewish community immigration experience in the Republic. Furthermore, DANR’s continued its longstanding commitment to education and leadership training by creating The Educator’s Network and the 2008 Fellowship Summer Youth Program. The Educator’s Network was designed to provide a national discussion forum on the educational trends and best practices in K-12 and to identify improved education policies for the Dominican and Hispanic communities.
Similarly, the 2008 Fellowship Summer Youth Program brought together a select group of college students from around the country to provide them with meaningful opportunities to intern with public agencies and community based organizations, becoming national advocates on immigration issues. We are proud of the accomplishments achieved this year and look forward to reaching new heights in 2009.