Introspection: A Call to Action
Prepared by Rev. Alejandro Benjamin, DANR National Vice President
Based on DANR’s Saturday, September 19, 2014 Leadership Summit at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center,Washington, DC
As per request from its membership, the Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR) hosted a four-hour open forum at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on Saturday, September 19, 2014. The forum came as a result of much analyses and evaluation of recent adverse developments impacting Dominicans in USA such as loss of irrecoverable opportunities to elect own leaders to higher political office; Dominican elected officials investigated and indicted; Dominicans excluded from high-ranking posts at local, state & national governments, university systems and private sector; as well as a general negative media coverage/portrayal.
The pressing need for self-analysis and creation of a short and long-term action plan resulted in DANR summoning Dominican leaders in diverse fields for this purpose. Panelists were Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant, Director of Latino & Caribbean Studies at Syracuse University, Reverend Alejandro Benjamin, Professor at Bergen County Community College, and Nestor Montilla, Sr., Director of Corporate and Community Relations at Lehman College of The City University of New York.
Panelists made presentations on the status of Dominicans in the USA, highlighting background information about their history, social, psychological, political and economic realities. Participants, who included local, state and national leaders, offered challenges and solutions to conditions presented. Scribes memorialized presentations and documented participants’ contribution. An ad hoc president’s Evaluation Commission was appointed by DANR President Francesca Peña to produce an official report summarizing presentations, interpreting discussions and offering recommendations. All forum proceedings were audio and video taped for archival and future reference purposes.
The following recommendations for an empowered community are based on the presentations, discussions and advice expressed by participants of the DANR 2014 Summit at the US Capitol.
- Dominicans in the United States must strike a balance between their loyalty to the U.S. and loyalty to their native country; although they should continue contributing to the welfare of the Dominican Republic, they should do so without adversely impacting their socio-economic and political advancement in USA.
- Solving their racial identity issues will enable Dominicans in the United States to face/deal with a racist society from a position of a stronger and well defined ethnic identity.
- While climbing the social ladder and attaining success in USA, Dominicans should learn about how to better interact with U.S. multicultural society, while acknowledging existing discrimination by color, ethnicity, national origin, religious beliefs and gender.The definition of ‘Dominican’ is fluid and adjusts by participation in the receiving society and the desire to integrate. The current definition of ‘Dominican’ will be diluted with time.
- Purposeful and deliberate integration at all levels of the U.S. social system will facilitate and accelerate Dominicans participation in, and assimilation of U.S. social system.
- Capitalizing on Dominicans’ proclivity to group together among themselves will be helpful in the dissemination of information and conditioning; this trait has proven essential to the collective development and advancement of social groups.
- Strengthening and supporting advocacy and community based organizations would provide Dominicans with effective institutional mechanism to influence policy making.
- Developing and learning new methods of leadership identification and development will enable Dominicans to better position themselves as leading contributors in all areas of society. It will ensure a position of more relevant group contribution and legacy.
- Increasing Dominican presence in schools and university administration and as faculty members will afford new generations of Dominicans opportunities to excel in public school systems and higher education in urban America.
- Dominicans in U.S. should become knowledgeable and familiar with all aspects of the U.S. political system to increase success in their political endeavors. Knowledge should be comprehensive and encompassing from the philosophy informing the U.S. political system to the real role of the political parties, including aspects such as political design, regionalisms by class, ethnicity, race, and religion, and the institutions that guard the political-socio- economic status quo.
- A national strategic plan of socio-economic and educational advancement will go a long way towards ensuring the well-being of all Dominicans in USA, particularly those unable to climb out of poverty.
- A coordinated effort to bring elected officials, financiers, educators, community leaders, and ideologues together to define a national agenda would be tedious and difficult, but worthwhile. There are successful models from other ethnic groups that could be emulated and adapted.
- A ‘passing the torch’ process must be established that new generations are mentored and with their talent, abilities, and youthful passion, may contribute to the advancement and legacy of U.S. Dominicans.
- There must be a process of re-educating and conditioning in the authoritarian character of Dominican society in USA. It’s essential to learn and practice new and effective methods of social development and interaction that include principles like: choosing integration over disintegration; collective interest over individual interests; formative influence over destructive influence; inclusion over exclusion; competition and compromise over annihilation.
- The creation of a ‘Sanedrín’ process will fill the void of moral, visionary and senior leadership and would serve as a guidance and evaluation mechanism.