Dominican American National Roundtable

Publisher: Oxford University Press Print Publication Date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199744619 Published online: 2015

Current Online Version: 2015 eISBN: 9780199744626

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in

Contemporary Politics, Law, and Social Movements

Oxford Reference

Dominican American National Roundtable

By Ginetta E. B. Candelario, Ph.D.

The Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR) was founded in December 1997 following a conference of two hundred Dominican leaders from around the United States hosted by Margarita Cepeda and Radhames Peguero of the Dominican American National Foundation of South Florida in Miami; New York State assemblyman Adriano Espaillat; and the Quisqueya in Action Youth Organization of Providence, Rhode Island. “The National Agenda” for Dominicans in the United States according to the conference theme, was their economic, political, educational, and sociolegal statuses, all of which were explored through talks, symposia, and workshops. Since its inception, the DANR Conference is the only event that aims at developing a national political action plan and community empowerment by and for Dominican organizers, elected officials, activists, educators, and sundry community leaders in the United States.

Although Dominicans had been visiting, temporarily settling as exiles, and/or immigrating to the United States since the nineteenth century, it was not until the 1961 assassination of the Dominican Republic’s brutal dictator, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, that a substantial Dominican diaspora population began to develop. The April 1965 Dominican civil war and the subsequent US invasion of the country, together with changes engendered by the 1965 United States Immigration and Naturalization Act and the fallout of President Joaquín Balaguer’s (1966–1978) economic development policies, led to the establishment of a large and permanent immigrant community in the United States. New York City was the first and is still the largest Dominican settlement in the United States. By the 1990s, however, large Dominican settlements outside of New York emerged and by the twenty-first century became established actors in the social, economic, and political landscapes of Providence, Rhode Island; Lawrence, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; and northern New Jersey. Although diverse in terms of premigration experiences, incorporation into local contexts and structures, and their socioeconomic experiences as negatively racialized immigrants in each city, all of these Dominican communities shared political and economic marginalization to some degree. The 1997 formation of the DANR constituted an early effort to organize in response to then thirty-year-old Dominican diaspora’s local needs and to advocate for the national and transnational interests of Dominicans in the United States.

Since then, yearly meetings have been held in or near large Dominican communities in various cities including New York; Washington, DC; and Atlantic City, New Jersey; Boston; Miami; Providence; and Orlando, Florida. Conference themes reflect the organization’s key action agendas:

(1) educational attainment, achievement, and policy development;

(2) economic development with a special focus on the expansion of entrepreneurship;

(3) parity in political representation;

(4) and countering pervasive negative representations of Dominicans in the media.

In February 2000, the Roundtable was incorporated and obtained federal exempt status as a not-for-profit community advocacy organization. The Roundtable’s administration consists of a board of directors, an executive committee, and a president. The DANR’s first executive director was Jose Ramon Bello (2001–2003), while the board of directors is comprised of representatives from each of the major Dominican settlement areas and includes academics, entrepreneurs, professionals, and community leaders. DANR presidents have included Victor Capellan, Adriano Espaillat, Ana Garcia- Reyes, Margarita Cepeda-Leonardo, Cid Wilson, and Nestor Montilla.

After the 2002 national elections season, the DANR happily reported the election of eighteen Dominican officials to city and state offices in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Michigan, and Puerto Rico. By 2010, DANR profiled on its website twenty-nine Dominican elected officials in these states as well as Connecticut and Pennsylvania, including nine women. In addition, it publicized and endorsed President Obama’s appointment of several Dominicans to prominent positions in his administration, such as Thomas E. Perez as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the US Department of Justice.

Fomenting political participation from naturalization and voting to occupying political office is also a leading DANR goal. This is exemplified by activities as varied as hosting yearly congressional/legislative days in Washington, DC, beginning in 2002; organizing a congressional delegation to the Dominican Republic in 2003; publishing “A Study of Dominican American Voter Capacity” in 2004; and issuing statements about policy initiatives such the DREAM Act (2007), equal and high quality educational amendment to the Constitution (2008), and health care reform (2009). By 2010, the DANR moved toward the development of a Dominican Political Action Committee; the election of a Dominican to the US Congress; developing and backing candidates based on their commitment to representing Dominican interests rather than allegiance to partisan agendas; and building coalitions with labor, faith-based, African American, Haitian American, and Latino advocacy organizations. Among these are Latino Justice PRLDEF, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, CANC, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Council of La Raza, ASPIRA, and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

The DANR has run several programs intended to enable and expand Dominican American economic well-being and political participation, ranging from voter registration and participation and leadership institutes through residential retreats for the development of advocacy skills in emerging community leaders, particularly youth and women.

Early in its history, the Roundtable identified the census undercount of Dominicans, the deportation of lawful Dominicans, the legalization of undocumented Dominicans, the restoration of the 245(i) Family Reunification Act, and the reduction of the Affidavit of Support as key policy issues affecting the Dominican community.

By 2010, the DANR spearheaded the “¡Uno Más Uno! (One Plus One!)” census campaign focused on:

(1) naturalization of Dominican immigrants;

(2) voter registration of Dominican Americans; and

(3) a national “¡Uno Más Uno! Déjese Contar” 2010 census completion drive aimed at achieving a full count ofDominicans and Dominican Americans

At the same time, by 2009 the DANR moved beyond simply calling for accurate counts of Dominicans in the United States—whom they now confidently estimate to number at 1.6 million—to demanding a “stand=alone box” for Dominicans in the racial identity question as a necessary accommodation of Dominican perspectives on race. (More information on current DANR projects can be obtained from the organization’s website, http://www.danr.org.)

By the early years of the twenty-first century, the DANR had over three hundred individual members and nearly two-dozen member organizations from Puerto Rico, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Florida. The DANR was funded primarily by United States and Dominican corporate sponsors and by membership fees. This broad-based membership and support mirrors the transnational nature of the Dominican diaspora, which resides throughout the world and establishes vibrant communities abroad while continuing to sustain cultural, political, and economic ties to its country of origin.

See also ASPIRA; DOMINICAN INVASION OF 1965; DOMINICANS; ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION; LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN

CITIZENS; MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND; NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LATINO ELECTED AND APPOINTED

OFFICIALS; NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA; POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS; POLITICAL PARTICIPATION; and RESEARCH CENTERS.

Bibliography

Candelario, Ginetta. Black behind the Ears: Dominican Racial Identity from Museums to Beauty Shops. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2007.


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Hernández, Ramona. The Mobility of Workers under Advanced Capitalism: Dominican Migration to the United States. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

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Hoffnung-Garskof, Jesse. A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York after 1950. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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Levitt, Peggy. The Transnational Villagers.Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

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Torres-Saillant, Silvio, and Ramona Hernández. The Dominican Americans. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.

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GINETTA E. B. CANDELARIO

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