Friday, February 24, 2006

Tribute to African-Americans in Samana

Reprinted from www.DR1.com

A group of Dominican-Americans traveled to Samana this week to honor and pay tribute to the descendants of the African-American community living in Samana, on the country's northeastern coast.

In 1824, at least 6,000 African-Americans who were freed from slavery migrated from the United States to Samana, Dominican Republic. Today, it is estimated that 80% of the population in Samana is of African-American descent.

The event took place on Wednesday, 22 February in the city of Samana. Hostos Community College of the City University of New York, the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo and the Association of Dominican American Supervisors and Administrators (ADASA) organized the visit. The trip was organized as a result of the US documentary film "Dominican Identity & Migration To Hispaniola," produced by Nestor Montilla, associate director of international programs for Hostos Community College and a board member of the Dominican American National Roundtable. Ana Garcia-Reyes, vice president of Hostos Community College, commissioned the film. Both attended the ceremony.

Also attending were Hugo Morales, CUNY trustee; Wilson Forshue, governor of Samana; Irma Nicasio, sociology professor from UASD; Adriano Espaillat, New York State Assemblyman from Washington Heights section of Manhattan; Jose Peralta, New York State assemblyman from Queens, NY; Cid Wilson, president of the Dominican-American National Roundtable (DANR) in Washington, D.C., Jeanne Mulgrave, Commissioner for the City of New York's Department of Youth & Family Services; Robert Mercedes, president of ADASA, Carlos Sierra of the CUNY student senate; Fred Price, dean of public relations for Medgar Evers College.

The delegation honored Martha Willmore Kelly, Reverend Benito Jones of the AME Episcopal Church, Reverend Nemiah Willmore, and Franklyn Willmore for their leadership in preserving the culture of the African American community in Samana. An estimated 200 guests took part in the recognition ceremony. The timing of the event was significant as February is Black History Month as well as Dominican Heritage Month in the United States.

7 comments:

Eddie said...

Anthony, this is absolutely fascinating American history that I never knew. Wow. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Anonymous said...

Anthony, I had heard of and did research for a documentary on this little-known piece of American-Dominican history. It involved a visit to Samana where I attempted to interview the decendants. I was not successful, as it is a very closed society and no one would admit decendancy to an outsider. Frustrated I abandoned the project. Thanks for sharing this article with us.

Anonymous said...

Ant - Great Article! Thanks for sharing it. I have visited Samana and found it to be as beautiful as the people that live there. During my visit, I learned of the the African-Dominican heritage. I was inspired to visit that part of the DR by a parking lot attendent in Washington,DC that was a native of Samana.

Hidalgo said...

I am glad that there is interest on this subject. There are actually several families of "Americanos" living in NYC now. If any of you happen to run into more information about this subject, please, do not hesitate to contact me. I would love to have your help with my research.

Anonymous said...

More about the Samana story:


“Dominicans Are Descendants of African Americans Too,” Said Reverend Benito Jones of the AME Church in the Dominican Republic

New York City, USA (November 3, 2006). “Dominicans are descendants of African Americans too,” the Reverend Benito Jones said proudly during his recent visit to the United States. Jones is pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) of Samaná, a community on a pristine bay in the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic.

While in New York City, Reverend Jones participated in a special reception honoring the contributions of African Americans to Dominican culture. This event, which was held on October 22, 2006, in the Manhattan facilities of Broadway Housing Communities, Inc., was organized by the Office of International Programs at Hostos Community College.

During the reception, Reverend Jones affirmed that he is a fourth-generation Dominican of full African American descent: “My ancestors came from the United States 182 years ago, twenty years before the founding of the Dominican Republic in 1844; they were among over 6,000 freed African American slaves who settled in Samaná between 1824 and 1825.”

A documentary video on “The African Americans of Samaná” was shown at the reception. This video is a chapter of Dominican Identity and Migrations to Hispaniola, a study abroad research series produced by Néstor Montilla, Director of Public Relations at Hostos, and narrated by Dr. Irma Nicasio, a Professor at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD). The research series was commissioned by Ana I. Garcia Reyes, who is Director of International Programs at Hostos and President Dolores M. Fernández’ Special Assistant for Community Relations.

“The film documents the roots of the Taino, African, African American, Caribbean, Haitian, European, Arabic, Jewish, and Asian migrations to Hispaniola and how these groups have contributed to the multicultural richness of the Dominican Republic,” said García Reyes.

The Samaná chapter highlights African American contributions to Dominican culture, including favorite foods such as pescado con coco (coconut fish) and yaniquekes. Other contributions include the founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), from which the Dominican evangelical church evolved, and the juntas or convites, in which groups of neighbors come together to help one another with harvests or community projects.

“In addition to contributing to Dominican education and politics, African Americans and their descendants also fought for Dominican independence and against the Spaniards during the Dominican Restoration War of 1861-1865,” said Montilla, who has researched Dominican history and culture for the past four years. “This community has anchored itself in the Dominican Republic to the point that today over 80% of Samaná’s population is said to be of African American descent.”

At the reception in New York City, organizers also presented an audiovisual report on a historical tribute held on February 22, 2006 at the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) of Samaná to recognize the contributions of the African Americans and their descendants to the culture of the Dominican Republic. This ceremony was also organized by Hostos Community College’s Office of International Programs with the collaboration of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), the Dominican American Association of Supervisors and Administrators (ADASA), the Dominican Republic Ministry of Education and other organizations.

At the ceremony, New York State Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, accompanied by NYS Assemblyman José Peralta and other dignitaries, presented the Samaná community with a Resolution from the New York State Legislature recognizing the 1824-1825 migration of free African Americans from the United States to Hispaniola.

Other recognitions of the Samaná community included a letter from CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, presented by CUNY Trustee Hugo Morales and former CUNY Student Trustee Carlos Sierra; a letter from Medgar Evers College President Edison Jackson, presented by Dean Fred Price; a letter on behalf of the Dominican American National Roundtable, presented by Cid Wilson; a plaque from ASADA, presented by Robert Mercedes, Francesca Peña, and Henry Rubio; a plaque from the Dominican Ministry of Culture declaring the African American community of Samaná a salient “priceless” component of Dominican cultural heritage, presented by Xiomara Pérez; and an acknowledgement from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, delivered by UASD Vice Chancellor Clara Benedicto on behalf of Rector Magnífico Roberto Reyna, stating that this recognition of Dominicans of African American descent has been the best way ever to celebrate Dominican Independence in 2006.

The Resolution and recognitions were received by Reverend Jones and a group of Dominicans of African American descent, including teacher and historian Martha Willmore, Franklyn Willmore, Samaná Governor Wilson Forshue, and members of the AME Church and Saint Peter’s Church of Samaná.

There were over 200 attendees at the ceremony, including the following: Dr. Irma Nicasio, UASD Professor and Special Advisor to His Excellency Leonel Fernández, President of the Dominican Republic; author Martha Helen Davis; New York City Commissioner Jeanne Mullgrav; Michael Knobbe, Executive Director of BRONXNET; Nancy Díaz, NYC Public School Assistant Principal; Milady Baez, former NYC School Principal; author Dr, Jocelyn Santana; Rafael Escaño, representing NYC Comptroller William Thompson; Professor Rocio Billini, Ana García Reyes, Néstor Montilla, and others.

Coco said...

The Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR) &
Howard University’s Department of World Languages and Cultures
Invite you to Open Forum:
The People from the Dominican Republic Are Black Too,
DATE: Friday, November 19, 2010, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Place: Howard University’s Frederick Douglass Hall
2419 Sixth Street, NW Washington, DC 20059

Coco said...

The Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR) &
Howard University’s Department of World Languages and Cultures
Invite you to Open Forum:
The People from the Dominican Republic Are Black Too,
DATE: Friday, November 19, 2010, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Place: Howard University’s Frederick Douglass Hall
2419 Sixth Street, NW Washington, DC 20059