Human Rights Activist Sonia Pierre Fights Antihaitianismo in the Dominican Republic: Let’s Return the Favor. Ahora.

Sonia PierreSonia Pierre answered her calling pretty early on in life. Born in 1963 to Haitian parents in a batey (migrant worker camps where many Dominicans of Haitian descent live), Pierre was only 13 when she acted on an impulse that changed her life forever.

According to Amnesty International:

she was arrested for being the spokesperson at a demonstration on behalf of braceros -Haitian sugar-cane cutters – who lived in her migrant labor village in the Dominican Republic. The demonstration lasted five days.  Workers had some demands met; their living quarters were painted, they got better working tools and machetes, and some got pay raises.

Since then, Pierre has dedicated her life to fighting against antihaitianismo, that is, Anti-Haitianism in the Dominican Republic (where, on the surface, you can’t tell the difference between a Haitian and a Dominican in many cases. Taking root in a policy of racial segregation instituted by our colonial masters, the Spanish, and enforced by the self-loathing dictator Rafael Trujillo who was 1/4 Haitian. This hatred, to me, is one of the great ironies in the ghetto-politics of self identity in my parents native country). An ’06 Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Laureate, Pierre founded MUDHA (Movement of Dominican Women of Haitian Descent) in the early ’80s to advocate for the Dominco-Haitian community.

According to her bio on the RFK Memorial site:

She has served as MUDHA’s director for the past 14 years, becoming one of the nation’s leading grassroots activists for Haitian immigrants and their children, developing educational programs and works defending the rights of women in the Dominican Republic through promoting labor rights, healthcare and legal education.

On May 6th, Sonia Pierre’s house in the Dominican Republic caught fire. The entire second floor of her home—all the bedrooms and a bathroom were located there—was destroyed. There was significant damage to the remaining windows and doors,  and most of the Pierre family’s furniture, clothes, linens and a host of other household items were lost in the fire. Pierre and her children are safe, however, she needs our help on her road to recovering from this tragic incident.

While shipping costs are high, monetary gifts will meet the family’s immediate needs. Even $5US goes a long way in D.R. The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights are taking monetary and in-kind donations. Please direct donation inquiries to Chrissy Hart: chart@rfkcenter.org and 202.463.7575 Ext. 232.

~ Raquel Cepeda

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