Last weekend I attended the Dominican American National Roundtable in Miami, FL with my dad. Although my dad has been going annually for several years, I was never quite interested in attending. However, since I recently turned eighteen, I decided to get more involved in political affairs concerning my people. It is hard for a teenager like me save the world. Yet, I at least want to be aware of some of the issues affecting other people like myself. What I thought to be a conference full of old, rich Dominicans proved to be an experience filled with vibrant minds with creative ideas.
Upon arriving, I was welcomed with sunny weather and palm trees. Yet leisure was not the goal of this trip. Friday, the first night, we were introduced to several keynote speakers, including Dr. Rosa Perez-Perdomo. Born in the Dominican Republic, through hard work and education, she managed to become the secretary of the Department of Health of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Throughout her time there, she has advocated for the health care of minorities within Puerto Rico, particularly Dominican- Americans.
Dr. Perez-Perdomo lead a workshop concerning Dominican-American health care. She focused not only on the lack of health care, but on mental disorders, which are often ignored within the Dominican-American community due to their physical absence. I felt particularly touched by and involved in this discussion because I can relate to this issue.
The opening ceremony served to truly engage me in the conference, but also I felt touched upon attending a workshop about Dominican identity. In the workshop I learned about Dominican roots, composed of Africans, African-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, as well as other minority groups still occupying the island. Now, when I say I'm Dominican, I can clearly define what that means.
To further explore Dominican culture, the DANR hosted Johnny Ventura, a legendary merengue composer and singer. He was the first to achieve fame outside the Dominican Republic. Johnny Ventura has been around since the 1960s, and continued to release hits through the '90s.
The DANR touched me in several ways. It addressed issues that truly affect myself as well as the people around me, and it exposed me to other Dominican-Americans. I was expecting to meet with old Dominicans. However, I was surprised to meet so many Dominican-Americans my age, in college as well as a few in high school. The DANR was the perfect mix of successful Dominican-Americans. Among the older people were high achieving politicians and businessmen. The younger, college crowd consisted of hard working college students making their way to success. In addition to encountering role models, I felt encouraged to continue working hard like the other Dominican-Americans I met.