Hundreds of tiny, paper, blue, white, and red flags waved at P.S. 19/Arbor School on Thursday evening, as Williamsburg’s Latino community celebrated the 170th anniversary of Dominican Independence.
Hosted by Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, a first generation Dominican-American, and sponsored by Southside United HDFC Los Sures, an affordable housing and family health advocacy group, Thursday’s celebrations marked the 11th successive event the group has put on.
“The first year we did it maybe one-fifth of the people here in the audience today were in attendance,” said Ramon Peguero, Executive Director of Los Sures, who spearheaded the organization of the festivities. “It really means a lot to me to see how much it has grown. It shows that we have a strong sense of community. But this school is also special, and we do the celebrations here each year because it has always welcomed immigrants, particularly Dominicans.”
The night’s festivities kicked-off with a nod to Reynoso and the work he had put in uniting not just Dominicans but the diverse populations living in North Brooklyn.
“As a first generation Dominican-American, preserving these traditions is extremely valuable to me,” said Reynoso. “For community members who immigrated here, it’s a reminder of their native land and for their children, it keeps these traditions alive.”
What followed were lively dance performances by students from St. Nick’s afterschool program and the El Puente Dance Ensemble. The hosts then regaled audience members with a quiz – picking four members of the audience to test their knowledge of the Dominican Republic.
The night’s festivities concluded with awards being given to six individuals who had dedicated their lives to serving the Dominican community in North Brooklyn.
“Even though I’m not school educated I did my very best to help kids in the community,” said Elena Hernandez, one of the night’s award recipients, who has worked for over 33 years helping out with afterschool programs and in soup kitchens in the community’s various churches. “It is such an honor to be here tonight.”
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