Since I was little, I was so curious to read all the newspapers and magazines. I remember that I went to all the grocery stores and I bought them and in some of them, journalists talked about all the corruption that occurred in the government. I was excited. I told my mom that I wanted to go to journalism school, and I remember that her expression on her face was terror. I told her I want to tell the truth, expose the government’s secrets and corruption to the population. My mother said, “Daughter, they will kill you for that,” – everyday, journalists who spoke against the government were killed. I told my mom I wouldn’t mind dying for what is fair. I want people to know.
I entered journalism school at 18 and was there for almost five years while also going to drama school. They both meant a lot to me. Theatre and journalism have always been a means of telling the truth to my community in the Dominican Republic.
Theatre has played a crucial part in the history of the Dominican Republic. La Dramática was the revolutionary theatre in the struggle for Independence in 1844, founded by one of our Patrial parents, Juan Pablo Duarte. It shows the influence of artistic expressions in the formation of our communities. The fathers of the Dominican homeland used the theatre to go to communities and tell what was happening, tell and keep awake the idea of Independence.
As I write this, I realize how connected these two careers are and how they influenced my life.
Altagracia Paulino is a Black woman, my mother’s first cousin, but I call her aunt. She is also my twin brother’s godmother. Altagracia is an example for me. She went to journalism school in the 1970s and was persecuted by the government because she was recounting all the corruption that had occurred since then. Many tried to assassinate her but could not. Altagracia is currently part of the Dominican government. She has been one of the politicians that have worked hard in the struggle of the Dominican community of people and is part of many organizations worldwide in the battle for the people’s defense.
When I told my aunt that I would go to journalism school, she told me remember that this career is for the people. It always tells the truth. The government will try to shut you up but keep your voice loud and strong.
Orlando Martinez was a journalist who was assassinated in the 1970s by the Balaguer government. Martínez was 30 years old when he was shot and killed on José Contreras Avenue, near the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), where a bust has since been erected in his honour. The UASD and the Dominican College of Journalists have paid tribute to those they consider a defender of democracy and public liberties in the country.
“Our academy considers it a duty to remind new and future generations that Orlando Martínez was an emblematic journalist who embraced his profession as a priesthood and the struggle of the poorest (…) at a time when these social sectors were victims of abuses and injustices and defending them was a heroic action,” said the Rector of the UASD, Emma Polanco, during a wreath laid last year to date.
I’m crying writing this article because journalists are still being killed for defending my community. Martínez is a symbol of freedom of expression in the country.
While I was in journalism school, I participated in large protests in the country. My journalism colleagues and I were always in front, taking photos and sharing it on social networks. In 2012 there was a large protest at the university against the tax reform, which was recently passed into law by the deputies. At that protest I can still remember how we ran, and the police threw bombs inside the university from outside. According to the laws in the Dominican Republic, the national authority cannot enter the public university without the authorization of the Rector. Imagine students throwing rocks from inside the university at the police officers outside as the only way to protect themselves. Police officers cannot use gunshots, but that year, at that moment, they did, and a medical student was killed. This student was not even participating in the protest; he was trying to get out of college to go home. I’ll never forget that day. The whole town was in shock. Our students were devastated.
Still, protests continued to happen against the government. I am so proud of today’s youth in the Dominican. Their work is vital and revolutionary.
When I moved to Canada, I tried to go to journalism school, but my English was not good enough. I realize that the journalism here is different too. The news doesn’t make sense to me. The press has so much power to change society but they don’t use it here. They have the opportunity to change the course of history for better but they don’t. They are silent. We know about everything that happens in the province but journalists do not tell it. There is a men’s club that is located on King Street. Why does this club exist? Why don’t journalists talk about it? Why don’t they talk about the millions in the budget for the police when there is not enough funding in other areas such as mental health?
It is said in some countries that journalism is the fourth power (i.e., first is the legislative power, which is the chamber of deputies, second executive power, which is the president, and third is the judicial power, the institution in charge of administering justice through the courts) because information is power. Whoever administers it will be able to influence the interest of many others directly. How you do it will have enormous consequences. The media plays a fundamental role in political systems. I don’t know how journalism is taught in Canada, but it is not just good storytelling; it is a search for the truth, to investigate, to go deeper, to be curious and always be alert. Mainstream media can do better.
It does not just have a good story for the reader but a story that reflects the injustice of this society, a story that expresses freedom and knowledge. That knowledge is the basis of freedom. A community cannot be free if it does not know the reality of what is happening.
When the full story is not properly investigated and reported, journalists can manipulate information and cause a harm. Writing partly-true or untrue stories has destroyed the lives of many BIPOC individuals.
So, what are you doing to change this society?
Are you going to keep being silent?
This is a call to all journalists to be courageous and use the power of their profession to be part of positive change. Tell the reality of our societies. Remember that we are part of this community and our voices need to be heard as well. In the meantime, BIPOC folks will continue telling the truth about our communities.
Hey! I’m Bianca but people call me B. I’m Afro-Latinx and Queer woman. Follow me on Instagram if you want to read the truth @afrolatinxaf.