A Friend & Activist Is Gone

I knew Apolinar and participated in several community and political struggles. As my father would say: De Los Buenos Quedan Pocos. Rest in Peace. Wanted to share this with my readers. Thanks, Howard and Angelo for sharing.

Apolinar Trinidad 1950-2011

Latino Civil Rights Pioneer dies at sixty

By Howard Jordan (January 23, 2011)

Apolinar TrinidadNew York — The legendary Dominican political activist and civil rights leader, Apolinar Trinidad, died on Wednesday, January 19 at the age of 60 after a brief illness. Trinidad, or “Trini” as he was affectionately called by friends, was a fiercely independent leader largely credited with pioneering a movement for electoral empowerment and immigrant rights that elected some of the city’s most notable elected officials.

Born in Samana, Dominican Republic on October 12 1950 to Francisca and Aquilino Trinidad he migrated to the United States at the age nineteen. For over twenty seven years Trinidad was employed by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal as a Rent Program Specialist advising tenants on the complicated maze of New York State housing laws. He graduated from Bronx Community college and studied at Columbia University.

In the early eighties he co-founded Latinos United for Political Action (LUPA), an independent civil rights organization dedicated to championing Latino electoral and immigrant empowerment. Trinidad, among others, helped orchestrate the anti-machine Democratic machine election of New York State Assemblyman Jose Rivera in 1982, who later went on to become the Bronx County Chairman of the Democratic Party. Rivera explained that, “Trini helped me in my first campaign and went on to become a true leader in our community. We lost our Malcolm X.”

In the 1980s, Dominican electoral aspirations were limited by high levels of noncitizenship. In what has been described as a watershed for New York’s Dominican participation, Trinidad organized a Dominican electoral front that resulted in the first Dominican representation to the Community Development Agencies (CDA) Advisory boards that permitted noncitizen voting and distributed millions a year in anti-poverty funds to community groups. He was later a CDA official and was appointed a representative on that board. That same year he was elected to New York City Community School Board 6 in Washington Heights.

Current New York State Senator Adriano Espailliat, a longtime friend, remarked, “Trinidad assisted my campaign efforts from district leader to Assemblyman to State Senator. He was with me from the beginning and a real pioneer for the Latino community and the city. ”

As a political organizer, in 1984 Trinidad organized the First Presidential Forum on Latino issues, with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, to address the candidacy of Walter Mondale against incumbent President Walter Mondale. In 1991 Trinidad ran unsuccessfully to become the first Dominican elected to the New York City Council.

But the independent leader would soon become disenchanted with the marginalization by the two political parties from the realities of the Latino community. In 1993 hem along with the late Sara Vidal, another noted activist, founded Dominicans for Giuliani, the primary Latino supporters of who was to become a two term mayor. Upon Giuliani’s election, Trinidad turned down any mayoral appointment.

In 2000, Trinidad brought a then relatively unknown candidate Michael Bloomberg to Washington Heights for a community breakfast at a local Washington Heights restaurant to outline his platform for the Latino community. Upon Bloomberg’s election as part of Latinos for Bloomberg, Trinidad never sought an appointment from the three term mayor.

But Trinidad’s activities were not limited to the electoral arena during this crucial period of activism i the ’80s and ’90s in the Latino community. He would engage in a whirlwind of activity in defense of immigrant rights and to alter city, state, and federal public policy.

As an ardent defender of immigrant rights, he became a “thorn in the side” of then New York City Mayor Ed Koch in 1989 when he led a coalition that pressured Koch to issue Executive Order 124 prohibiting the city government from disclosing information about the legal status of residents seeking municipal services, which was later overturned by the federal court. As a founder of the Non-Medallion Cab Association, he led City Hall protests against the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s efforts to penalize the Dominican led non-medallion cab industry by holding biased administrative hearings that denied them due process of law.

As the city demographics changed from a largely Puerto Rican to a more diverse Latino population, Trinidad participated in efforts to curb police misconduct of all nationalities. As part of the Latino Coalition for Racial Justice (LCRJ) he helped lead the protest against the police killing of Juan Rodriguez, a Dominican immigrant, in Brooklyn. The slogan, “Hoy Por Juan Rodriguez, Mañana Por Nosotros,” (Today for Juan Rodriguez , tomorrow all of us) became a rallying cry in Latino communities throughout the city against police brutality. Though subject to much criticism, he later brought the Rev. Al Sharpton to Washington Heights for the funeral service of Kiko Garcia who was killed under questionable circumstances by several New York City police officers.

But Trinidad’s activist pursuits were not limited to political activities. His organization, Latinos United for Political Action, would pursue changes in major public policy initiatives. He held meetings and wrote appeals to former Bronx Congressmen Robert Garcia, who chaired the House Committee of the Census, to create a “Dominican” nationality check-off so the city and state could gauge the growing number of Dominicans in our barrios.

He later testified before New York City legislative committees in support of proposed initiatives to limit the election of New York city-wide officials to two four year terms. The activist presented a major policy address in 1988 to the Federation of Dominican Merchants in the Dominican Republic on economic development efforts between the Dominican Republic and the Dominican Diaspora in the United States and called on the United States to pay reparations to the Dominican Republic for the invasion of 1965.

Trinidad was an active member and union representative of DC 37, working to ensure that all workers obtained their economic rights and preserve their pensions and benefits from the city.

In his later years, Trinidad gave greater attention to family and spiritual pursuits. He became an active member of the Unity Church and called on the Latino leadership and his followers to embrace a divine moral compass that would give our community, caught in a political and economic crisis, a new spiritual foundation.

Anthony Ricco, one the city’s top attorneys and longtime friend, observed that, “Trini was ahead of his time but he was also on time. Through his persistent advocacy he was one of the behind-the-scene forces that laid the foundation for a new generation of leadership in the Dominican community and the city at large.”

Tony Hasbun, another longtime friend and confidant said that, “For over forty years Trini fought for the human rights of people of every race, nationality, and gender. He often told me he held writer William Arthur Ward’s aspirations for our community ‘If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.'”

But to many in our community this beloved father was best known for his personal service and assistance to the countless residents of New York that everyday approached him for advice in his office, at home, or even on a street corner about how they could pay their rent, become citizens or how he could help them respond to some form of government abuse.

Howard Jordan, a life-long friend said of this gifted activist found that, “We could always count on Trini. He was my brother, best friend and a great man. His struggle was never about personal gain or ingratiating himself with those in power. He never took action preoccupied about which way the political winds blew, it was about his conscience and giving our people a real voice. He will be missed.”

Trinidad is survived by his mother Francisca, his son Socrates, his brother Miguel and grandchild Adrianna Fatima.

Special Thanks to: Raquel Vidal and the Vidal Family, the Cabrera family, Howard Jordan, Tony Hasbun, and the Anthony Ricco.

Funeral arrangements are as follows:


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

R.G. Ortiz Funeral Home

4425 Broadway

New York, NY 10040 (212) 942-2098, Fax (212) 942-2098

Memorial Service:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

11: 00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

The Unity Center of Practical Christianity

213 West 58th Street (between Broadway and 7th Avenue)

New York, NY 10019

(212) 582-1300

Interment will be on Friday, January 28, 2011 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

For further information, contact Howard Jordan at 646-210-8489 or howjordan@hotmail.com