Sonia Pierre, a human rights activist who bravely fought discrimination against poor Dominicans of Haitian descent since she was a child, died Sunday, according to colleagues. She was 48. The renowned activist died outside of the municipality of Villa Altagracia while being rushed to a hospital after suffering a heart attack around noon Sunday, said Genaro Rincon, a lawyer who works with Pierre's Dominican-Haitian Women's Movement.
Pierre's chronic heart troubles were first discovered in 2007 when she was in Washington to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award honoring her work securing citizenship and education for Dominican-born ethnic Haitians.
Through the decades, her activism made her the target of threats in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, but it earned her recognition from overseas as a fierce defender of human rights, including an award from Amnesty International in 2003.
Pierre was one of 12 children raised in a dirt-floor barrack in a Dominican migrant worker camp and was just 13 when she was first arrested and threatened with deportation for leading her fellow Dominican residents of Haitian descent in a march for cane cutters' rights.
Since then, Pierre tirelessly fought to secure citizenship and education for the beleaguered minority of Dominican-born ethnic Haitians.