Samuel J Kanig is a community organizer, filmmaker, musician, and activist. Kanig, originally from Utuado, Puerto Rico studied in University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez prior to his move to Trenton, New Jersey in 2006. This is where he founded Galeria Casa Cultura, Trenton’s Latino art gallery and music studio focused on the development of Latino artist and musicians. He also became the President of the Puerto Rican Civic Association of Trenton New Jersey in 2014 where he led with a vision of celebrating culture while empowering the community. In Puerto Rico, Kanig is also a co-founder of a barbecue festival which is one of the largest festivals in the mountainous region of the island and is in its 14th year running.
Kanig has continuously worked in the community by partnering with local organizations and non-profits to continue developing, organizing and promoting programs and events with the Latino community in mind. His partnerships include Passage Theatre, ArtWorks Trenton, Smith Family Foundation, Trenton Police Department, Mercer County Community College and many more.
During the wake of Hurricane Maria, Kanig took action by organizing partnerships between local organizations and community leaders in Trenton and Mercer County. As a collective group of concerned citizens, a plan to collect donations and raise funds was created. Kanig traveled personally to Puerto Rico in representation of the Trenton community where he delivered funds collected by fundraisers spearheaded in Trenton. He met with many organizations on the ground working on reconstruction, food pantries as well as search and rescue work.
In 2018 Kanig became the first ever Community Fellow in-Residence at The College of New Jersey. In this role, Kanig has been able partner with faculty members at TCNJ to create a series of oral history projects that capture the Puerto Rican experience in Trenton as well as a short documentary narrating the stories behind the Puerto Rican Parade in Trenton and the important role it plays in our community. The TCNJ students have been a very lucrative part in these projects by providing their creative skills and embracing the culture throughout.
In January 2019, Kanig traveled to Puerto Rico with a group of students and staff from TCNJ’s Bonner Program in efforts to aid the island’s rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Maria. The work performed by the volunteers ranged from repurposing an abandoned school to serve as a community center, to planting dozens of trees in a national reserve forest. During this trip, Kanig served as the cultural liaison providing the students with an educational experience with a focus on life on the island before and after Hurricane Maria.
Locally, Kanig continues to organize cultural events, Puerto Rican heritage celebrations, and public art and beautification projects. He remains active in movements nationwide geared towards advocacy and social justice of Puerto Rico. His work is inspired in the preservation of the Puerto Rican culture, traditions and the empowerment of our community