With some flooded and battered areas still unreachable, and fear of disease spreading in many of the hurricane-hammered Caribbean countries, residents of many islands are struggling to find some degree of normalcy, as the pursuit for food, water, shelter and electricity remains a priority. This new normal is devastating for so many residents of former island paradises, such as St. Thomas, Anguilla, Puerto Rico. St. Maarten and St. Lucia.
The killer weather in the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea came mere days after the hellish floods and wind in Texas and on the way to Florida.
For the most part, the mainstream media have not given proportionate attention to many of the smaller, yet still hard-hit, islands, but the Caribbean Diaspora is coming together to gather as much aid as possible.
New Yorkers, of course, are a part of this noble and necessary effort.
For example, Saturday, Oct. 7, has been designated “Caribbean Day of Giving.” On that day, organizers say, the Caribbean Diaspora and friends will be taking part in a radiothon to support Caribbean countries affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization Relief Fund sponsored “Caribbean Day of Giving” radiothon will be hosted on WVIP-FM (93.5FM). The organizers say there will be a variety of “giving platforms, including direct calls, text messages and internet. Opportunities for individuals wishing to donate in-kind goods, will also be featured.”
Akelia Lawrence-Maitland, Jamaica Diaspora advisory board member to the Northeast USA, said that the Caribbean Diaspora Disaster Relief Coalition-organized event, “is an excellent opportunity for all of us in the Diaspora to come together to help these countries severely impacted by these hurricanes as well as to demonstrate the collective will and power of our Caribbean Diaspora community.”
She added, “To this end, we are extending an open invitation for all radio programmers, community groups and businesses to become a part of this most important day.”
In a press release, the organizers said that the relief efforts will benefit the CARICOM-affiliated Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, which is the official body coordinating relief efforts to the various Caribbean countries affected by the hurricanes. For more information, log on to www.caribbeandayofgiving.com or call 516-713-8270.
Brooklyn is home to one of the largest population of Caribbean-Americans in the country. Flatbush-based State Senator Kevin Parker told the AmNews, “The unthinkable destruction caused in Caribbean by the recent monstrous hurricanes have not just affected the region, but impacted all of us. Indeed, at the heart of our concern is the loss of life. However, even as we mourn we must continue to work assiduously to rebuild he region, especially places like Dominica, Tortuga, St. Martin and Barbuda, which were decimated. As the cleanup continues and airports and hotel industry slowly begin reopening for business we cannot forget that the damage to the physical and human capital will remain for a long time. … I am happy to see at the micro level communities everywhere have been organizing relief aid projects and sending much needed critical items to the region. At the macro level those unable to do the hands-on work have been opening their ‘Samaritan’s purse’ and contributing to the major relief organizations doing work on the ground in the region. With its reduced productivity capacity, we are aware that the export and tourism products of the Caribbean will be greatly affected. Therefore, this is the time when our action must bring to life the words of the one of the greatest voices of the Caribbean and show that we are of ‘One Love, One Heart!’ with our Caribbean neighbors.”
John Coombs, firefighter and member of the Vulcan Society told the AmNews, “As we look to rebuild many of the islands devastated by Irma, Jose and Maria. It is mind-boggling as to who needs the most help and what do we start with! Some of the American commonwealths like PR are already getting assistance from FEMA, but the other islands badly devastated are still in need of help. Antigua and Barbuda is in need of supplies of all kinds, mainly personal care items, men women and children clothes and underwear, building supplies. These items can be dropped off at locations around the city.
Speaking on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged her colleagues to provide desperately needed disaster relief to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Gillibrand said, “This is one of the worst disasters our country has ever seen. The men and women and children who live on these islands are American citizens. Do not forget that. They have no food to eat. No water to drink. No power. No refrigeration. If we don’t give them help now, then many more people there will die—far more than those who were killed during the hurricane itself. I urge my colleagues here to think about our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and what they are suffering through right now.”
The AtlantaBlackStar.com said that a “disconnect leads to the trivialization of nonwhite disaster victims” noting, “As the Caribbean tends to hold a temporal place in the American consciousness—a place that is visited and enjoyed for a short amount of time and then forgotten—the reality of what happens there once the tourists leave tend to be ignored. This, however, does not trivialize that millions will be forced to live the ramifications of this hurricane season for years to come.”
“Calling on all NYC grassroots community-based organizations to meet and find common ground,” Zulu Nation’s King Sadiki “Bro. Shep” Ojore Olugbala, veteran Black Panther Party member, told the AmNews that a meeting is planned for Oct. 4 at Harlem’s National Black Theater, “in order to collectively respond to this past summer’s catastrophic hurricanes and/or earthquake disasters in Florida, Texas, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the rest of the Caribbean.
“Come and join with veteran members of both the Young Lords Party and the Black Panther Party,” he said, “along with a host of other concerned grassroots activists and politically conscious performing artists for a meeting of the minds, in order to initiate our collective organizing of community-based cultural events in NYC to provide support for our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico and throughout the rest of the devastated Caribbean.”
Veteran activist Olugbala, who never blinked in the face of political analysis, added, “We all know from the history of hurricanes Matthew, Katrina and Sandy that long after all of the other historically corrupt and mismanaged multimillion dollar professional relief corporations do their usual disappearing act, when main stream media decides that Black and Brown people have become ‘old news,’ that our sisters and brothers still matter and will need our love and assistance on the road to recovery.”
Florida-based Eddy Edwards also has his eye on the Caribbean devastation, as not only his native Jamaica but also other islands were in the path of the storm. The Riddims Marketing, Inc., and Jamaican Jerk Festival USA, Inc., executive told the AmNews, “We completed an effort Saturday and collected a lot of water, sanitary supplies and cash which will be shipped to the island. We are working with a coalition of organizations and promoters under banner SFLCaribbeanStrong—website SFLCaribbeanStrong.org—along with the Miami Foundation. The effort is being spearheaded by attorney Marlon Hill and Fr. Horace Ward of the Holy Family Episcopal Church.”
Edwards added, “Funds will be dedicated to priority relief efforts in the Caribbean islands noted below and will be managed and overseen by a Diaspora Community Advisory Group. The fund will be designated to support authorized and credible nonprofit relief organizations in the following islands: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Martin/St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eutstatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Dominica, Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Lucia.”
For more information, contact http://www.sflcaribbeanstrong.org.
Also pitching in, the campuses of the City University of New York announced that they are “mobilizing to aid the millions of people devastated by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria and by the two earthquakes in Mexico.”
At Bronx Community College, a fundraising drive runs through Oct. 6, and a campaign to collect toiletries goes until Oct. 20. Personal counseling for those affected will last through the entire school year.
In a press release, CUNY stated, “At City Tech, the Student Government Association has responded to fundraising requests for help from three Houston colleges that Hurricane Harvey left, quite literally, under water: Houston Community College, Rice University and Texas Southern University http://tsu.thankyou4caring.org/tsucares). The City Tech campus counseling center has scheduled group sessions for students affected by either this unprecedented string of natural disasters or the stresses caused by the federal threat to students who had been protected by DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”
At Hostos Community College, where almost 60 percent of the student body comes from the Caribbean and Latin America, representatives of the president’s office had planned to meet with community leaders and longtime partners Friday to shape a response.
At Medgar Evers College, where approximately 25 percent of students are foreign-born and many U.S.-born students have Caribbean parents and extended family in places such as Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Puerto Rico, efforts are underway to help the millions across the Caribbean, Texas and Florida who are recovering from the recent catastrophic hurricanes. The college has established a Hurricane Relief Account that will allow donations to be made through the Bursar’s office. The college will make donations only to reputable charities that it deems best suited to get the aid directly to affected families.
At York College, students and staff are donating to the York College Auxiliary–Disaster Relief Fund to channel money to relief agencies. Its counseling center is open to those who need support.
Parker added, “I applaud the many relief efforts which have been mounted here in New York. At the same time, I urge us all to continue to be generous with our aid and contributions to the relief efforts.”
For more information about drop-off points, Coombs said people should call the Consulate General of Antigua and Barbuda at 212-541-4117.
For more information on locations to drop of supplies, Olugbala said the email address is Panthershepcat@aol.com.