20 September 2019

When the Apocalypse is Now



 

Stabroek News, In the Diaspora

9 September 2019


When the Apocalypse is Now: Climate Crisis, Small Island Disasters and Migration in the Aftermath of Hurricane Dorian
Angelique V. Nixon

It has been just one unbearably long week since Hurricane Dorian, and the reports from the Northern Bahamas islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco are more horrific and catastrophic with each passing day. Both islands are being described as apocalyptic with near or total devastation and a rising death toll that is hard to fathom for such a small country. Many of the dead have not been counted yet because of limited storage and capacity. The place smells like death – recent reports from Abaco and Grand Bahama keep saying. Bahamians living abroad like myself have spent these past days in fear and panic waiting to hear from loved ones and families, mourning with our national siblings, watching in horror the rescue and recovery efforts, sharing information and correcting misinformation about our beloved archipelago.

The Northern Bahamas has just experienced one of the most catastrophic hurricanes on record. The devastation is unimaginable, with thousands of homes destroyed and thousands of people displaced on both islands. The population of Abaco and Grand Bahama – nearly 70,000 people or more – have been directly impacted. Too many people have lost almost everything, homes entirely or mostly destroyed, loved ones taken by the storm surge, survivors traumatised and waiting for relief. Communication is severely limited. Electricity is out and will be for a long time. Drinking water is running out. Running water is reported to be contaminated. The longer people wait to get relief, the greater chance the death toll will rise even more, the greater toll on people’s physical, emotional and mental health. This is the reality. This is what I’m hearing from friends, family and community organisers on the ground. This is what local and international journalists are reporting.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, both islands face a humanitarian crisis as people wait for rescue and relief efforts. Too many people have no drinking water, food, clothing, or shelter – basic needs. Too many people are traumatised, re-counting the stories of watching loved ones being pulled away by the tidal surge or drowning in attempts to get out of flooding homes and shelters. The stories are beyond heart-breaking and filled with apocalyptic horror – as people await rescue and relief, they share how they survived and how they watched others perish.  It is almost too much, but we must bear witness and share in this grief and sorrow so that healing and recovery are possible. This is a small island disaster, but there is nothing small about it.

We must understand that the most vulnerable or marginalised communities before the disaster (poor and working class folks, persons living with disabilities and severe health conditions, elderly, migrants, and those caring for others) will be the most in need in the aftermath. This is how disasters work. They are not the great equalizer as some say. All they do is unearth and exacerbate existing inequalities and vulnerabilities. We have seen this again and again – from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast US, and the continued failed response and relief for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The most vulnerable are made more vulnerable.

While relief efforts are being mobilised, donations and funds are being collected from across the region and world, and disaster agencies are operating, there remain disparities in access to relief and rescue. Across Grand Bahama - with the second largest population in the country, over 50,000 people, from the city of Freeport to settlements like High Rock – there is widespread devastation. People of Grand Bahama have been saying they feel ignored and forgotten in relief efforts, days after the storm, as survivors searched for loved ones, led their own rescue operations, as people who lost less help those who have lost everything.

My elder aunt and uncle, and a family friend who is disabled, survived the hurricane and flooding in a one-story concrete house, far from the coast, inland in Freeport, Grand Bahama. They watched in fear as the flood waters rose into the yard, then up into their home, and sat waist deep in those waters for many terrifying hours. Many areas of Freeport flooded with the storm surge and hours of hurricane rain. While their house is still standing, most of their belongings are damaged or destroyed. They say they are just happy and blessed to be alive. My cousin says they are both traumatised as so many people in Grand Bahama. They are just one story of hundreds of families struggling in the aftermath. Another family member in Freeport says many people who have means (a passport, US visa, and/or family/connections in Florida) are leaving – two cruise ships from Freeport to West Palm Beach have already left.

Entire settlements in Abaco – from the largest town of Marsh Harbour to the almost forgotten shanty town of Haitian migrants and Haitian Bahamians called The Mudd and Pigeon Peas (with an estimated population of  2,600) – have been destroyed. Haitian migrants and Haitian Bahamians are one of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in The Bahamas, too often ignored and treated inhumanely by the state and Bahamians generally. It is likely that many undocumented Haitian migrants in this community in Abaco might have been fearful to seek shelter in the storm even with the mandatory evacuation. It is likely that we may never know for sure how many in this community lost their lives. Few journalists and news stories have discussed this issue as it is a sensitive one and political issue. Haitian migrants have escaped one set of unliveable conditions, only to find themselves facing another. According to news reports, Haitian activists in Miami have called upon the Prime Minister of The Bahamas to stop deportations so that Haitian migrants can access relief and help without fear.  
  
Hurricane Dorian is the most powerful storm to hit the Northern Bahamas ever – with 185 mph winds, 220 mph gusts and 20 feet tidal surges. It was/is unimaginable. The slow moving and massive storm ripped through the Abaco islands and then sat stationary over Grand Bahama for more the 40 hours. There is no way to prepare fully for this. Even for a country that is accustomed to hurricanes, a country that has strict building codes, for people who know storms and plan for hurricanes every season (for generations and increasingly in the past decade of more frequent and intense storms), nothing could prepare us for this and its aftermath. The Bahamas is not prepared. Neither are any of our island-nations and countries in this vulnerable region. And neither are most countries really prepared for this kind of disaster – a disaster fueled by climate change, injustice and inequality. This is the apocalypse now of climate crisis. In the past decade, we have witnessed and experienced the strength, intensity and frequency of hurricanes – fueled by climate change, season after season – not only in The Bahamas but across the Caribbean region. We have been on the front lines of climate change for decades. This is climate crisis – as Erica Moiah James so beautifully argues in her September 4 New York Times Op-Ed “Hurricane Dorian Makes Bahamians the Latest Climate-Crisis Victims”.

This is our worst fear, what we’ve already experienced and imagined as bearing the brunt of climate change. In my lifetime, I have seen the impact of rising sea levels, erosion of coastlines, destruction of mangroves and unsustainable, destructive tourism development in The Bahamas. Across the region, we see this again and again, alongside stronger hurricanes, severe weather, higher temperatures, coral reefs and mangroves dying - mangroves that ought to protect the coast during storms. This has been the reality of climate change for decades. And now we have reached another extreme – with fires raging in the Amazon and across Sub-Saharan Africa, carbon levels higher than predicted, melting of polar ice caps, hotter summers, colder winters, mass extinctions in the animal kingdom, bleaching of coral reefs, and on and on. This is climate crisis. And the Caribbean is one of the most vulnerable regions with small island countries and low-lying coasts, much like the Pacific Islands.

It is important to understand the geography and land/sea-scape of The Bahamas to really grasp how challenging relief efforts are and the long road to recovery. The country needs all the help that the Caribbean region, civil society organisations, relief agencies, private sector and others are offering. The Bahamas is more sea than land with over 700 islands and cays stretching right above Cuba and Haiti north to Florida. Grand Bahama and Abaco are larger islands than the city-capital island of Nassau, New Providence, which is the economic centre, has the largest population and hence more resources. With a total population of close to 400,000 people and the vulnerability of low lying islands and rising sea levels, The Bahamas is in no way prepared for such a widespread disaster on two of the islands with the largest populations (outside of Nassau). The government doesn’t have enough emergency equipment or responders to handle this catastrophic situation – on two islands where mass destruction of airports, hospitals, businesses, government offices, and entire communities left few options for immediate help. Both islands have had to wait in terror for help to arrive from elsewhere – from the capital New Providence. This is perhaps why the Bahamian government is relying so heavily on the private sector, the Caribbean Emergency Disaster Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, British Royal Navy, wealthy citizens, cruise ships, airlines and others with resources like planes and helicopters (necessary for helping with rescue and evacuations). Mass evacuations must happen especially in Abaco where reports suggest that it will take years to rebuild. Mass migrations are inevitable from both islands.

In our Caribbean, this is the latest instantiation of what it means to be on the frontline of climate change and small island disasters. Devastation and mass migration have already happened because of widespread disasters after hurricanes and earthquakes – Puerto Rico, Haiti, Dominica, Barbuda, Virgin Islands, St. Martin, and on and on.  So we must plan for this new future and figure out how to best prepare, support each other. Given the unimaginable scale of devastation at this start of the 2019 hurricane season, we should be thinking about what will happen when climate crisis reaches critical mass. Will this be the new norm? What happens when we all become climate refugees? What do we need to do, across our region, to challenge an ongoing logic of development that turns our spaces of living into death zones?

But for now in this aftermath, I am thinking most of those suffering now, those most vulnerable, and helping my family as much as I can. I am doing what I can here in Trinidad through a “Relief Drive for The Bahamas” supporting three grassroots women-led organisations on the ground that are getting help to those most in need and those most vulnerable in this disaster – Lend A Hand Bahamas (https://www.lendahandbahamas.org/), Equality Bahamas (Facebook @equality242), and Human Rights Bahamas (Facebook @gbhra242). The core organisers here in Trinidad are UWI Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), Coalition-Against Domestic Violence, Network of NGOs of T&T for the Advancement of Women, and the Emancipation Support Committee TT (ESCTT). We have come together to collect relief items – calling for basic necessities – adult and baby hygiene products, including soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, female sanitary items, adult and baby diapers, baby formula and food, cleansing wipes, and non-perishable foods can be dropped off at any of those organisations’ headquarters. (For those in Trinidad who want to support, contact me via what’s app 868-732-3543 for more information.) We are supporting grassroots organisations on the ground because we trust they will get relief to those most in need as quickly as possible. 


I urge us all in the Caribbean to move with empathy and care in this long road to recovery because we are in this together. I ask for us to think about how we call upon each other, our leaders, governments, policy makers, agencies, private sector, civil society to be visionary and transformational leaders, to be forward thinking, to demand better, ethical and sustainable development for our Caribbean future.


BIO -  Angelique V. Nixon is a Bahamas-born, Trinidad-based writer, artist, and scholar-activist. She is a Lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago. She is author of Resisting Paradise: Tourism, Diaspora, and Sexuality in Caribbean Culture and an art and poetry chapbook Saltwater Healing – A Myth Memoir and Poems.










31 December 2016

Cosmic Evolution - What is your Earthseed Vision of the Future?

This year has been ridiculously intense, hard, and frustrating... but I've managed to do some things -- channeling my rage into creation. I've pushed myself as a writer, poet, and artist -- and this project was visioned, created, and produced all in this year since the summer. In July, I had an amazing week at the VONA/VOICES Writers of Color Workshop - Residency with David Mura. This was life changing for me a writer and it gave me the tools I need to push myself, my craft, my artistic writing self. I am grateful. Out of that powerful experience, I went into another writing retreat with my SPACE crew in Tobago - and Cosmic Evolution was born. I wrote a short story that I then began to vision as a mixed media installation -- and I submitted a proposal to the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas call for their 8th NationalExhibition. I was accepted :) and the piece grew and transformed into what you will see below. 

Close Up of Sculpture - representing Cosmic Evolution

"Cosmic Evolution" is a speculative fiction experience and multimedia installation about how we vision futures for Caribbean and African Diaspora peoples. Inspired by Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Caribbean mangroves and sea, I ask what is our Earthseed vision of the future? This artwork is my response and provocation for us to create wildly and boldly. To seriously think about our survival and possible futures given the continued assault on on Black, Brown, Migrant, Same-Sex loving, Queer, and Women's Lives and the earth. The sculpture is a small-scale model of the evolution of our beings and escape to the stars. (I must give a shout out and sincere gratitude to my dearest friend Shalini Seereeram for her help with design and materials for the sculpture. She is boss artist and has design magic!) The rest of installation includes 18 photographs, 11min 11sec video with mangroves and storytelling. My work is inspired by the Mangrove forests of Trinidad and Tobago and created through deep reflection of how we vision our Caribbean futures. I am thrilled to be featured in the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas 8th National Exhibition - OFFSITE at Hillside House. I went home on 16th December to Install the piece and also had the fabulous opportunity to share the work at the opening reception on the 17th and offer a reading/performance. Here are photos and some reflections of the opening and this experience of creating Cosmic Evolution.


PromoBillboard for NE8 featuring one of my photographs (of Tobago Mangrove) from Cosmic Evolution

Angelique V. Nixon | Cosmic Evolution | Artist Statement


“The Destiny of Earthseed is to take Root among the Stars.”
–Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower



Cosmic Evolution is a provocation and speculative fiction experience about how we vision our futures for Caribbean and African diaspora people – Black, Brown, Migrant, Same-Sex Loving, Queer, and Women especially. This vision began with a journey through the Mangrove forests in Tobago and deep reflection on Octavia Butler’s dystopia novel Parable of the Sower (imagining her creation of community survival through Earthseed). It also emerges through the painful social and racial climate we are surviving in the past few years of a so-called post-racial world (and the rise of Black Lives Matter and Migrant Rights movements globally in response to overwhelming violence, fear, and hate). And it comes to life thinking through the backlash against Caribbean feminist and women’s movements for gender and sexual justice and the continued struggles for gender and sexual rights and freedom for Caribbean sexual minorities (LGBTQI) and gender non-conforming people. Cosmic Evolution is about survival and possible futures given the continued assault on Black, Brown, Migrant, Queer, and Women’s lives.  

This mixed media installation shares a future vision of marginalised people evolving and relocating to Space after spending nine years under the mangrove forests of the Caribbean Sea. The future storyteller (griot) explains the process of this cosmic evolution and how people transformed and took flight to the stars, which is made possible through the magical infusion of cultural artifacts, ancestral spirits, earth and sea vibrations, and mangrove swamps. Cosmic Evolution visions a future decolonised, where our minds, bodies, and spirits feel whole; a future unbounded to capitalism, where communities thrive in harmony and healing rooted in love and acceptance; a future where we co-exist with the earth and all living creatures; a future where we are sexually, spiritually, and socially free – with consent at the root and restorative justice the path. To create our own possible Earthseed Future, we must do the work of pulling from the past and present to evolve. This project seeks to ground us back into the earth, sea, and ancestral memory, to reimagine the tools we need in order to create better, possible, and livable futures.


What is your Earthseed Vision of the Future?

Cosmic Evolution - Mixed Media Installation at Hillside House
Close Up of the Sculpture
Video surrounded by Photographs of the Mangroves which inspired my story
I took these photographs of the Mangrove Forests in Trinidad and Tobago.
I worked with NAGB Chief Curator Holly Bynoe to place the photographs and create this collage style effect.
Description of the work to accompany the installation
Promo for the Opening Reception and Reading at Hillside House

Reading at Hillside House for the Opening Reception -- NE8 Offsite.
I offered a Ritual after the reading/performance of my story Cosmic Evolution -- I opened the space with ancestor blessings and acknowledgement of land and people here before us. After storytelling, I shared my manifesto and Earthseed visioning of this new Earth/space and the kind of community I would want to create. I asked participants to join me in visioning of our Caribbean futures. I invited them to write down on pieces of fabric what magical artifacts or objects they would take with them AND/OR what kind of community or new world they would create. Each person left their message near the sculpture. And I gave each person who contributed a seed to keep with them for future visioning. It was a powerful ritual of exchange and visioning for me as an artist. This was my first solo performance art piece and I am forever grateful to the staff and curatorial team at NAGB for this amazing opportunity. I want to especially give thanks to Holly Bynoe for creating spaces and expansive visioning for what art is and how we can engage community. Thank you Holly! 💜

The sculpture with offerings from participants after the ritual
Close up of some of the offerings
Engaging the work - friends and family :)


Another Promo for the Opening featuring one of my photographs of the Tobago Mangrove Forest
Description of NE8
NE8 OFFSite Artists
Grateful for this experience and being able to share my art at home :)
Another view of the photographs and video.







I am also very grateful to be in the region these past few years -- teaching, working, living, and in the struggle for Caribbean freedom. Trinidad and Tobago is an ancestral home for me and is also now feeling completely homespace. I am happy to share my Cosmic Evolution first in my birthplace/home Nassau, Bahamas, but as it was created in and inspired by sweet T&T I will also be sharing it in Trinidad - soon soon!

happy new year blessings & conscious vibes.
may this new year bring renewal & fortitude for continuing struggles & resistance.
choose our weapons wisely. vision boldly & stay rooted. 
conjure freedom tools. be defiant.

peace love blessings in abundance! and more from me in 2017!
Angelique (sistella black)

13 December 2016

Rituals for Healing and Self Care - A Caribbean Feminist Brew


Rituals for Healing and Self Care
A Caribbean Feminist Brew
Conjured by Angelique V. Nixon


for those of us on the frontline,
waging battles, survivors of violence,
for Caribbean women and girls,
for Caribbean people who live and love
outside gender and sexual norms,
(especially lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex,
queer, and gender non-conforming folks)

These past weeks of sharing painful stories, we have broken depths of silence,
Broken, we are not, broke open, we are, not damaged beyond repair,
We are breaking silences with fyah raised fists and voices beaming, 
we listen, we hold, we rage, we bawl, we scream, we remember.
 
We share our own stories. Sometimes we don’t share. Sometimes we can’t. This is time to bear witness. We share in this unearthing of our stories of sexual abuse, harassment, assault, and violence. We wonder how to move forward. How to escape. How to process. How to cope. How to stop this violence. How to hold each other accountable. How to live and love. How to be whole again. How to heal. 

Krystal Nandini Ghisyawan and I have been asking these questions over the past few years through our co-created art and reflection projects on gender-based violence (GBV) in the Caribbean. This year, we decided to focus on breaking silence and healing. 

For survivors of violence especially women and people who defy sexual and gender norms, I hosted a healing workshop at Wholeness and Justice Counselling Centre in Trinidad on 9 December. I created this workshop to facilitate healing space for those of us most affected by gender based violence. This session focused on women, LGBTQI folks, and gender non-conforming people because we experience the brunt of hetero-patriarchal violence. These forms of violence affect us all but women and sexual minorities experience gender based violence disproportionately. 

As the #LifeinLeggings movement grows across the Caribbean, we must create more spaces for us to find healing. We have opened up wounds, we have shared painful memories, and we are bearing witness to each other’s pain. How do we process these feelings and memories? How do we support and protect each other? How do we channel our anger, pain, rage, and sorrow into creativity, language, and action? How do we manage loved ones reactions, feelings, and pain upon reading our stories? Can we create change and transform our societies, communities, and families? What is possible? Inspired by Audre Lorde's poetry and essays, my workshop seeks to open space and use creativity for healing and transformation. 

I share here on consciousvibration the goals, rituals, and creative exercises I developed to create space for healing and sharing. We had a powerful and hard session on Friday – with nine of us – sharing, writing, creating, and thinking through these questions of how we transform silence into language and action. I will be hosting more of these workshops soon – and some folks in the group want to meet up regularly.  

The Goals of the Workshop: For survivors of gender based violence, to release and find healing through creativity and to transform silence into language and action.


   Defining Self Care:
  • A self-initiated, deliberate act to establish and maintain physical, mental and emotional health.
  • Creating spaces for reflection, healing, community building, and balance. 
Cleansing Healing Breathing Practice
  • To release stress and emotional build up; To cleanse the body and regenerate; To clear the mind - ground and center self.
  • Focus and Pay attention to the breath as a healing practice.
Remember that Healing is a process (day to day practice)
  • Establish daily rituals of self-care: eating well, exercise, meditation, yoga, grounding, nature connection, checking in with loved ones.
  • Relaxing and restorative things you do just for you (time for yourself everyday; writing every morning or before bed; make a healing playlist just for you; etc.)
  • Build a healing altar and/or space for mediation and healing practice. 

Healing Altar built for the workshop on 9 Dec 2016

Writing and Art – Creativity as a Path for Healing (channel rage into creation)

Anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification. 
Anger is loaded with information and energy. 
 –Audre Lorde “Uses of Anger”

We have opened up wounds, we have shared painful memories, and we are bearing witness to each others' pain. How do we process these feelings and memories? How do we support and protect each other? How do we channel our anger, pain, rage, and sorrow into creativity, language, and action? How do we manage loved ones reactions, feelings, and pain upon reading our stories? Can we create change and transform our societies, communities, and families? What is possible?


My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.
–Audre Lorde “Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”

As survivors of gender based violence – we often push down the painful memories and this can create a separation of selves – especially if it happened to us as children or teens. We may have split and silenced parts of our selves to survive and cope. Sometimes these are necessary strategies but long term can be damaging. Here are some creative exercises to communicate with your other self or selves built for survival and coping – for healing and transformation.

Creative Exercises as pathways to healing:

1) Stone Reflection (Earth – grounding self)
Pick two stones – one as a reflection of your inner self or child self and the other as the self you project to the world or your adult self. Write about each stone and how they reflect these parts of you. Describe the surface, the edges, the feelings that each stone evokes in you. Let the power of the earth come through the stones. Feel how they ground you. Share your reflection.

2) Love letter or drawing to child-teen-younger self (Air and Water – for healing) 

Use the elements of Air and Water – as a metaphor for channeling messages to your younger self: write a love letter or create a drawing for your younger self. 

For Inspiration -- read my love letter: 



3) "Transforming Silence into Language and Action" (Fire – for regeneration)
And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger.

 We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of the silence will choke us.

The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break the silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.

– Audre Lorde, “Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”

For Inspiration, watch and listen to my collaborative art project: “Sixteen Days: Art and Reflection Project” and see my art and poetry collection: Saltwater Healing: A Myth Memoir and Poems.

Vision your own transformation piece with FYAH – create, draw, paint, colour, write poetry, or anything you want to make with your hands -- transform feelings, anger, sadness, grief, pain, silence into something new that will incite, will speak, will draw upon your energy and live beyond you.

Healing Art by one of the workshop participants


Closing – circle vibration / conscious vibration  
Give Thanks – ancestors, earth magic, walk with spirit
#Beyond16Days#LifeinLeggings #Caribbeanfeministwork #Catchafyah
13 December 2016 | Full Moon Blessings in Gemini







07 December 2016

Sixteen Days: Art & Reflection on Ending Gender Based Violence

Three Part Series -- Sixteen Days
Art & Reflection on Ending Gender Based Violence

#16Days #endviolence #orangetheworld

 OUTRAGE







BODY POWER 




CHANGE 







Three-part collaborative project of reflections and original artwork produced during the 16 Days of Activism in 2014.

 
#16Days #Beyond16Days #endviolence

Building upon this work each year, and
using it for my gender based violence healing workshop
in Trinidad, 9 December 2016

 

After a year hiatus...
more updates on consciousvibration,
soon come...

 peace love & blessings