06 June 2021

“Missing, Deported or Uncounted – Who Matters After Dorian?”


Missing, Deported, or Uncounted – Who Matters After Dorian?

By Angelique V. Nixon


Published 6 January 2020, In The Diaspora Column, Stabroek News 


Will we ever know how many people lost their lives during Hurricane Dorian? Who is counted among the missing? How many Dorian survivors have been deported from The Bahamas to Haiti? What will happen to the survivors who are undocumented (or without documents) and living in shelters? Who gets to rebuild and how? These are the questions that haunt many three months after the storm in The Bahamas. While the official death toll remains at 69, given the reports from survivors of watching loved ones swept away in the storm to the stories of bodies still under rubble and unclaimed bodies, we know there is more here than the official numbers or reports can tell us.


In the past months since the devastating hurricane, the numbers of missing persons and confirmed deaths have remained woefully confusing, with officials reporting the difficulty of being able to give an accurate count. While the numbers went down after the first few weeks with rescue and evacuation efforts, officials suggested that many people were found with varying estimates of numbers still missing from week to week. After the storm, officials reported 2,500 missing persons but this dropped to 1,300 then to 600. On October 1, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA0 reported 424, then 346 two weeks later, even as The Tribune was reporting that  the Minister of National Security confirmed  282 persons missing. Through November and December, the numbers remained around 300 with questions lingering still of who is counted among the missing.


 President Stephanie St. Fleur of the Human Rights Organisation, Rights Bahamas,has raised this grave concern a number of times. In October, she called out the government and NEMA for not including the reports of missing persons from the Haitian migrant community that Rights Bahamas had collected and submitted. In November, St. Fleur asked where was the accountability on the missing persons list, especially for those families who were evacuated to shelters (from Abaco to Nassau).  


Bahamian Prime Minister Minnis said in early November that “It’s very difficult for us to have an exact count on the numbers of missing individuals, because you would recall that there are a lot of undocumented individuals. If they are undocumented, we won’t have records of them and therefore you may find that that number may fluctuate. But we are doing our best to keep count of and reporting to the nation at large as to the count, number of dead as well as number of missing” (qtd in “Lack of Accountability on Dorian Missing Persons List” Eyewitness News Bahamas, 26 November 2019). But as Rights Bahamas has asked, who is included in the numbers and have survivors of Haitian descent been asked by officials about their missing relatives or loved ones? While the Attorney General issued a statement in early December encouraging undocumented migrants to report missing persons (Jasper Ward, Nassau Guardian, 3 December 2019), there were no assurances that this reporting would not lead to deportation.


The Government of The Bahamas’ moratorium on deportations of those who survived Hurricane Dorian lasted only a few weeks. By early October, just one month after the most devastating hurricane ever to hit The Bahamas, several reports emerged of the government deporting Haitian migrant survivors to Haiti – who were deemed to be undocumented. The news reports of these deportations were seen in local Bahamian news media, regional news media, and international news media such as the Miami Herald 3 October 2019, NPR 5 October 2019, New York Times 10 October 2019 and other news sites such as Buzz Feed News (October 3 and November 9). Based on the news coverage and reports from the International Organisation of Migration 15 November 2019, 340 persons were repatriated to Haiti – most of them being survivors of Dorian who had lost everything. Those persons deported have been described by the International Organisation for Migration as “traumatized” and unable to make a living in Haiti.


This is all happening during a political and economic crisis that’s been going on in Haiti since September. Haiti is no stranger to political upheavals for decades and certainly since the earthquake, there has been an enduring crisis of slow and painful recovery. But the past few months of uprisings against the high cost of living, increased energy costs, corruption, and neoliberal policies have put the country in a near political and economic standstill. People have taken over the streets with daily protests that have shut down businesses and movements in Port Au Prince as well as other cities across Haiti. This is no time to deport people to Haiti. This is no time to send people who have been living in a place for years and decades to somewhere they don’t know, to somewhere they won’t be able to make a living. Where is our sense of solidarity, of empathy, of regional understanding or support? How do we make sense of our regional relationships, migration needs, post-disaster support in the wake of climate and migration crisis? How do we make sense of these deportations?


Some of these people have been sent to a country they don’t know very well or at all. Some were born in The Bahamas and therefore have a right to access or apply for citizenship at 18. Some are children and therefore have a right to an education under Bahamian law. Some had Bahamian documents but lost everything in the storm. Some are likely traumatised after their experiences of horrendous and unspeakable loss. Some spent weeks in shelters. Some are sole survivors and have not been able to grieve for their loved ones. Many of these persons deported lived in Abaco and contributed directly to the Bahamian economy through their labour and skills (working at resorts, wealthy homes, and in agriculture and construction). Some have been separated from families. And those left in the Bahamas (in shelters and elsewhere) continue to be the most vulnerable and subject to deportation and xenophobia.


In December, a Bahamian nationalist group (Operation Sovereign Bahamas) emerged in the front of one of the main shelters in Nassau at the Kendal Issacs Gym to protest the Haitian migrants still there and to call on the government to deport all of them. The irony that of all the problems going on in the Bahamas post-Dorian - from the slow process of recovery, the severe water problems in Grand Bahama to the land grabs and neoliberal development plans in Abaco that will likely not benefit the majority of Bahamians - this is what they choose to protest - a small group of survivors of the most devastating hurricane ever to hit the Bahamas. The stigma and discrimination against Haitians and persons of Haitian descent in the Bahamas has long been an issue but has been fueled post-Dorian. What is most disturbing here is the lack of empathy in the Bahamas towards Haitians who experienced the same horrendous loss and trauma of Hurricane Dorian and climate crisis, people who have had unspeakable loss and who have lost almost everything. How does this not bring us together but instead create even more divisions and fear?


Local news coverage has dwindled on the issue of deportations and missing persons. And it is even more difficult to find any reports or updates in this first week of the new year. As we usher in a new decade with more and more horrifying news about the climate crisis (from Australia to Indonesia), I ask us all in the Caribbean region to think seriously about our climate action, how we are moving into this new decade, and how we will demand justice for all.

“What Does It Mean to Survive After Dorian? On Caribbean Disasters, Development and Climate Crisis.”


What Does It Mean To Survive After Dorian?

On Caribbean Disasters, Development and Climate Crisis


Angelique V. Nixon


Published 30 September 2019 -- In The Diaspora Column, Stabroek News


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.



The stories of rescue and relief in The Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian have left me and so many in heartbreak and reflecting on what it means to survive – from the man who rode out the entire storm hunkered in the mangroves of Abaco, to the people who held onto trees during the storm surge, to the sick baby found in The Mudd with a father who didn’t leave for fear of being deported. The injured survivors (Bahamians and Haitians) at the Princess Margaret Hospital in New Providence telling doctors that they don’t want treatment, they don’t want to live, because they have lost everyone – sole survivors of families drowned or swept away in the storm. The Haitian migrants (now twice displaced) calling for the bodies of their loved ones to be found and buried with respect and dignity. Haitian migrants living in fear of deportation and hiding even with the promise of the Bahamian government that deportations are supposedly on pause. Bahamians trying to enter the United States to visit family and get away in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and being denied entry. The explicit xenophobia and framing of our people as ‘very very bad’, ‘drug dealers’ and ‘gang members’. Haitian children being deported by the Bahamian government. These stories are hard to hold or imagine, yet we must.


Entire lives are on hold across The Bahamas – from those evacuated and displaced at shelters across New Providence to those in Grand Bahama cleaning up and clearing out what is left of their homes. Imagine being a poor or working class Bahamian family. Imagine being a family or sole survivor, having lost everything or almost everything, and trying to pick up the pieces. Imagine the grief and suffering, the psychological trauma, of survivors. Imagine being the most scorned in this country, the ones blamed and scapegoated for almost every social problem. Imagine being a Haitian migrant right now living in The Bahamas, or living elsewhere across the region. Some of us don’t have to imagine any of these – either we know people experiencing this or we are experiencing it – the proximity to disasters, the trauma, of being treated as other, less than, not equal to, expendable or deportable.


And so I ask all of us in the Caribbean – where is our collective outrage, our climate action movement, our migrant rights movement, where is our action against unsustainable development and neoliberal agendas, where is our intersectional politics and action?


As the Global Climate Strike erupted around the world on 20th September, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of hopelessness across our region. To be sure, there were a few important actions, most notably the successful protest against mining in rural Jamaica to save Cockpit Country. In Trinidad, young people planned and led a march with 150 people around the Queen’s Park Savannah. Representing the region at the UN Climate Summit, we had 11 Caribbean youth attending the first ever Youth Climate Summit; and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley demanding climate action and justice for all small island nations, warning that there will be mass migration if climate crisis continues. Compared to thousands who marched in strike events and actions across the globe, there was mostly silence in our region, especially from leaders. Where was our regional climate action, our regional uprising?


Perhaps it is being in the midst of relief and recovery from Hurricane Dorian just a few weeks ago, still in recovery from Hurricane Maria just two years ago, from Hurricane Matthew three years ago, from the earthquake in Haiti a decade ago, and on and on. But perhaps the disasters we don’t talk about enough or even at all are the most dangerous – the disaster of tourism development, over reliance and dependence on foreign investment, continued exploitation of migrant labour, and the failures of our post-neo-colonial states. Maybe we are too afraid to speak or act. Maybe we haven’t done enough to educate the public about climate change or social and environmental justice as one connected struggle. Maybe we spend too much time blaming individual consumers instead of placing more blame and accountability on private sector, industries, and governments. Maybe the environmental movement in the Caribbean has failed with its middle and upper class politics. Maybe other movements have failed to show the connections between social inequalities and climate change. Maybe it’s easier to blame ‘immigrants’, ‘gays’, and all those scary ‘others’ for our social problems.


Maybe we have no plan B for economic development, and so we continue to build a tourism industry that does not care about our sustainability or future outside the usual recipe of sun, sand, sea and festivals. Maybe we fear calling out the ways tourism dependent small islands rely on the bits of income from cruise ships which pollute our waters and leave their garbage. Maybe we have not learned lessons from the disasters of structural adjustment policies that leave our countries in debt and too many of our people in poverty and despair. Maybe those of us with oil and other natural resources still believe that will save us. Maybe we still believe the lies of globalization, development and progress in the pursuit of a place in the global capitalist market. Maybe we believe that our (post-neo)colonial masters will save us. Maybe it’s all too overwhelming and unimaginable as we live in the apocalypse of climate crisis now.


After Tropical Storm Karen, which affected us in Trinidad and Tobago just a week ago with mass flooding across both islands, I write this in fear and panic about our future, in deep anxiety about our silence and complacency, in solidarity across our precarious Caribbean region, especially with the most vulnerable of our people. We know we are in crisis. We feel it with each hurricane and rainy season and rising temperatures and seas. We see it as we drive along our coastlines with erosion and destruction of our mangroves; we experience it with dry season and forest fires, with clearcutting for tourism and other development projects. We hear it with each report of coral reefs bleaching, fish disappearing, record-setting heat waves and storms, mass extinctions, and rain forests on fire across the Amazon and Sub-Saharan Africa. We smell it with the pollution and garbage burning in our landfills, across our small islands – where we produce less than we import, where on the smallest islands we import way more than we need for tourists and migrants with status and money, who consume more than we do. We touch it in one way or another through the reliance on migrant labour needed to fuel our externally dependent economies, to do work that nationals don’t want to do, and to rebuild in the aftermath of disasters. We know it when we hear of yet another deal on a development project, a new cruise ship port, a set of condos, a new hotel, or more exploration for oil and gas. We understand it in the aftermath of hurricanes when new development deals are signed before recovery has even started for locals who have lost their homes. This is happening now in Abaco and Grand Bahama just four weeks after Hurricane Dorian. Bodies are still buried under rubble, islands completely devastated and there are already plans to sell land to the highest bidders.


We are complicit when we don’t call out all the ways our small islands are made more vulnerable and marginalized in these unnatural disasters, the ways we are exploited and then exploit others. 


Our Caribbean region is one of the most tourism dependent regions in the world. And so when I read the Forbes article by Daphne Ewing-Chow on 20th September 2019, titled “Caribbean Islands Are The Biggest Plastic Polluters Per Capita In The World,” with no mention of the almost 40 million tourists per year who visit (mostly on cruise ships), I was furious. It’s not that the article is completely wrong – indeed we do have a serious problem with plastic consumption and waste per capita that is outrageous – but rather it’s that the author fails to include a huge part of the problem, which is tourism and neo-liberal development. It’s no coincidence that most of the top ten Caribbean polluters are also the most dependent on tourism --Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, St. Lucia, The Bahamas, Grenada, Anguilla and Aruba.


This article was circulated on Global Climate Strike day. Perhaps the goal of the author was to name our small island nations as also being major contributors to marine waste. While the author does identify “inadequate waste management” as a root cause of the problem, the landscape is complex and wrapped up in quite literally not having enough space or resources to manage the waste of our own residents, much less millions of tourists. Recent climate change research has identified serious concerns about the “carbon footprint of global tourism,” especially for the Caribbean. The true cost of tourism is one not usually included in popular media conversations about climate change and pollution – with few exceptions such as the 2018 article in Grist by Justine Calma, “The Caribbean on your vacation but suffers from its carbon footprint”. These are the global relations of power, pollution and unsustainable development not many are willing to face – because we are overly reliant and dependent with no plan B. Meanwhile, visitors from the Global North flock to our shores, consume and exploit because that is the promise of paradise.


But no one in paradise is supposed to talk about the ugly truths of exploitation, environmental destruction for development, competition over scarce resources, the limited supply of fresh water, or the diversion of resources (water and electricity) to hotels and foreign-owned wealthy homes. Nor are we supposed to talk about the ways limited jobs in “development projects” turn us against each other, or the horrifying untold stories of migrants fleeing one set of unlivable conditions only to find themselves abused and exploited. We see this with many Haitian migrants living in The Bahamas and Dominican Republic, as many Venezuelan migrants seeking asylum right now in Trinidad and Tobago, as many Guyanese migrants experience hardships in Barbados, as too many. We can keep this going all the way back to all the ways our Caribbean people have had to move and relocate in search of something better. Isn’t that what we all want? Something better?


We need these harsh truths and untold stories to be spoken, analysed, and understood, in the face of the many unnatural disasters we are living. We are in this together, our survival depends on it – our region, our people, our vulnerable islands of complex, unique and shared histories. We need honest reflections, sustainable solutions, tangible empathy and reasonings, regional actions and uprisings and revolutionary decolonial justice-visioning in our Caribbean to survive.



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)