Opinion, Staff Editorial

In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, we must find ways to support the Bahamas

Many new freshmen and transfer students haven’t lived through a hurricane and so, probably due to their parents’ concerns, they caught flights and went back home. Others stayed and prepared for the worst. After all, Hurricane Dorian’s expected damage was accelerating by the minute— what started as a small tropical storm transformed into a category 5 hurricane that missed us but ravaged our friends in the Bahamas. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called it “one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history.”

Over the weekend, those who stayed in the South Florida were in their boarded-up dorm rooms or armed with perishables in their homes, waiting for massive rainfall. Meanwhile, Dorian parked over the vulnerable Grand Bahama and the Abacos as Bahamians experienced powerful winds that reached 185 miles per hour. According to Weather Underground, Grand Bahama Island endured “the most fierce and prolonged battering from an extreme Atlantic hurricane in history.”

Homes and businesses have perished. The Grand Bahama International Airport is underwater. At least 70,000 people are homeless. Forty-three people have died, and the number is expected to go up. The devastation that the island has experienced is heartbreaking. The location of the island makes it ground zero for the consequences of climate change, though its carbon footprint is much smaller than ours.

We can’t explain why Dorian hovered over the Bahamas for so long, but we can turn our attention to supporting relief efforts that the island so desperately needs right now. We should all be focusing our attention on how we can help our friends in the Caribbean, not just because it could have been us (we are just as hurricane prone), but because we are humans and we can empathize.

Turn your efforts towards basic needs. Many residents are without food, shelter, clothing and water right now, so let us prioritize these necessities first. There are several relief efforts on campus, so donating should be easy. Several departments and groups, notably the Bahamian Student Association and the Caribbean Student Association, are collecting donations at the Rock, Whitten University Center and the residential colleges. If you want to venture off-campus, the Christ Episcopal Church in the historic Coconut Grove community, which has been a home for many years to Bahamians, is also collecting donations.

We must not forget the students in the Bahamas as well. Hampton University, an HBCU located in Virginia, has opened its campus gates to the students of the University of the Bahamas. President of Hampton University, William Harvey, after calling to check up on a former colleague who is now the president of the University of the Bahamas, announced the next morning that students from the north campus will receive free room, board and tuition for the current semester. So far, 22 students have expressed interest. The University of Miami and other colleges must find a way to directly support relief efforts and this is one surefire way to do so.

Efforts on a bigger scale should be supported as well. Our own senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio have reached out to the president, asking him “to waive, or otherwise suspend, certain visa requirements for affected citizens of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas who have relatives in the United States with whom they can reside as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives and their country.”

It is a sign of democracy and great empathy that our government officials can forego the battle of immigration policies and ideologies to come together and support an island in need. Hopefully, Trump will recognize that allowing residents to stay with their families here in the U.S. is key in helping the country get back on its feet.

The road to recovery from hurricanes isn’t easy, and it might take some time, but everyone needs to mobilize first. As our very own Erica Moiah James, an assistant professor in the Art History department and founder of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, wrote in the New York Times last week, we need several supplies but most importantly, “we need everyone’s help and kindness.”

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

September 10, 2019

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