Part One: In the aftermath of Irma, why we should care about the Caribbean.
It's been more than a week since Hurricane Irma, and the broadcast media coverage of the Carribean has improved. But the first four days after the tragedy, coverage of the Carribean was maddening. If I heard one more commentator say "the worst devastation in America is,” in this part of Florida or that part of Florida, I am going to scream. The USVI is part of the United States, and even if it wasn't – think Barbuda, St Martin, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cuba,and Haiti, they all deserve coverage. These islands were in the direct path of Hurricane Irma. And while they may be British, French or Dutch territories, United States residents visit there more than any other nationality. And if you are African American the diaspora is an intimate connection. Finally as citizens of the world we all should care.
40 years ago I made my first trip to the Caribbean. I was a struggling college student and my cousin Jackie took pity on me and took me along on a vacation to the U.S.V.I. To this day I remember flying into St Thomas at daybreak, looking down and seeing water that was a color of blue I never even knew existed. It took my breathe away. From that morning forward I was hooked.
Over the years the Caribbean has been my go-to destination. I made it my goal to hit just about all of the Islands and I succeeded (with the exceptions of Dominica, Saba and now sadly Barbuda). I developed good friendships with women in the British and USVIs. My first wedding was on St Thomas. The honeymoon for my second wedding was on Canouan. Despite loving all the Islands, I kept returning to Anguilla . When I was single, I found it the only place I could travel solo, sit on the beach with a book and remain undisturbed. No one trying to sell me something or assuming because I was solo, I was looking for something. It is a small island, gorgeous beaches and great food not to mention incredible hotels that accommodated every walllet. The people were kind, independent, yet focused on their own lives.
When my oldest graduated from high school I told her we could celebrate by taking a quick vacation to her destination of choice. No surprise she chose Anguilla. As if the poor girl really had a choice! From the time she was a baby- every time I went to Anguilla, she was right there. Her first dip in a pool was in Anguilla. Her first encounter with the Carribean sea was on Anguilla. In fact her first taste of conch chowder was Anguilla and it didn’t go so well. I remember gleefully watching her (like it was yesterday) gulp down spoon after spoon of MY favorite soup. And thanks to one too many rum punches I even remember thinking “Wow look at my little island baby go.” Not two minutes later that same chowder shot projectile style across the table. Of course I should have known better than to feed a baby chowder. Not one of my finer moments of motherhood.
There was a brief period when we stopped traveling to Anguilla. She was now a toddler and on one visit got sick with an ear infection and reaction to multiple mosquito bites. I couldn't get a flight off the island for a couple of days. Panic set in and I vowed never to go anywhere with a child if in an emergency I couldn't immediately get home. That edict lasted only a few years. In fact when I had my second daughter, in less than a year we were off to Anguilla. I have a picture of her standing for the first time in her playpen on Anguilla.
So many great adventures in Anguilla. Like the time we were on Shoal Bay West looking for shells along the shoreline. The girls were no more than five feet ahead of m when out of the water jumps a stingray landing at the girls’ feet, followed not a second later by a shark in hot pursuit. I froze in place, a wave carried both stingray and shark back out into the water before I could react . Another not so great moment in motherhood. It was surreal and probably sounds made up but the girls were there as witnesses. Only on Anguilla.