The most powerful storm to hit the Bahamas since records began has torn off roofs and caused severe flooding.
According to BBC News, the slow-moving, category five Dorian – the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record – is now packing sustained winds of up to 165mph (270km/h) and may cause a storm surge of up to 23ft (7m).
There is no official word on casualties but the Red Cross fears some 13,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.
The hurricane is moving slowly west, with the eastern US coast at risk.
It was September 2011 and I was back in a classroom at a high school on the island after a three-year hiatus.
The class scheduled was Literature and as is my custom, I call on every student to read. This is one way I assess the reading ability of those in my charge, correct pronunciation, intonation and the like. “Jean,” I called, and the class erupted in laughter. I was thrown off kilter because I seemed to have missed the joke.
“What’s the joke?” I questioned.
“Miss, mister is a Haitian!”
For a moment I was perplexed. This was a young man with whom I had been communicating in English. Did I know he was Haitian? Yes. Had I detected a foreign accent? Yes, but it had not interfered with communication. This young man was a member of the school’s football team and his nationality had not been an issue when he scored goals and contributed to the team’s win. I reckon, this was a teachable moment! Hadn’t I been teaching before? Yes, but it was time for a new lesson. I allowed the young man to read as all the others students had, and when he was finished, I asked whether there was anyone who had not understood what he had read, whether the words were unfamiliar to them, and whether they were now clear that it was possible for “a Haitian” to read English. This is, but one example of the overt prejudice often on display where Haitians students are concerned. I won’t point out the many other situations I deal with frequently in the classroom where “mister is a Haitian” is often used to mock students of Haitian descent and often, to also explain the unsavoury behaviour of any other student in general- much to my dismay. It is as if any behaviour that is deemed questionable must be done by someone of Haitian descent.
Growing up, I often heard people being referred to as having “memoire poule”. I later found out that it meant having a short memory. I never delved into trying to find out how it was deduced that fowls have short memories, but I surmise that this may have come about through observation of their behaviour. If such is the case, then it appears that this diagnosis of “memoire poule” is one which deserves urgent attention because at least in Dominica, it breeds a level of intolerance that does not augur well for healthy living.
Now, back to the lesson. Once I had ascertained that everyone had understood the Haitian student, I proceeded to ask the students, “How many of you have family members living and working in other countries?” Many hands were raised. I didn’t have to ask that question to know the answer because we know to a large extent that many lives in Dominica are being sustained as a result of remittances and barrels, but the point had to be made. The follow up question, “Why are your family members working overseas? Well, you can guess the responses. In short, everyone was seeking a greener pasture.
The influx of Haitian Nationals on the island is a concern for many Dominicans just as the influx of Dominicans to Guadeloupe, Martinique and other Caribbean islands like Antigua and St. Martin/Maarten in the past was a problem for the French, and nationals of these other islands where Dominicans went in droves in search of greener pastures. If we are in tune with world affairs, we will realize that migration is the norm all over the world. People move to other countries for educational pursuits, to join their spouses, for employment opportunities, in short for better lives. Migration is a major issue around the world, especially for the citizens of countries where living conditions are deemed attractive. Very often, the citizens of countries where migrants flock fear that their lives will be disrupted and often, it is. Yet, the alternative is to deny them the opportunity to survive. In some instances, they trickle in but in others, the situation is alarming as large numbers of people flee lands wrought by political conflicts, wars of varying kinds, economic depressions and other conditions which make life unbearable. Often, when large groups of people flee their countries, it is because they have no other choice. Like the Dominicans who left in years past, these individuals are seeking greener pastures. They want to feed their children and take care of their families they left behind. Many make sacrifices and some gamble the last dollar they own in the hope that at the end of the journey, there will be a glimmer of hope. Over the years, I have seen small groups of Taiwanese, Chinese, Dominicans from the Republic and Haitians take up residence on the island. Some have stayed while some have moved on; Dominica served as a mere transit point. Today, the land is teeming with Haitian nationals. Ironically, while Dominicans are leaving, they are coming in. Why? Because for them, Dominica is relatively safe, it is a land of possibilities; for some on the island, however, it is a land which can test the “fittest” of its intellectual and physical population.
I remember flying back to the island in the summer of 2011 after having been gone for three years. There is a level of excitement that usually envelopes me whenever I am returning to this land that I love. As the aircraft inches closer to the land, the appeal of the greenery, the reddish or copper colour rockface in the Marigot area, the froth left by the waves as they beat against whatever is on the shore, the blue of the water all lend themselves to the infusion of this excitement, but we all know that returning to Dominica can also evoke mixed feelings and such was the case on that day in August of 2011. When the pilot announced that he was making his approach to the island, I saw nothing; it was as if someone had placed a shroud over the land. I remember the plane circling for a while before the runway was finally visible enough to enable landing. It was at that time that I thought, “Is this weather condition the harbinger of the real Dominica?” It was as if this approach was a reminder that all is not what it seems. That the beauty of the island is a perfect facade for the real Dominica where opportunities are limited, and the competition for these opportunities keep growing, and often, one must be a magician to stretch resources.
Why then do Haitians flock here if such is the case, because even then, Life in Dominica is much better than where they came from. Life is a struggle everywhere, but when people run in droves to a country where the living is not easy, where the topography challenges its development, where most probably they will not be accepted, where they may not get a job, the push factors in their country must be greater than the pull factors. I do understand the resentment that envelope Dominicans when they see Haitians at work on construction sites, in the markets, and in the long lines at the money bureaus sending money back home, but we must also consider that we are in the same lines too, more often than not, collecting money sent to us from family members who went in search of better opportunities in other lands, and who we hope are not facing the type of mockery and unsavoury comments that we dish out to those who have migrated to our shores. The “I can’t stand these people comments” and many others would be useless to express here. We know them.
We have seen the disrespect, hate and accompanying harm that intolerance breeds around the world where migrants have been forced to make their homes. We must protect our land, and the rights and privileges of its citizens, but we should not cast aside our humanity while doing so. I drive to work in the mornings, and I see young Haitian men with their knapsacks on their way to work, or to seek work, or whatever else they may be off to do. I see many on the vans of farmers heading to the gardens in the heights of Mero. I drive through Newtown, and Virgin Lane in Roseau and see young men sitting by the road idly spectating. I can only assume that they will take up work later or that they don’t care to work. In local parlance, “their bread must be buttered’. I will add -on both sides. I guess the Haitians are still seeking the bread to be buttered. We cannot deny the contributions that the Haitian population is making to the Dominican society. Many are working the farmlands that many of our young people don’t want to work; we need only listen to information coming out of certain areas in the US regarding Mexican migrants working the farms to realize that we are not alone in this situation. There are farmers in Dominica who don’t want their children to be farmers because of the hard work and precarious nature of farming as a main source of income. We need only to consider the set- backs farmers encounter as a result of nature’s unpredictability. Haitians are the security officers, gardeners, house keepers, etc. Jobs that many young persons will not do willingly especially since many now have access to secondary education and set their sight on college or university as the next step and the step out of Dominica – for good. We cannot fault them; we can only wish them well. The Haitians are the vendors at the market creating competition and ensuring that we can stretch our dollars. Yes, they are earning money on the island, but they pay rent, utility bills, shop at the supermarkets and few shops on the island, so they contribute to the economy of the country.
I think back to the mockery often made of Haitians and especially of what I have witnessed in the classroom, and since children live what they learn, I can only imagine the nature of the conversations that they are privy to, or part of at home and in their communities. The Haitians are not our enemies, we are our biggest enemies when we fail to understand that life is about survival and competition and that we are to prepare for the competition. We should also prepare our children for the real world by educating them factually, so that emotions do not cloud reality. Let us not forget how we were treated by our neighbours in Martinique, Guadeloupe and other islands for years. Let us not forget that there are Dominicans in other countries today, who hope they won’t be forced to return to Dominica as a result of government policies in those countries, as many have not yet accomplished the goals they set off to. Let us not forget the words uttered by John Bradford, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. The Haitians are but one group of migrants fleeing their lands; turn on your televisions and look at the news. Migrants are all over the world; many are in refugee camps waiting to be resettled- lives in transition. The lashing of Hurricane Maria and the long lines at the Woodbridge Bay Port a mere two years ago -Dominicans fleeing in droves-should remind us that that the tide can turn at any time in a man’s life. Tomorrow, we might be ‘these people’ in another man’s land.
On the eve of the MasDomnik 2020 carnival launch, Topherr and Shelly deliver “Work Dat Bumpa” a captivating groovy soca track, sure to be a staple at fetes throughout the festive season.
“We wanted to release it on Friday so that fans can kick off their weekend with a song that is, what I would best describe as, intoxicating- it just makes you want to dance,” says Topherr, real name Jervonne Christopher.
St. Lucian guitarist Dwight Florent starts things off with a riff almost akin to the popular AfroBeats sound from the continent. Topherr comes in with a request for his dance interest, “I want you to work that bumpa, cause I have a little something for you.” He then concedes that “I know you have a little something too.” As the drumming crescendos and a chorus of background harmonies expertly arranged by ProducerDlo expand the sound, he cautions” gyal watch your boom boom in de road!”
Shelly then puts in his own request “turn around, turn around, let me see what you have at de back deh.” The Signal Band lead singer and former Junior monarch then expounds on his subject matter, with a bit of Regional appeal “Dominicans say boom boom, Jamaicans say batty, you say bumpa then you deh from Trini. ”
For him, the song is one that can “transcend boundaries, transcend borders- reach and appeal to the Regional and international markets.”
He says he sees the song getting a good reception, both in Dominica and beyond.
Best, known for hits such as “Ani Ba Yo Love” and “Local,” Shelly says this collaboration with Topherr is a long time coming. For his part, while working on the earlier versions of the song, Topherr says he knew that Shelly was the one person to compliment it with “his personality, energy, talent and most importantly exceptional writing skills.”
Dylan Lowe, popularly known as ProducerDlo co-produced the track, while Cecil “Tha WizZarD” Joseph Jr. mixed and mastered the single. The song was recorded in Guadeloupe (Voodoo Studios) and Dominica (Dlo Studios).
This is the third single from Topherr with more releases set for 2020. He first released the afro fusion track “BIDIBIDIBAMBAM (African Queen)” in June of 2019 and that was followed by the groovy soca “Take It” in October 2019.
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