Miami’s Bahamian community is arguably the city’s oldest immigrant cohort. After the destruction Hurricane Dorian left in the Bahamas this week, expats are mobilizing fast to ship relief supplies to the islands.
Since Hurrican Dorian smashed into the Bahamas on Sunday, Christ Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove has filled up with donations of everything from canned fruits to blue roof tarps. The mostly Bahamian parish sits in Miami’s Little Bahamas enclave. Its pastor, Father Jonathan Archer, is Bahamian with family on the islands - but fortunately not on the hardest hit islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
“Having lived through similar storms myself in the Bahamas, it’s really a harrowing, life-changing experience," Archer said, scanning the vast rows of tables holding donations. "We’re getting a lot of food, a lot of water, but we certainly need a lot more batteries, flashlights, tarp, rope.”
Christ Episcopal is one of two Little Bahamas churches partnering with the City of Miami to collect relief donations. At Greater St. Paul A.M.E. Church, parishioner Pam Jennings unloaded bags of clothes and blankets she’d brought - and said her family had finally contacted relatives on Abaco island.
“They’ve gotten in touch with some of those people, and some are still missing," Jennings said. "Some people had to be rescued from their houses, y’know, after everything was lost. This is a very urgent endeavor because the people in the Bahamas are in dire straits.”
Dorian, with wind gusts up to 220 mph and storm surge of 20 feet or more, is the strongest recorded hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas. It pummeled Abaco and Grand Bahama for two whole days, leaving whole towns wrecked and in many cases drowned. So far the hurricane is responsible for five deaths there.