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Without Bahamians, There Would Be No Miami

Without Bahamians, There Would Be No Miami

Black Bahamians Helped Build Miami, The Least We Could Do Is Help Them Rebuild Their Lives

Evacuees carry their belongings as they walk to a ferry to depart for Nassau in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, at the port of Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island, Bahamas, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. It’s been nearly a week after disaster roared in from the sea as the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas’ recorded history. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Bahamians are extremely proud, hardworking people. Hurricane Dorian recently devastated the beautiful island nation – and even during the record-breaking, category five storm, with the eye approaching, natives’ determination to help one another was on full display.

Bahamians got on jet skis and into small boats to rescue their brethren in distress. Countless times they stressed “We are Bahamians. We won’t stop until we get everyone because we don’t leave anyone behind.”

These are the same people U.S. President Donald Trump is refusing to allow into the country without certain documentation. A country that, quite frankly, only has one of its most popular vacation destinations (in one of Trump’s favorite states) because of the blood, sweat and grit of Bahamians.

Anyone who REALLY knows history, knows Bahamians helped build the City of Miami. Let me say it again for the people in the back. IF IT WEREN’T FOR BAHAMIANS, THERE WOULD BE NO MIAMI!

They left their homes and crossed the sea to establish Miami’s foundation. Upon arrival, Bahamians worked on Henry Flagler’s railroad. They settled and made thriving communities out of nothing in historic areas like Coconut Grove and Overtown. They even made up one-third of the incorporators who signed the charter to incorporate Miami in 1896.

The oldest Black newspaper in Miami, The Miami Times, was founded by a Bahamian immigrant Henry E.S. Reeves in 1923. His son and publisher emeritus, Garth Reeves Sr., 100, is still making history. The first Black person to serve on the City of Miami Commission was M. Athalie Range, the granddaughter of Bahamian immigrants. One of the biggest landowners in Coconut Grove who was among the regions first Black millionaires was Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup Sr., a Bahamian immigrant.

Today, the descendants of Bahamian pioneers hold high positions in every industry in South Florida and abroad, ranging from politicians like Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and State Rep. Shevrin Jones, activists like historian Enid Pinkney and Valencia Gunder, doctors like Vania Bredy, entertainers like Sidney Poitier and Tia and Tamera Mowry, and countless more.

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I have so many wonderful family members and friends with Bahamian ancestry and roots. They are intelligent innovators who contribute positively to our economy. They are mothers and fathers, business owners and history-makers. They are NOT “very bad people,” “very bad drug dealers” or “very bad gang members.”

It’s the reason Bahamian roots run so deep in South Florida. It’s the reason there was such an outpouring of support after Dorian. It’s the reason anyone with even half a brain knows Donald Trump’s refusal to allow the beautiful people of Bahamas Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ following his lead – after more than 70,000 of them were left homeless is utter cruelty.

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I’m sure when those who survived Dorian were fighting to stay alive the first thing that came to mind was, ‘Let me make sure my paperwork to get into the U.S. doesn’t wash away.’ Of course, I’m being sarcastic. Bahamians were too busy trying to make sure they, their loved ones and their neighbors didn’t wash away. Sadly, some of them did.

Over 1,300 people have been reported missing and the death toll in the Bahamas is constantly rising. Even if Bahamians don’t have the proper ‘paperwork,’ they are human beings in need of assistance.

When people from the U.S. visit the Bahamas, they are welcomed with open arms. The natives treat them like family. They don’t say, let me see your paperwork before I can help you.

This is why I am proud of the leadership of many officials and residents in my South Florida community. Jones, Gunder and Bredy as well as Mayor Francis Suarez and State Senator Marco Rubio have all either spearheaded relief efforts or called on the federal government to do right by Bahamians.

They didn’t wait for Trump’s permission to activate first responders to begin helping Bahamians get through this crisis and rebuild. It is an example we should all follow. As I said before, in South Florida, Bahamian roots run deep. In South Florida, Bahamians built our cities. Now Bahamians need our help. Now it’s our turn. Despite the heartlessness of Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, the least South Floridians can do is help them rebuild their lives.