Broward County

Local Bahamians step up to help those in the Bahamas still reeling from Hurricane Dorian

The waters were calm last month when descendants of Isaac and Clementina Higgs left the Port of Miami for a seven-day Carnival cruise of the Western Caribbean. This was the second time generations from those two branches of the family had come together.

The initial gathering took place at their ancestral home in Harbour Island in the Bahamas in 2017, according to the Higgs family historian, Wendy Albury Butler.

This year, 120 family members met in Miami for the July 27-Aug. 3 cruise. Cousins from Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida joined those from the Bahamas, specifically Grand Bahama, Harbour Island and New Providence. On board ship and at ports of call, they renewed friendships, met new relatives and paid homage to their ancestors.

There was no way of knowing that 30 later, the lives of some who lived in Freeport, Grand Bahama, along with hundreds of others in Abaco and Treasure Cay islands would change forever.

Donalee Smith, 61, a seamstress, walks through the rubble of her sister’s house in Freeport, Bahamas on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Thousands of Bahamians fled Freeport after Hurricane Dorian decimated Grand Bahama Island in early September. MATIAS J. OCNER

Family ties

Amber Pratt-Cartwright, her husband, Patrick Cartwright II and their 4- and 8-year-old daughters returned from the cruise to their home in Freeport to get ready for another school year. When reports of a possible hurricane were announced, they prepared by putting sandbags outside the house to stop water from entering.

But the sandbags were not able to hold back Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 185 mph, and gusts of more than 200 mph.

”Once water went through the sandbags and rapidly entered, it was like the ocean came into our house,” said Amber, by phone from her home.

As the water continued to rise, she and her husband placed their daughters in the kitchen cupboard for safety. They called 911 and the family waited for the day’s “first light.”

At daybreak, they left the house using the water’s current.

Holding one daughter, Patrick hung onto a coconut tree. Amber and the other daughter reached the roof and hung on.

Eventually, they were rescued.

It is estimated that at one point the water was over 30 feet high.

Unfortunately Amber’s mother-in-law, Daisy Mae Cartwright, unable to swim, was swept out to sea by a strong current. The search for “Miss Daisy” continues.

Amber is fortunate that her family was in a position to help.

She, her husband and their children temporarily moved in with her parents, who also live in Freeport.

“We live near the beach and our property was not damaged,” said Tammy Albury Pratt, Amber’s mother.

While local, national and international organizations collected supplies for the Bahamian storm victims, Amber’s uncle, Londell Albury, loaded toiletries, groceries, clothes and other items on the Balearia Ferry from Fort Lauderdale and delivered them to the family in Freeport.

Local, national and international groups and private staff and volunteers continue to help the Bahamas recover and rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian’s devastation. #BahamaStrong.

Hampton University stepping in

Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, recently announced it would enter into an agreement with the University of the Bahamas-North to allow students displaced by Hurricane Dorian to continue their education on HU’s campus. Miami-Dade College is doing something similar.

University of the Bahamas-North students will be able to attend classes at Hampton for the fall 2019 semester, receive room and board for one semester, and will have the option to stay at Hampton once the semester is over at regular rates for tuition and fees.

This agreement is great news, especially to Lawrence Rigby, 2014-2015 student government association president from Nassau, New Providence.

“Young Bahamians from Abaco and Grand Bahama who are looking for the tools to rebuild their lives and our home will find them at Hampton.”

For information, contact the Hampton University Office of Admissions at 757-727-5328.

Encouraging Bahamas tourism

At the 2019 National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP) held at the W Hotel in Washington, during the “State of Black Tourism” session, the group paused for a moment of silence remembering the people of The Bahamas.

Then the announcement was made, “We’re open! The Bahamas is open for business”.

According to The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation (BMOTA) the majority of the nation’s islands are open and ready to welcome tourists. Contact your travel agent for details.

Dorothy Jenkins Fields, Ph.D., is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History & Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to