George Bolter (left) and his parents walk through the remains of his home destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in the Pine Bay neighborhood of Freeport, Bahamas, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. Rescuers trying to reach drenched and stunned victims in the Bahamas fanned out across a blasted landscape of smashed and flooded homes Wednesday, while disaster relief organizations rushed to bring in food and medicine. AP PHOTO / RAMON ESPINOSA
Photo: Ramon Espinosa
Photo: Ramon Espinosa

Atlantans pitch in to help Bahamas: City and nation have strong ties

Five days.

That’s how long it took from the time Kenyon Missick last spoke with his 20-year-old son who lives in Freeport until he received a text Wednesday letting him know that his son was safe.

During that time, Missick, who lives in DeKalb County, watched in horror as he saw photos and videos of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Dorian.

Large swaths of Grand Bahama Island, which is also home to his parents and many friends and relatives, was heavily damaged by wind and water. Abaco Island was nearly obliterated. The death toll in the Bahamas was 20 by Thursday afternoon.

Five days.

A lifetime.

“I was so happy,” said Missick, who works for UPS and at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and is a board member of the Atlanta Junkanoo Group, a cultural organization. “It’s the unknown and knowing that he was in the area where some of the water issues were taking place. … You just don’t know until you get the call.”

An earlier photo of Kenyon Missick and his son, Kenyon. The elder Missick went for days without hearing from his son. FAMILY PHOTO

Many Atlantans this week identified with Missick’s agony about the Bahamas. According to the Bahamas Consulate General office in Atlanta, an estimated 50,000 people with Bahamian ties live in Georgia, most in metro Atlanta, and the ties between the city and country run deep.

A number of students come from the Bahamas to Atlanta to study at the city’s colleges and universities. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on the Bahamian island of Bimini. Andrew Young convinced Bahamasair to start flying into Hartsfield-Jackson several decades ago. Movie mogul Tyler Perry, who has vowed to help the nation, refers to himself as an “adoptive son” of the Bahamas. And its proximity to the United States has made the country a popular tourist destination for Atlanta travelers.

Dorian’s destruction has left the country and those who love it shaken.

Some metro Atlantans, like Covington resident Shameaka Russell Leggett, whose parents, friends and other relatives live on Abaco Island, are making plans to bring family to Georgia until it’s safe to go home.

Her parents live on the northern part of the island, which she said was spared the worst lashing from Dorian.

“You feel helpless,” she said.

Missick’s immediate family is safe and their homes suffered little damage, but they are still without electricity. He worries how they will get clean water and food.

“It’s the trickle-down effect,” he said. “Their normal everyday lives are interrupted, and it can stay that way for months or years.”

Lanthro Munroe, an assistant editor at Dish Nation, was born at the same time Hurricane Andrew hit the Bahamas in 1992.

“I’m very familiar with hurricanes,” he said. “You see them hit the islands three or four times a year, but then you have a moment like this when a storm comes and the devastation is unreal.”

“Everyone is pretty much shaken up,” said Consul General Astra Armbrister-Rolle. “We’re watching in disbelief at this time.”

Meanwhile, Atlantans are pitching in to help as the city did years ago.

This aerial photo provided by Medic Corps, shows the destruction brought by Hurricane Dorian on Man-o-War cay, Bahamas, . Multiple cruise line companies have pledged to help the region recover from the storm.
Photo: Medic Corps via AP

Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, announced on Thursday that his family foundation will donate $500,000 to World Central Kitchen and Direct Relief for immediate disaster relief and long-term assistance.

Rapper, businessman and philanthropist Chris “Ludacris” Bridges announced previously that he will donate $100,000 from his annual Labor Day weekend event, LudaDay, to hurricane relief.

The Bahamian Consulate is accepting supplies like generators and tools at its offices, 2970 Clairmont Road NE, Suite 290, Atlanta. Relief supplies are also being accepted at Conch Heaven’s two locations in Doraville and Riverdale.

New Birth Senior Pastor Jamal H. Bryant said the church has a commitment from Walmart to provide 40 pallets of relief supplies such as fans, generators and other items.

“We’ve had a very close relationship throughout the years, and it started with Bahamas independence,” Young, the former mayor of Atlanta, said about the city and country ties. “We were in our civil rights movement and they were in their freedom movement. We took part in one of their independence marches.”

On July 10, 1973, the Bahamas became independent, ending more than 300 years of British rule.

“We’ve been partners in development since their independence,” Young said. There are a lot of connections.”

On Thursday night, more than 75 people arrived at The Gathering Spot in Atlanta with donations and promises to help the Bahamas.

Those attending included elected officials, black business owners, members of the consular corps and nonprofits such as Africa’s Children’s Fund.

Rolle said a driving force is the Village Market Atl, which organization that  brings exposure and economic resources to black businesses through programming and events.

In July, the organization hosted 15 businesses from the Bahamas at the marketplace.

Tiffany Garvey Newson, an Atlanta-based singer known as Styleon who was raised in the Bahamas, has family on Grand Bahama and on Abaco. She found out on Thursday that a niece’s uncle died in the storm.

She and her husband, Kendall Newson, who run a nonprofit called Teach a Child to Fish, plan to do a relief run.

While her family is well, there is a huge need for clean water and other supplies.

“I’m grateful,” she said. “We’re a resilient people, so we know how to survive and we will rebuild.”

She wanted to thank those who have stepped in so far. “We’re all one.”

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