Before we state anything else, it’s important that we mention how sad we are for all of our friends, colleagues, and partners in the Northern Leewards. The devastation of Irma and Maria have not only left millions from the Virgins to Puerto Rico, St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Barth’s and Dominica without proper shelter, food, water and medical care – they have put an enormous dent in livelihoods. We had not yet returned when Irma struck, and watched with horror as she laid to waste homes of friends, places of work, and much of the natural beauty in places we have come to call home. In all that our vessel miraculously has survived with marginal damage, for which we are most thankful. Our hope is to return to St. Croix and begin helping with music education in schools that have been badly damaged in the region as soon as possible.
We’ve been a little quite over here, and with good reason. The past month has been overstuffed with news and world events and yes, weather. There’s an inherent cost of doing business involved in spending long periods in the Caribbean – and the law of averages say that sooner or later your number will come up. This season, we have seen a completely new breed of weather event, one that reared its’ ugly head for the first time in recorded history. Regardless if you believe climate change is accelerating due to human activity or not, what is undeniable fact is that a very small portion of our human population is disproportionately feeling the effects of a changing trend in weather.
Many of our friends know that we went through Hurricane Sandy in 2012, lost our home and decided to pull up stakes and start the sailing life. We’ve actually made the joke that it was the best thing that ever happened to us. Sandy was hard, but pales in comparison to the logistical nightmare facing this region now. Although we are very glad we weren’t back on St. Croix to experience Maria, it has been really difficult hovering in NJ/ NY watching this from afar. We are “doers,” stuck with very little capacity to do. We’ve engaged in some fundraising with varied success, tried to be a communication hub for people when needed, but without a great deal of resources it is very difficult to make any headway with this issue, especially when you are struggling yourself. If we had things to fix, things to lift and move it would certainly be simpler. Life is rarely simple.
As of now we’re slated to head back to St. Croix as soon as we get the green light from the organization we will be working with there, CMCArts (they operate the museum in Frederiksted, St. Croix). The original plan had us working with children from the Arthur Richards school there, one of many throughout the area that is now uninhabitable due to the damage left behind. We hope to still work with the same general group, but things are constantly flexing and changing, which we will need to flow with. Beyond that 4 week “artist in residency” we hope to alter our schedule this season and work with affected kids in 4 week capsules rather than performing. To support that, we are currently seeking partnerships with organizations throughout the region putting efforts into rebuilding and reconstruction.
Reality for us is that many of our regular haunts are gone – Marina Cay, Teres Veho, Zen’it Beach – too many to number. It would be completely inappropriate to hold our same route and look for gigs in these areas, and would feel equally out of place for us to cut and run to unaffected areas (Antigua, Martinique/ Guadeloupe, etc) and continue performing in the same manner we have done for the pat 4 years. So we’ll figure out how to help in some way…schools in many areas have been badly damaged, in some cases leaving children to continue classes in tents. We can at the very least come and supplant a music program where theirs may be on hold, possibly even aid to replace instruments and equipment when we can figure out what the exact need is.
There’s still a record to mix (from our tour in Colorado), there are still some events coming up later in the season. We’ve still got new material to record in NY before we leave – and we’ll make sure to post our whereabouts and goings on when appropriate. Things have changed, and we intend to change with them for the better. In the meantime, we’d like to express our thanks for all of the support over the years, and wish you all the very best. Be well, and take good care.
Stell and Snuggs