What Hope Looks Like

Several times over the years, I’ve written about the importance of Junkanoo to Bahamian culture.

Young Junkanoo Performer, oil painting by Alton Lowe

For well over a century, Green Turtle Cay residents have gathered on New Year’s Day to welcome in the coming year by donning colourful costumes and marching through town accompanied by a cacophony of cowbells, whistles and the infectious rhythm of goat-skin drums.

Masked Junkanoo Performer, oil painting by Alton Lowe

But when Hurricane Dorian devastated Green Turtle Cay this past September, the storm not only destroyed the island’s Junkanoo shack where residents gathered to make costumes and to practice, but it also ruined many existing costumes and instruments.

With so many locals left without homes and jobs, and with so much rebuilding to do, it seemed unlikely they’d want (or be able) to stage a 2020 New Year’s Junkanoo rush. 

By the end of November, however, we began hearing murmurs about New Year’s Day festivities. Then, in mid-December, a shipment of goat-skin drums arrived from Nassau, courtesy of Key West Cares and Team M/V Adventure.

(L-R) Green Turtle Cay residents and Junkanoo leaders Fire Rolle and Arnold Newbold, with Colleen Mellies of Key West Cares and Kahlil Ali of Team M/V Adventure.

From there, plans grew and news spread, and on the morning of January 1, boatloads of people from other areas in Abaco descended upon the cay, hungry for a taste of normality.

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts
Drone image courtesy of Dillon Roberts
Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

Where The Wrecking Tree restaurant stood before Hurricane Dorian, a tent was pitched and traditional Bahamian fare — conch in a bag, peas ‘n rice, macaroni and more — was plentiful.

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

Though Sundowners Bar & Grill was completely destroyed by the storm, owners Brian and Caroline Sawyer are well on their way to rebuilding, and they had a booth set up along the parade route.

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

And, as their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did in days gone by, the residents of Green Turtle Cay paraded through town to the familiar beat of goatskin drums and clanging cowbells.

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts
Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

It may not have been the largest or most colourful Junkanoo rush ever on Green Turtle Cay, but it was undoubtedly one of the island’s most important and historic.

Green Turtle Cay’s 2020 Junkanoo celebration included an appearance by Bunce. Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

Exuberance and emotions ran high as community members took time off from the tireless task of rebuilding to celebrate having survived Dorian, to thank the many friends (Bahamian and foreign) who’ve have helped with the recovery, and share their hopes for happier times ahead.

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

It was a day that perfectly embodied the pride, strength, resilience and hope of Abaconians, and demonstrated that while Dorian had broken their town and even their hearts, it could not break the spirit of the residents of Green Turtle Cay.  

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

Congratulations to our friends and family members on Green Turtle Cay. Tom and I wish you a New Year filled with peace, love and new beginnings.

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts
Photo courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

Thanks to Mandy Bennett Roberts and Dillon Roberts for allowing me to share the above images with you, and to Shea Lowe for those shown below:

  10 comments for “What Hope Looks Like

  1. Laura Francis
    January 6, 2020 at 4:46 am

    Having experienced a handful of Junkanoo’s in the past 35 yrs., we loved this post! Thank you for sharing. The pride, strength, hope and resilience of Abaconians is why we fell in love with Abaco 35 yrs. ago. God bless them all. xoxo

    • January 6, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks for your note, Laura. Hope we’ll see you back on the cay soon. 🙂

  2. charles
    January 6, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    Have been following the rebuilding and so happy to see everyone out celebrating NO MATTER WHAT!

    Curious – it appears New Plymouth Inn didn’t do too badly and the roof is still on. Are they still “operating”? Cheers

    • January 6, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Hi, Charles. New Plymouth Inn has been up for sale, and not in operation, for several years. The building is still standing post-Dorian, and I’m hopeful someone will buy and restore it before it’s past the point of saving.

      • charles
        January 15, 2020 at 2:39 pm

        Thank you for the kind reply. Do you know who’s listed the property? Is Wally still with us? Best, Charles

      • January 20, 2020 at 10:58 am

        Hi, Charles. I’m not sure where Wally is post-Dorian, but he’s alive and well.


  3. January 7, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    Thank you Amanda! This made me cry, but so thankful to be able to say I feel like a part of this incredible community. Susan (aka TurtleDreams)

    • January 20, 2020 at 10:59 am

      Hi, Susan. Made me cry as well — so proud of our hardworking community! Hope to see you on the cay soon.


  4. Molly McIntosh
    May 9, 2020 at 5:47 am

    Wonderful article and great pictures, reasserts what I know is the spirit of the people on Green Turtle Cay. Truly a jewel and gem in the islands of the Bahamas! Thank you Amanda!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: