In the Midst of Two Disasters: My Heart in Two Worlds

La Soufriere volcano erupting over the Caribbean island of St. Vincent & The Grenadines

When your heart is in multiple worlds, it’s never easy, especially in the midst of two disasters. For when this occurs, it means your heart can break in multiple ways as well. Last Thursday, I got word that La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent & The Grenadines was about to erupt. Then a few days ago, I learned of the shooting of yet another innocent young, black man, Daunte Wright by the police. A young man that could potentially be my son.

On April 8, Vincentians living within the red and orange zones close to La Soufriere volcano were evacuated. This evacuation would prove to not be a moment too soon. For later that night, the first eruption of many that would rattle the Caribbean, would take place. The monstrous ash clouds from the volcano have devastated St. Vincent and nearby islands, including Barbados, my homeland. It continues to spew ash, which is now accompanied by pyroclastic flow. According to the experts, there is also no sign of the volcano’s vicious activity slowing down anytime soon.

Ultimately, when you live far away, learning about such natural disasters impacting your homelands can be hard. Immediately, you worry about friends and family. In the last few days, I have been checking in frequently on my father in St. Vincent, as well as other family and friends in both islands. You see, I emigrated to America at the age of 21 by myself to further my education, after completing my undergraduate degree in Barbados. However, I grew up partially in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. My father who was born there, returned there from Barbados, to live when I was 9 years old. As a result, I traveled by plane to St. Vincent multiple times a year, to visit my dad. So, St. Vincent is a second home to me.

Now if the volcano wasn’t enough, living and raising a family in America is no walk in the park. You are especially reminded of that when you hear about the latest murder of another black young man at the hands of police. What we have seen in Amerikkka, is that the innocuous behavior of a black male, can draw negative attention and state sanctioned violence by the police. As a mother, I can do my best to protect my sons from “so called” dangerous communities, but I can’t protect them from the police. Learning of police shootings then, is very traumatic and frankly, very terrifying to me. The reality is I have two black sons who will be seen as dangerous for just breathing. Someday soon too, my boys will want to drive. I dread such a day because I know that driving while black will be enough to put their lives in danger.

So in the midst of these two different yet tragic realities, my colleague, my friend or acquaintance, forgive me. Forgive me, if I am curt, if I don’t care about your small talk, the weather or whatever else you want to post or talk about right now. At the moment, I am preoccupied, my heart is breaking in two places and I am a little busy. If you don’t have to go through anything like this, count your blessings and your privilege. In the meantime, be aware of how those around you are being affected right now.

To those who recognized the anguish, reached out and showed concern, thank you, it means a lot. Now I would encourage you to ensure your actions make a difference, to go beyond words and act. Act, so that I no longer have to experience the worst of two worlds. Act, so I don’t have to experience the worst of any world.

(If you are interested in giving to St. Vincent Volcano Relief Efforts, please be sure to reach out to me).



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Shanya Gray

I am an anti-racist, black/bi-racial educator, activist and therapist. I seek to bring equity awareness/education and ways of healing for people of color.