By Schuyler K Esprit, PhD – Create Caribbean Founder and Director
Create Caribbean Research Institute has served students and scholars of the Caribbean and its diaspora since 2014. First partnering with Dominica State College, and then extending to regional and international collaborations, the research institute uses values, theories and methods of digital scholarship to encourage young citizens of the Caribbean to learn more about Caribbean history, culture and society, and to use that knowledge to be more engaged in improving their local and extended communities.
In September 2017, a Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit the island of Dominica and devastated more than 90% of the island, including the Dominica State College campus where Create Caribbean has its flagship office. With the major loss of equipment and damage to the building, and amidst more significant personal losses as a result of the hurricane, the Create Caribbean team faced a daunting road ahead – the reality of having to start all over; to recreate what had been built with grassroots efforts in the previous three years.
Currently, our primary digital research project is Carisealand, a comprehensive exploration of environmental sustainability efforts in the Caribbean, with a special focus on mapping a database of regional resources that actively support or raise awareness about sustainable development in the era of climate change disaster. This project began in 2015 as a collaboration with author and environmental activist Oonya Kempadoo, and was a topic of discussion for the interns’ research colloquium mere days before the hurricane hit.
The Create Caribbean team spent the months following Hurricane Maria re-orienting its student interns to normalcy in their academic and personal lives, rebuilding the physical space that houses our Dominica office and getting back to the business of bridging research, technology and community. Our work in the 2017-2018 academic year was made possible because of the generous support of Friends of Create Caribbean near and far in our GoFundMe Campaign, donations of space, time and other resources from local institutions including the Government of Dominica, Convent High School and Altitude Construction Inc., as well as a number of individual and institutional donors in the other parts of the world including the United States and the United Kingdom. As a result of the generous support, we were able to cover our roof and repair the office and classroom, replace much of the essential technology required to continue our digital scholarship, and restore the confidence of our team to be able to offer our popular Create and Code Summer Tech Camp for children ages 7-16 in July 2018. This year’s camp was an absolute success for all involved.
We continue to place high priority on our message of community accountability, sustainable living and planetary responsibility as our new normal in our research, community outreach and our daily practice as the Caribbean. Now more than ever we see the need to use the technology available to us to increase awareness, especially among students, of the impact of climate change on our communities and the complex web of relationships between climate change disasters and other areas of our socioeconomic, political and historical conditions as people of the Caribbean. The Carisealand project has now expanded to include multimedia research documentaries on topics including Agriculture, Food and Water Security; Marine Life Preservation; Public Health and Pollution; NGOs and the Aid-Industrial Complex; Environmental Law and Policy; Preserving Culture, Information and Heritage, among others.
Additionally, the project will include a special 3-D mapping speculative element called The Lab, in which we attempt to reimagine and digitally render the future of our communities to mitigate and resist the imposition of climate change. The Lab begins with the consideration of Mahaut, Dominica, a small coastal community and will include, in its final stages, a concept design that demonstrates the intersections of economic, social, environmental and political factors on people’s daily lives as they deal with man-made and natural disasters. Create Caribbean hopes that The Lab can serve as a model for reimagining other communities in the region as a contribution to national and regional efforts toward sustainability.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, Create Caribbean will also establish and formalize important expansion efforts in other territories of the Caribbean and with a range of academic institutions and community organizations. These initiatives will be announced on our website and social media platforms. Create Caribbean Research Institute extends thanks to everyone who has supported our recovery and our mission. We hope to continue to curate aspects of Caribbean lives and experiences in ways that make positive contributions and agitate restorative and reparative change. With your support, we will continue to bridge academic excellence, tech empowerment and civic engagement to build a better Caribbean.