I have come to understand that preparation and opportunity combined with the “sacred yes” make for the perfect timing of an idea. BWSI’s time has come. It was the year 2008 when Helen & I enthusiastically affirmed its conception and attended to its growth and development.
Over the past years both Helen & I had attended writer’s workshops in both the Caribbean & the United States. My first experience was at the Caribbean Writers Summer Institute (CWSI) hosted by the English Dept. of the University of Miami. One of the major benefactors of the programme was James Michener. I was awarded a Michener fellowship to attend this five week course in both fiction and poetry. The workshop directors were George Lamming and Kamau Brathwaite. Some of my fellow participants were Velma Pollard, Michael Anthony, Cynthia James, Rawle Frederick, Robert Antoni, Zee Edgell and Geoffrey Phelp. What more could an emerging writer ask for?! Helen also attended the CWSI programme at a later date. I then went on to a workshop offered by the English Dept. at University of the West Indies, Barbados. Later I participated in a fiction workshop with Olive Senior. Between 2005 & 2009 I was a student in the poetry workshop of Cave Canem held at the University of Pittsburgh.
During our discussions about the spirit, shape and feel of BWSI Helen & I were able to draw on our experiences at these various workshops. We were very clear that the time had come to offer such a programme at home for writers. We spent the better part of 2008 breathing our spirit into BWSI. It was exhilarating and challenging. We knew without a doubt that we could offer a highly talented faculty to the participants. Several of our colleagues, Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming, Dr. Ian Strachan, Aurora Ferguson, Obediah Michael Smith and Dr. Nicolette Bethel had also attended the CWSI programme and were published writers in their own right. There were also other published writers in our midst such as Patricia Glinton- Meicholas, Keith Russell, Patrick Rahming, Cheryl Albury, Jeanne Thompson, Telcine Turner -Rolle, Angelique Nixon, and Dr. Christian Campbell. Helen and I also knew that there were emerging writers who were searching for ways not only to improve their craft but for a community in which to experience and share their writing journey. We trusted that these persons would attend the workshop. On Sunday, October 30, tongues of the ocean is proud to feature one of our BWSI poets, Phillip Armbrister.
The major challenge we faced and continue to address is that of funding for the Institute. We were supported in the first year by a grant from the National Endowment for the Performing Arts and Cable Bahamas. In the second year we again received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Inter-American Development Bank assisted us with funding for scholarships for ten students. We also received support from several other private institutions and citizens. We wish to express our thanks for all of these contributions and look forward to expanding our base of benefactors as the Institute seeks to develop its programmes. Like Michener’s endowment of the CWSI, we would like to attract similarly a significant donor to the Institute.
In regard to our vision for BWSI we plan to evolve into a year-round Institute offering writers workshops, writers retreats and public readings and lectures by Bahamian, Caribbean & international writers. We will take the Institute’s programmes to other islands in the Bahamas as well as increase our capacity to offer scholarships to students. We seek the support of private citizens in establishing scholarships in the name of Bahamian writers such as Winston Saunders, Robert Johnson, to name two. We intend to establish a literary journal, literary prizes in the various genres and to hold writers festivals and conferences. In order to realize these developments we are diligently pursuing funding both locally and abroad and especially look forward to partnering with corporate and non-profit entities.
And so to those—participants, faculty & funders—who have already said “yes” to our Institute, we thank you for your trust in us. It takes both courage and trust to affirm the Institute in this way. We are forthrightly putting out the word and energy for a major funding source. Kindly inform us of such possibility of sponsorship. Thank you once again for your support.
September 28, 2010