Antigua is making this year’s Black History Month count in more ways than one. An all-female group of rowers has made history by becoming the first all-women team representing the island and the first Black team to cross an ocean. Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing, Kevinia Francis and Samara Emmanuel embarked on their historic run December 12 as part of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.
For 47 days, eight hours and 25 minutes, they made a journey from the Canary Islands to the English Harbour, Antigua.
The four women arrived back on the island January 28 at Nelson’s Dockyard. The Island Girls finished 13th out of the 28 other teams. The trek is reportedly 3,000 miles long, and rowers are estimated to b-urn 8,000 calories a day.
“From hillsides to coastlines, open water, and flats, residents and visitors turned out to see the return of these women who had captured and united the hearts of nationals at home, in the Diaspora, and people worldwide,” said a statement from publicist Marcella Andres-Georges. “Horns blared, canons from the overlooking Fort Berkeley were f-ired, hundreds screamed and shed tears of pride and joy.”
According to Indy 100, the women — like many of the other participants — had to also raise money for a charity of their choosing during the challenge.
The team decided to donate to a local charity called Cottage of Hope that helps ab-used young girls. The group hoped to raise $150,000 to support the girls and their quest for better lives.
Antiguan officials closed the government early to meet the women as they returned home triumphant. Schools were also closed in anticipation of their arrival.
Since returning, the group spoke in front of a crowd of proud countrymen and planned to rest easy in days to come.
The team’s skipper, Kevinia Francis, encouraged others to “lift up one another, dream big and chase those dreams, dare ourselves, and remember this feeling of unity and strength and courage for the days when things threaten to divide us.”