||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (January 2014)|
|United States Ambassador to The Bahamas|
22 October 2009 – 21 November 2011
|Born||March 6, 1968|
Music executive
Nicole A. Avant (born March 6, 1968) is a former Ambassador of the United States of America to The Bahamas. She is the youngest and first African-American woman to have served as U.S. Ambassador to the island nation.
Early Life and Career
Nicole Avant is a graduate of California State University at Northridge and holds a BA in Communications. After graduating, Avant worked in promotions at A&M Records, before taking a post as Vice President of Interior Music Publishing from 1998-2009.
The daughter of music industry veteran Clarence Avant and Jacqueline Avant, Ambassador Avant was raised in a culture of music, philanthropy and politics.
Ambassador Nicole Avant has served on the boards of both Best Buddies International and the Bogart Pediatric Research Program. Ambassador Avant also served as an Academic Counselor at the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a University of Southern California mentorship program for high school students that provided full academic scholarships as well as daily guidance and direction in social behavior and social responsibility. Ambassador Avant’s commitment to public service and philanthropy was recognized by the American Cancer Society, when she presented with a Next Generation Leader award in 2007.
Ambassador Avant has played a role in the campaigns of former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. and the senatorial race for Barack Obama. In 2008, Ambassador Avant served as finance co-chair in Southern California for Obama’s successful presidential campaign.
Serving as U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas
Avant was nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to be Ambassador of the United States of America to The Bahamas. Following a unanimous confirmation of her nomination by the United States Senate, she was sworn into office by U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary R. Clinton on September 9, 2009, and she presented her Letters of Credence to the Governor General of The Bahamas, His Excellency Arthur D. Hanna, on October 22, 2009. Ambassador Avant resigned her post and returned to private life on November 21, 2011.
While serving as Ambassador, Nicole Avant focused on five priority initiatives: Education, alternative energy, economic and small business development, women’s empowerment, and raising awareness about the challenges facing people with disabilities. The U.S. Embassy together with the Ministry of Education continues to sponsor the national Read to Lead Program to encourage the nation’s youth to develop a lifelong love of reading. The Embassy adopted a local inner city school, Woodcock Primary, and Embassy volunteers traveled to the school each week to read to grades 1-6. The Embassy also fostered other educational activities including an annual Martin Luther King Essay Competition for high school students and an annual competition to encourage sustainable practices among Bahamian youth.
At the invitation of Ambassador Avant, leading education reform activist and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, Geoffrey Canada, addressed Bahamian education officials at her residence.
Under the Ambassador’s leadership, Embassy Nassau also partnered with African-American business leaders to strengthen economic ties between the United States and The Bahamas and encourage a diverse economic strategy that stretches beyond the traditional tourism sector. Embassy partners include the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, the Travel Professionals of Color (TPOC), the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD). To enhance this effort, Ambassador Avant hosted Earvin “Magic” Johnson to be the keynote speaker at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 Business Development Seminar.
Ambassador Nicole Avant worked to promote the empowerment of women and raise awareness about the challenges facing people with disabilities. Ambassador Avant has personally hosted a number of prominent guests who have participated in outreach events designed to empower youth and impart positive messages about self-esteem and self-image. The Ambassador developed a special relationship with the Williemae Pratt Center for girls, a detention facility for at-risk youth. Grammy winning singer-songwriter, India.Arie and “Access Hollywood” host Shaun Robinson were among the visitors to join Ambassador Avant for visits to the Williemae Pratt Center.
She has also worked closely with local advocacy groups for people with disabilities. Ambassador Avant hosted Eunice and Francesca Shriver, granddaughters of Special Olympic founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Special Olympians from the Bahamas to mark Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day and to raise awareness for Special Olympics-Bahamas. Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete were also guest of the Ambassador to raise awareness for REACH, a Bahamian support group for families affected by autism.
While public diplomacy was a key focus for Ambassador Avant, a January 2012 report from the Inspector General’s (IG) office on Embassy Nassau also indicated that "Key officials in Washington and at the embassy agree that law enforcement cooperation at post is strong," noting that the Bahamas is a "critical crime threat post."  The report also had positive comments about the Ambassador: "By drawing on her personal contacts with prominent Americans, organizing civil society-related conferences, highlighting her travel to outlying Bahamian islands, and undertaking activities to promote business connections between American and Bahamian communities, she and her staff have improved the embassy’s reputation among Bahamians."
That same IG report, however, begins by listing Key Judgments, the first of which is that "The embassy is recovering from an extended period of dysfunctional leadership and management, which has caused problems throughout the embassy." The report's second Key Judgment indicated that "the Ambassador’s authorized absences from post exceeded those allowed in guidelines issued by the Under Secretary for Management. The embassy and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs did not follow Department of State (Department) procedures for vetting these absences." The IG report concluded that "Her extensive travel out of country and preference to work from the ambassador's residence for a significant portion of the work day contributed to a perception of indifference." The report revealed that "The Ambassador was absent from post for 276 days during a 670-day period from November 19, 2009, to September 19, 2011—an average of 12 days per month. The 276 days include 84 nonwork days (weekends and holidays) and 102 personal leave days. The Ambassador also traveled to the United States for 77 work days on what she identified as business, with 23 days on what appear to have been official travel orders." The report concludes that "The frequent absences of the Ambassador contributed to poor mission management."
Political reporting from the embassy also suffered, according to the report, which stated that cables "consistently failed to include context and/or analysis to explain why events are important to U.S. interests. For example, cables on labor unrest or the impact of massive Chinese investment in The Bahamas were reported with little comment and no analysis. Cables written in the past year show little political reporting or analysis on international crime, drug smuggling, and illegal migration or on prevention of terrorism, both of which are key MSRP [Mission Strategic Resource Plan] goals." Foreign Policy commentator Josh Rogin was harshly critical of Ambassador Avant: "Today, the State Department revealed that another fundraiser turned ambassador ran her embassy into the ground ... only to return to fundraising and leave the State Department to pick up the pieces." 
In 2011, Ambassador Avant was nominated for the Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service. The Sue M. Cobb award honors a Non-Career Ambassador who has used private sector leadership and management skills to make a significant impact on bilateral or multilateral relations and has done so in a manner that best reflects the foreign service culture of uncommon commitment in carrying out United States foreign policy through proactive diplomacy.
On January 7, 2012, Ambassador Avant was honored at the 20th Annual Trumpet Awards, where she received the International Award for her dedication to public service. Mayor Cory Booker, Ted Turner and Aretha Franklin were among the other honorees.
A March 29, 2012 editorial in the Bahamas Tribune titled, "Ambassador Nicole Avant- A Job Well Done," stated that Ambassador Avant was "considered among the more popular US Ambassadors to be posted to Nassau Embassy.” 
- Thompson, Lindsay (October 23, 2009). "The Bahamas welcomes 13th US Ambassador". The Bahamas Weekly. Retrieved 2012-02-24.