Our successes can help to bring about change


Friday, October 18, 2019

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DURING the past two weeks all eyes have been focused on the ongoing drama involving the former Minister of Education Ruel Reid and happenings at Caribbean Maritime University. The interest over the politics and politicians seems to have overshadowed the homecoming of some of our athletes who returned from their exploits in Doha, Qatar, at the recently concluded IAAF World Championships. In fact, it seems that the general mood of the country regarding the track and field event was more subdued than in previous times, even though there were many outstanding performances.

During previous World Championships, offices turned into party centres with lots of cheering and shouting as workers watched Jamaicans tearing up the track. This round, I didn't hear many pot covers clanging. Did I miss the footage of celebrations in Half-Way-Tree when medals were being won? Since the “Big Man” Usain Bolt is no longer showing the world how he does things, have we lost our fevered interest in track and field?

I hope that the young men and women who represented us will be given a proper thank you at the appropriate time. Let us “big up” the seasoned professionals who showed us that they have the talent. “Mommy Rocket” Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce flashed her rainbow-coloured hair and proved that she is still the best so much so that she has been nominated for IAAF Athlete of the Year and is listed by the British Broadcasting Corporation as one of their 100 influential individuals of 2019. Shelly-Ann's comeback after giving birth and burning up the track has brought her “nuff respeck”. The gentlemen were not to be left out, either. While they were not as dominant in the 100m and 200 m, they still showed class as they too did their thing.

In the news reports coming out of Doha, the small smile of Tajay Gayle caught my attention. It seemed like he appeared out of nowhere when he flew down the long jump track and came out of the sand pit from a gold medal-winning leap. The photos of the lanky, young man showed a look of quiet determination that, no doubt, helped him win the prize. In his community of August Town, his family rejoiced and a relative remarked that she hoped that his success would inspire other great dreams in youth who reside in a place where they have known much sorrow.

In September of this year, the think tank Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) released a report that looked at the decades-long effort that has gone into trying to bring peace to August Town. Many tears have been shed in August Town, and lots of hard work and sweat has been poured out by outsiders and community members in the fight against the forces of darkness. Politicians, police, church members, as well as everyday citizens did what they could to reach the point of “zero murders” in 2016.

The CAPRI report suggested that the absence of “bigger bad men” meant that it was easier to control the violence during that period. Nature abhors a vacuum, and by the dawn of 2017 the bloodshed began again and has continued. The August Town findings lead some to draw the conclusion that social interventions will not be the solution to our crime problem. The funding agencies involved in the CAPRI study have said more research is needed before we draw such a dire conclusion.

If social interventions are not the answer, then what are the options? Enhanced security operations, states of emergency, and zones of special operations are not the only answer. We have seen that, despite increased presence of military and police on the streets and the curtailing of movement for the public has not resulted in “zero” crime in the targeted areas of St James and Westmoreland.

Minister of National Security Horace Chang has announced that there needs to be a more consistent approach to social interventions which takes into the account the larger problems of access to quality education, improved neighbourhoods and other infrastructure. All the things that are the responsibilities of government are the very things we've cussed “Govament” about for many years. Where do we go from here? Is there still a place for the various community groups and non-governmental organizations dedicated to reducing violence and improving rehabilitation or must they find another work?

I spoke with a friend who has lived in August Town for years. I asked him what he felt about the situation. He said he was tired of the violence. He was tired of finding somewhere else to spend the night if he finished work too late. He was tired of going to funerals. He was tired of it all. I asked him if he had given up hope that August Town could ever find peace. He said he while there is life there is hope. “Maybe we won't ever get to 'zero' murder again, but wi haffi try. Even if we just turn one youngster away from crime, we have to hold on to that success and try likkle more.”

Maybe this is how we will have to approach the nation's crime problem. Just take it one at a time. Do what we can to make a difference in one life, and maybe one will become two, and two will turn into three, and, maybe, just maybe, the change will happen.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or




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