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Don’t let Laventille youths self-destruct

Published: 
Sunday, February 21, 2016

Have you, dear reader, ever thought of the circumstances and experiences which help shape the lifestyle and eventual character of certain groups of young boys growing up in Laventille? What of their environment, the influences under which the boys are raised and how they slide into the gangster life, eventually their lives being ended early and unceremoniously?

I have gained some insight into those questions through interviews done with Hal Greaves, who works with the young boys and men on the hill searching to capture their hearts and minds to channel them into an alternative lifestyle. Keep in mind though, I am referring to what is probably quite a numerically small but significant group of boys and young men and not the vast majority of boys of Laventille. The latter live quite normal lives; that is, outside of the stigma that has been applied to the people of Laventille because of this and previous generations of a small group of misguided youth.

I am writing these sketches because the society needs to understand these youngsters and why they grow into young gang members and eventual gang leaders. We cannot stand by and allow them to self-destruct, or be killed when they are foolish enough to engage in gun battles with the police and army.

We must also become conscious too that our prison systems are finishing schools which turn many young men into full-fledged criminals. Understanding and therefore being in a position to do something about the environment in which the society is producing criminality is in our own best interest. Here goes. 

Often it is the case that such boys come out of single-parent homes; the provider of sperm, the "witless" father, who may very well be the product of the same circumstances as his son a generation before, and has long wandered off to what he may consider "greener pastures" to satisfy his appetite for free-grazing.

Not too incidentally, this trait of multi-fathering is not one which started in the 21st century. For those of us old enough to remember, the generational predecessors of today’s wanderer were the wharf men, the stevedores who received daily three and four carriers of food by their different women: the man with the tallest multi-storied enamel carrier, the one having the largest piece of pork and or slice of king fish and blue food, was the big man on the wharf.

When this generation was pensioned off with a few thousands of dollars (that was real big money in those times), they shared it around with the many households they had to sustain. Many spent the rest of their days liming on Charlotte/George Streets with gold in their mouths, round their necks, on fingers and hands; but many had to visit the pawn shops as their lump sums dwindled and were eaten away by inflation created by the first set of oil dollars unleashed on the market.

Anyhow, to return, our young boy, who probably has six or seven other siblings, each one having a different father by the time he gets to primary school age, he is unsupervised for long periods of the day as his mother has to go and hustle at some form of employment.

The young boy is in school as a place to spend his day under some measure of guidance; but primarily for the purpose of getting breakfast and lunch through the school feeding programme.

At the end of the school day, the little boy may be spending some time with the guards at the school until he expects his mother would have reached home. The reason he is liming with the guard at school is because he is still too young/small to be recruited by the gangs in his area.

But soon enough, the young boy could be told that his unknown father was killed by X or Y gang. He then vows to kill those who have killed his father—perhaps the psychologist could tell us about this "father hunger" (yearning) that the boy feels deep inside for this father who he has been deprived of and this is even though he may not be conscious of knowing/seeing a father; the father having not been interested in him; maybe a father who simply does not have the emotional capacity to become a father and care for and love his offspring.

Life simply did not prepare him for having this capacity for fatherhood. Complicated story, yes, but that is part of the very complex experience of the young boy, teenager, adult teenager whose life is short and brutish.

By the time the boy gets to eight or nine years old, he is inducted into a gang in his area in at times what seems to be an off-handed way. "Hold ah piece here for meh small man," he is told by a gang member in the 16 to 19 age group. He gets his first taste of money, as his elder passes a small change to him for concealing illegal items. He could, for instance, undergo a raid by the police, which could be a rough experience for a small impressionable boy to come to terms with.

He learns of the power which guns give to those who hold them; he must wonder at what it could feel like having ah piece like that strung around his neck and having "big people" grovel in his presence.

To be continued

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