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Quelling Laventille's fire

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The question is: how can the Panorama victory of Desperadoes (first since 2000) be utilised to counter the negative vibes among groups of youth in Laventille, and to assist in the transformation of the sub-culture of social deviance and crime? In last week’s column, I quoted the manager of Despers, Curtis Edwards, on the plan of the band to convert the refurbished panyard into a centre of learning and accomplishment for youth on the Hill. The hope is to nurture young men and women in the yard to prepare them to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals.

In addition, the plan is to reach into the community to meet with the different blocks to gain an understanding of the problems which result in groups of young people engaging in open and violent conflict with one another.

"One of the plans is to visit the different blocks (border lines) to play pan in an effort to create peace among our teenagers; they are the ones that are giving the trouble," says president of the Elders Organisation, Victor Copeland. And he notes that during the post-victory motorcade of Desperadoes to celebrate the Panorama victory, people from all of the different blocks came out to recognise the achievement of the band, which often represents the best of Laventille.

"The plan is to go into the different blocks once a month to play music and to find out what we need to do to get our community back together," says Curtis Edwards, manager of Desperadoes. "You see that’s the problem; we keep shouting at Laventille and want to bring all kinds of big plans and yet we don’t know what is the mind of the people inside the blocks. So in order for us to get this right, we must hear from the youths in the blocks what is required to bring peace in the areas," says Edwards.

"It won’t be easy you know, there is a lot of hurting going on inside there: This one family dead; this other one family dead; you could imagine a young man see his father get shoot…no therapy; he can’t wait to grow up to get back, and that is one of the main contributing factors to what is going on in Laventille today; and if we do not talk to and counsel the youths who have been exposed to that; who quelling that fire?"

Using the steelband as an instrument of peace has been done here in T&T previously and is being used by other countries to counter deviant behaviour among youth. The US Virgin Islands has sent young people here to play in local steelbands to experience the discipline and healing capacity of the steelband, say Copeland and Edwards.

Part of the plan for the regeneration of Laventille is to research the history of significant contributors to national development through the establishment of a "Heroes" platform. "We are not looking for any "ten days," we are looking for genuine help as we seek to produce lawyers, doctors and engineers who can play pan," says Edwards, the objective being to use the steelband to create ambitious and successful young people.

One vitally important element of the plan as outlined by Copeland (president of the Elders Organisation of Laventille) and Curtis Edwards, a third generation son of Desperadoes whose forefathers were among those who established the band, is that it is home-grown. Brazilian sociologist Paolo Freire says the oppressed have to free themselves. "The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption," says Freire, adding that "no pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates, and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors."

As Copeland and Edwards affirm, outside assistance is needed, but the regeneration has to be attempted and mounted by those from within.

I have seen macro plans and programmes put forward for Laventille, one from the East Port-of-Spain (Epos) group, and they all seem relevant. Indeed, Edwards has mentioned and thanked the Epos group for its involvement with the Hill. There is, however, a significant difference when those from inside the heart of Laventille begin anew the work to transform their community.

One absolutely required initiative is one that was raised in an interview with me on the subject of the regeneration of Laventille by educator/former primary school principal (Rose Hill RC) and TTUTA president Trevor Oliver: "it is not that students (in Laventille) are averse to education; it is that learning is not being transmitted in a form that is relevant," says Oliver. Oliver says there is value in using the sub-culture in which young people live as a teaching tool to gain the attention of the students.

He and the current president of TTUTA Devanand Sinanan note the importance of teaching technical and vocational skills, which Devanand says has effectively been dropped off the curriculum.

Laventille sixth former at CIC Kwesi Moore says many of his peers drop out after primary school as the curriculum has nothing in it to attract them to learn skills which have direct value in the market place of work.

This series of articles has merely touched on a few elements of the problems and possible solutions to alert the society of what is possible in Laventille. But understanding the problems is not sufficient; "action beats ole talk everytime."


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