Monday, November 12, 2007

Innocence Lost

GLEANER EDITORS' FORUM - Terror's young captives - Students relive pain, bloodshed, but vow to succeed
published: Monday | November 12, 2007

Children from primary schools across Kingston's inner-city communities participatein a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Wednesday. The forum was held under the theme 'Hopes and Aspirations for the Future'. - Rudolph Brown/Chief Photographer

Tears flowed freely at the most recent Gleaner Editors' Forum, held last Wednesday, which focused on the challenges being faced by primary school children in several inner-city communities in Kingston.

Today, Earl Moxam, coordinator of the Editors' Forum series, presents highlights from that session, held at the newspaper's main office at North Street in Kingston.


Her eyes are bright. They glitter with confidence and promise. She says she wants to be a doctor, or a lawyer, perhaps. She could be either, or both, maybe.

But, alas, evil lurks nearby, determined that such promise should not bear fruit. Such is the stuff of which Brittany's world is made.

The grade-six student enjoys socialising, reading and singing. Sounds like the kinds of pursuits that the average 11-year-old would enjoy without having to worry about anything.

Not so for Brittany. She carries the daily burden of life, and death, in her community on her young shoulders. She is afraid to walk the streets and her parents keep her close to their side lest she fall prey to marauding thugs.

"I'm actually afraid, because recently they killed seven people, including a 10-year-old boy, a two-month-old baby and an old lady," she recalls.

At the recounting of such horrors, her eyes lost their twinkle momentarily, as sadness eclipsed the initial joy.

Rebounding with optimism

Shortly thereafter, however, Brittany was soaring again.

"You can't let things let you down. You have to know what you want in life, and if you know what you want in life, you can do it. In my vocabulary, there is no such word as 'can't', so I choose to rise to the occasion and do what I want to do," she asserts with the wisdom of a sage.

But as she looks around at her peers, Brittany is particularly concerned about the boys, many of whom are dropping out of school and joining gangs. For that she blames poor parenting, particularly the absence of enough good fathers.

"The fathers are basically the same as the children. Most of them sit on the corners; they drink, they gamble. I think (the community) needs a lot of fathers. Not biological fathers, but a lot of father treatment."

This bright-eyed young girl takes great comfort and solace from her Christian parents and her church. "If you have a problem, you can go to your pastor or another member and discuss it with them," she advised.

But she is wise enough to issue a cautionary note: "You still have to be careful which church member you speak to, though, because even in the church there is hypocrisy!"


Roje is a grade-five student. By his own estimation, he is "very good" in language arts. He wants to become a veterinarian.

"I have very good parents who help me with my home-work," he reports proudly.

Despite those positive factors, however, he too is very scared; so scared he was only able to nod his head in acknowledgement.

"What makes you most scared?" he was asked. "The gunmen," Roje answered almost at a whisper and with a shiver. Then he began to sob.

Time to move on to another child ... another story of innocence lost.


Tashana has visions of becoming a successful businesswoman. Life at home is fine. It is when she goes on the road that terror grips her young heart.

This is particularly bad for a student who wants to do well in school, but who must risk being caught in the crossfire of rival gangs on her way to classes.

Her memories of the last general election are not of the song-and-dance routines at the party rallies, but of the blood that flowed down the streets of her community as political thugs struggled for supremacy.

Two months later, the shootings continue, leaving Tashana too scared to venture out some mornings.

To compound her concerns, this is the year that this young girl must sit GSAT - the examination that will determine which high school she moves on to. A day away from school, therefore, means a crucial loss for her.

"I'm afraid that if I don't go to school one day, something will be taught that will come in the GSAT, so I try not to miss any day, but I'm very scared," she said, her voice breaking at the end.

Still, she braves the fears because she wants to gain a place at Wolmer's or Campion, her favourites.


Jerome has dreams of being a broadcast meteorologist.

He is not fully satisfied with his academic performance to date, but is determined to improve. He takes pleasure, in the meantime, in being "a little bit ahead" of the girls in his class.

He wants the other boys in the school and community to follow his example, but he is worried about some of them.

"I see some of them going around with some men that they shouldn't even walk with, because they will get them into a lot of trouble," he laments.


Amy (not her real name) is dreadfully afraid, particularly at night, while lying in bed. Even there she does not feel safe from the gunmen who often come charging into and through her yard.

What is worse, sometimes they even knock at the doors of her house where she cowers alone while her parents are out.

So, she is pleading for parents to stay closer to their children, to remain at home with them and give them comfort and solace in the dead of the night while evil stalks and hunts new prey.

Despite such terrors, Amy, a brilliant student, has ambitions of becoming a paediatrician, or a teacher, someday. In the meantime, she has her sights firmly set on a place at Campion when she completes primary school next year.


At age 11, Devon should be exploring and enjoying life to the fullest. However, much of the delight in his young life has been doused by a sorrow too deep for a child to bear.

In June this year, his beloved grandfather was killed while on his way to work.

While recounting the painful experience, young Devon cannot hold back the flood of tears.

Still, he must go on.

"Some of my good experiences are when I get a hundred or in the nineties or eighties in my grades at school. I feel very good about myself when that happens."

He revels in the company of his parents and he craves for peaceful interaction with his peers.


Jovante is enjoying a 90 average in his schoolwork. He wants to become a medical doctor.

He is critical of his fellow male students, pointing out that the girls are generally doing better in school "because they are more determined".

Furthermore, he says, too many males "are not interested in doing well in school or anywhere else."

That, he fears, will result in more criminals being produced in his community.


Nancy (not her real name), a grade-six student, wants to become a nurse or a journalist.

Perhaps it is the budding journalist in her that is already breaking free, for she is able to give vivid descriptions of life in her community. It is not a pretty picture.

This child of 11 describes her community as being in a state of war. It is a war in which she and other children feel they are among the primary victims, if not physically, then certainly psychologically.

"I get scared because at times the men come into my house from the front and from the back to hide from the police," she explains.

Nancy is also haunted by the memory of feeling forced to lie to the police. It was during a raid on the community by a police team that the lawmen barged into her yard and showed her a photograph of one of the men they were pursuing.

Did she know this man? Had she seen him today? Where was he hiding?

The correct answer to question number one would have been 'yes'. Likewise, for question number two. Question number three was the most difficult to answer, because only metres away, up in a tree, the gunman was perched, the business end of a deadly gun aimed directly at her forehead.

No, she did not know the man. No, she had not seen him today. And, certainly, she did not know where he was.

The instinct of survival prevailed over honesty.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tired to the Bone

OK... I have hit the fatigue block, and unfortunately, I have further to go. Officially, I am on a diet of Burger King and sugafree Red Bull. Maybe I should overload on multivitamins eh?

So I did my first show this morning. The pace was god but other things need to be worked on. I will get the hang of it soon.

Gotta go meet my other deadline...

Oh btw, if I never said before, I am moving today.

My mother is a gem of magnanimous proportions!


Tired to the Bone

OK... I have hit the fatigue block, and unfortunately, I have further to go.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

When it Rains....

It has been raining for over two weeks straight in Jamaica. I mean, every single solitary day, sometimes all day. It also seem as though life is mimicking nature.

I having problems with the new place. Apparently the previous tenants had money outstanding on the account, well actually, that is putting it rather nicely. The truth is that the guy was a blasted crook who did not believe in paying bills and found ways to connect himself illegally.

So... there is one helluva rigmarole for me to occupy with all things connected.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

I tired out hell.

I have however, miraculously found the time, energy and wherewithal to halve the impromptu project due on fri am. And i mean seriously, i just started tonight, so I am expecting to finish by mid-late afternoon tomorrow. That means that had I properly organised myslef and made arrangements for the cleaning of the new place, I would have been able to actually get my stuff in by tomorrow evening.

Since my show is in the morning, I am going to have to go to bed early tomorrow. Three late nights and early mornings in a row will mash me up.

But I am still proud that I actually managed to accomplish so much and I think I will actually get it done ahead of time!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What am I Longing For?

My space.

I am sooooo looking forward into moving into my new place. No more studio living, mi re-instated to one bedroom mi dear!

I am thrilled! Big kitchen, big bathroom, big enough bedroom and a lukkle tuups a living room that will have to share as workspace but you know what? I dont care! At least I wont have to lock myself in a bedroom in a three bedroom townhouse because I feel uncomfortable.

And u just wait till I buss way pon the decorating because you know that a fi me sinting!

I just got an urgent project which is going to throw off my moving schedule (which was suppsed to begin today). It is not likely that major movement will start before Friday as I have to ensure that my company meets this deadline.

In addition to all that, I have my first live show that I am producing this week. So the news just in: I am back in broadcast big time! Dont ask me how I going to do everything. All I know is I must. These are indeed exciting times!

A gone go do the people dem work...


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Green is the New Black

This West Indian woman hails the work of Majora Carter.

Smiling Trini

Jouvert Morning in Trinidad & Tobago

"Siddung Pon a Riddim Like a Lizard Pon a Limb"

(Charley Chaplin, Jamaican Reggae artiste)

[I wrote the foll in the wee hours of the morning when I woke up and could not fall asleep and felt like everything was crashing down on me. Thank heavens the iPod, which was starting to behave wack in the day, settled down and allowed me to listen to playlist "gospel redemption," which is my go-to defacto anti-depressant. I cried a bit but ended up feeling hopeful and falling into peacefull slumber with a song of praise on my lips.]

I feel like a failure.

I am 27 years old, I am sleeping alone, without any hopes for a boyfriend, much less a husband, which means I am going to have to severely compromise my dreams of having a legal nuclear family home if I ever want children. I feel incredibly lonely and have very often felt that way since my last relationship. At this point only those over three months count so that makes my last relationship four years ago.

I am moving for the 7th time in 7 years, and as much as I had stayed in one place for over 3 years, I am making my second move from that place in less than 4 months.

My income is very limited. Business hasn't taken off the way I wanted it to.

I dont know if I want to do PR anymore or events anymore. I think I just want to focus on production, photography and writing.

I feel so sad and damn lonely in this moment.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

No Abiding City

Dem seh rolling stone gather no moss. If moss is the ability to find stuff and really stay connected in a place, I got none.

So I moving again. Yes chile..again... to my third pad for the year. Dont get me wrong, before the earlier temporary move, I had the same address for over three years, flooding, leaking and all. I had to move because the leaks got so bad that I was getting real sick and I couldnt stand having another 3 month bout of bronchitis and neear pneumonia. I moved in with a friend upon her invitation - BAD idea (living hell)... and I decided to cut that short. I guess having jumped into my third job in July, I am right on par.

The bible says three is the number of completeness. I sho does hope so.

I moving back to the hills, but this time on my own. Praise God for journeying mercies.

I feel some stability coming back.

Maybe, I will be able to gather some moss after all.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Beauty & Sadness

by Berna Garriz

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