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Urban youth victims of unfair system
The immersion of the youth of the south-east Port-of-Spain in sport, music, art, educational remediation with a focus on life skills and economic activity could transform the gangster culture and the sense of anomie—the breakdown in social values and norms typical in the case of an uprooted people—that have the youth of the community turning on themselves.
The week before the community celebrated its “icons” to mark the 50th anniversary of Independence, I had cause to be in the “Plannings” on Nelson and George streets. I witnessed not gun-toting gang leaders and members anxious to do harm to two British female journalists and myself; but rather desperately afraid young men, many in their mid to late teens with their “mothers milk” still on their faces and seemingly without hope.
These young people are the victims of the generation before them, of succeeding governments who have exploited their parents and the present government now seeking to colour them orange; but surely they too have personal responsibility for their condition.
Their only salvation, and that of the entire community that is unfortunately characterised by the present lifestyle and actions of the gang culture, rests with the community, inclusive of the many national achievers who moved out a generation or two ago.
The development of a football team/club coached by Everard “Gally” Cummings with supporting staff including the likes of Reynold Woods, Anthony Skerritt and with organisational support from Eddie Hart, who organised the most significant minor football league for over 40 years, seems a good place to start.
There must be talent and inclination among the young men and women from Nelson, George, Duncan, Prince, Goat, Cockerton, Piccadilly and Jackson streets, plus the adjoining communities of Mango Rose and Independence Square. The youth of the area have been robbed of the knowledge and understanding of the greatest creation of T&T, the steelband, fashioned-out of the most difficult social conditions of the 1930s into the decades of the 40s, 50s and 1960s. The Canboulay re-enactment is played to people from outside; the residents have not been made fully aware of how their ancestors intervened to attempt to preserve the masquerade for them.
The reality is that the youth of the area have not truly experienced “Pan” as their sensibilities are attuned to electric boom sounds and the violence of the lyrics of the dub artistes; they need to be given an alternative such as pan on the road on J’Ouvert morning. In Witco Desperadoes, Neal and Massy All Starts, City Sun Valley, Blue Diamonds and Is We Band there is all that is needed to begin the social and cultural rehabilitation of the young men and women from “Behind de Bridge”.
The academic-oriented education system will cater to those so inclined and many star performers started off at Nelson Street and Eastern boys and girls schools. However, there is need for remediation and the engagement of the youth in life skills and in aspects of education that provide practical jobs.
Involvement in the major physical and infrastructure rehabilitation of the neighbourhood carries the benefits of productive and gainful employment. It will give pride in self, in community not merely to those involved in the reconstruction effort, but to the entire population of south-east POS.
Residents cannot feel proud in a physical environment which is deep in decay and complete disorder especially in those areas south of Prince Street: the garbage; the sale of food on the ground and the general disorder of the place, not to say anything of the stench that surrounds the old market, cannot contribute to the transformation that has to take place.
This time though, the residents of the old city must be central to the planning; that is where the PNM Government went wrong, the Government and a pompous MP felt they could produce “development” by autocratic fiat. Mr Mendez and his Icons committee, former residents at home and abroad and corporate supporters need to come forward to make a contribution. The alternative is frightening and cannot be contemplated.
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