Whatever the merits and demerits that have come to be associated with Dr Selwyn Cudjoe, in relation to the various fractions of our society, I agree with him that the Afro male youth, and more likely female also, is in crisis, and this crisis would continue to get worse and broaden unless some concerted effort is specifically aimed at arresting it. It would seem that many are caught up?in the flip side of a civilised society and the way out should be of serious concern and benefit to all of us, since we all live in the same society. Maybe those unable to achieve selfhood by legitimately competing and achieving in an organised society, retreat into a bastion of self, of distorted respect, rank, gangs, territory, bling and such street values as criminal substitutes for the real respect, rank, groups, territory and bling conferred by society, via position and wealth, on those regarded as successful in the society.
This is what I meant by being caught up in?the flip side of civilised society. Dealing with the problem is not going to be easy and could be, quite frankly, dangerous for those who venture into their world, even with the best of intentions. Perhaps many are the offspring of a generation lost even before now but were not in sufficient numbers to be recognised as a social problem. And perhaps a younger generation has already been lost but has not yet taken its place in the criminal hierarchy. That we must do something if we are to enjoy the benefits of society and civilisation is not in question. The question is what can be done and what do we do? First we must put aside partisanship in dealing with the problem since it stands to make all our efforts to build a better society for ourselves and our children worthless. It may not be easy, it may not be smooth, but we may not have a choice or option in the matter. We are afraid to walk our streets, even drive in certain places, open our gates, go to recreation areas, run our businesses. The prisons are overflowing and our schools are fast becoming training grounds for criminals. Our security forces are already outnumbered and unable to cope. We must do something, and do something good, fast.
I suggest, along the lines of Cudjoe, that the People's Partnership Government sets up a committee, with sub-committees, composed of leading Afros consisting of, but not restricted to, Jack Warner, Cudjoe, Dr Selwyn Ryan, Makandal Daaga, Dr Keith Rowley, Leroy Clarke, and other such prominent Afros, NGOs, community activists in the ghetto, psychologists, judges, police, UWI academics, etc–people who have come out of the personal experience of the challenges faced by Afro youth in achieving success–and allow this committee to make recommendations, and possibly implement solutions, to deal with the problem. In this respect having other relevant ministers or their representatives would be helpful in implementing solutions. Others can be invited to make submissions. Some have said success or failure, wealth or poverty, criminal or law-abiding is a culture, based on the relationship–our beliefs determine our values, our values determine our attitudes, our attitudes determine our actions–which may in turn lead to success or failure, criminal or law-abiding, wealth or poverty. As such we must be conscious that success in dealing with the Afro youth problem may border on changing the culture that underlies their failure to become successful in our society. In this regard there may be no immediate success in dealing with the problem this way, but more a longer-term benefit which prevents others, and possibly ourselves, falling victim to criminal activity.
At least our children may have a place to call home.