If you read one book about Latin America, make sure it isn’t Open Veins of Latin America. Michael Reid’s book – Forgotten Continent – is far more balanced and analytical.
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Jordan turns over a new leaf
In less than one school term, Jordan Adams was suspended at least five times. He spent as many days in school as he spent out of school on suspension.
Fighting, smoking, drinking, gambling, breaking classes, you name it, Adams has done it, both in and outside of the school’s premises. In Form Three, the teenager, who attends the Sangre Grande Secondary School, was charged for possession of a weapon with the intent to cause wounding after police foiled the imminent clash of school gangs due to ongoing rivalry.
Explaining why he was convicted for carrying a cutlass two years ago, Adams said it was because of a gang dispute. While the gangs never had names, they were identified by the colour bandanas a person at the school would wear. If someone dared to wear a different colour it was considered a disrespect and gangs would end up in a fight over the issue.
“A scene had play off and a lunch time we hear they (rival gang) was swinging by the school that evening. We know they would have been armed with weapons like cutlass, ice picks, knives and we had none. We get searched at the school gates daily. So that day I break school, jumped the school wall and went to get a cutlass.”
Walking back to the school that evening strapped with the weapon and in the company of three other boys, police approached them. Adams remembered running away and ditching the blade. He was held and the blade was recovered. He was charged and spent three days at YTC before being placed on a three-year bond.
“Inside there not no bed of roses, you can’t rock back like home. People will just take your food if someone brings for you, or you have to share with them. I didn’t eat the entire time I was there, the food was sour and taste bad. All the bad boy I bad boy, I can’t sleep inside there.”
Now 16 and approaching his CSEC examinations, the young man said those days are now behind him. It is not the life he sees for himself anymore. The peer pressure he admitted that he once succumbed to effortlessly, is what he now struggles to put to an end daily.
“It was all just peer pressure really, my friends doing it, so I doing it. But I realise all this friend thing and everything that was going on wasn’t for me. So I just branch off.”
Because he often found himself in trouble with the school authorities or the law, Adams was sent frequently to a programme in the Sangre Grande community called Caring Intervention for Troubled Youth (City) to be rehabilitated.
City is a partnership between north eastern educational district representatives and the T&T Police Service which caters for suspended students from Matelot to Manzanilla, Sangre Grande to Arima.
Representatives of the City programme and his mother said he was even told to leave at one point by one of the co-ordinators who felt that he was not changing. Now he is one of their more progressive cases. He said City was responsible for opening up a lot of doors for him. He learned how to communicate better with people and talk more openly with others when previously he would have kept to himself. He joked, “Before the programme I wouldn’t be talking to you, I wouldn’t be here today.”
The teen advised other youths to stay away from bad company, “It worries me to see my soldiers fighting. Each fight will only make others want to retaliate and keep up that cycle. Just keep to yourself, be normal and keep on a good path. At the end of the day, it’s their choice, but if they want to change, they have to make the decision, say it, and stick to it.”
Adams is a work in progress. His mother, Delia Adams, said he still has some temper problems but has improved tremendously compared to previous years, and she was very happy about that.
“He still has to make adjustments. I feel I would have had to identify his body by now. He is a fighter and doesn’t back down and I would not have been able to deal with something like that.
“It was horrible,” she continued, “he used to get all those suspensions, five a term. It used to affect my work because I couldn’t keep asking for so much time off. It was embarrassing but more than that, it was devastating when Jordan didn’t listen, it was scary I could not get through to him or get him to open up.”
Delia said the City programme has been working well for her second born and praises it for all the changes she has seen in him.
The mother of six, the youngest four months old, advised parents not to give up on their children.
“Keep reaching out to them. If you close that door they will only go to the people you’re trying to get them to turn away from. We feel shame, yes, but don’t give up, stand up. If you turn your backs they have no one else and that is even scarier.”
The 38-year-old mother said she talks to her son very often now, “I give him more of a hearing as well, I tell him to be who you are. Don’t try to fit in, just be you.”
Money is hard to come by and Adams tells of days he has gone without food, but he is determined not to turn to the streets and sell drugs to make ends meet.
For now, he takes small plastering jobs on weekends, a trade he learnt from his older brother.
Adams said he likes agriculture and planting various crops. He plans to work and save some money to buy farming equipment and make a living off the land when he completes his examinations later this year.
“My aim is to do something with land, plant patchoi, lettuce or anything really. I like agriculture and being outside there. I will do that.”