LOOP TALKS: Not bad boys, just lost boys
During my career as a reporter I have grown accustomed to the complexities of covering murder cases, as well as court proceedings. I try to properly manage the tsunami of emotions in these scenarios but I am always rattled whenever I encounter a grieving mother.
The one who stands outside the court for hours just to catch a glimpse of her boy before he is shuffled off, in chains, back to the prison van for the long trip East.
You will hear her telling her son “be strong” while her knees barely hold her up from collapsing. Or the one who sits in the family room, gripping her stomach, wearing a tear-stained face, telling reporters, “he was a good boy, he just had he ways”.
I return home to my three-year-old son and wonder, will I be one of those mothers standing outside the court or holding my stomach in grief?
So far for 2018, there have been nine gun-related murders and a slew of shootings which have hit every corner of the island, with the latest being the murder of 23-year-old Shaquille Greenidge. That is nine mothers who have been left grieving and nine mothers who will wait outside the court to hear the fate of their son charged with murder.
The alarming rate at which we are losing our young men to violence disturbs me as a mother but what is more unsettling is the lack of solutions to a growing problem.
Politicians and church leaders have been preaching a multi-sectoral approach to tackling gun violence involving the church, school and the family. And so, we send our boys to school and hope the teachers can give them proper instruction; we send them to church and hope that the pastor can steer them in the right way and we do our best with them in the home. But somewhere in this three-prong journey, a vast majority of them are still being caught in the lure of the ‘fast life’.
It would be remiss not to mention the link between lower-income households and crime and violence. It does not take a sociologist or economist to underscore the correlation between being poor and being caught on the wrong side of the law.
It then becomes clear in this situation that the enemy is not the leaders of the gangs or the drug lords or the boys on the block or even the gun; the enemy here is poverty. This is evident when one analyzes the neighbourhoods where the gun violence impacts most.
In my community, I have witnessed many young men left on the wayside to raise themselves because mothers are either too busy or too tired – too busy trying to keep the family fed or too tired to focus on keeping the boy on the right path. The street then becomes the parent and the violence breeds out of control.
This means then, the most intense intervention of the multi-sectoral approach to reducing gun violence has to be in the home; this is especially so for single-parent families. Single mothers need a tremendous amount of assistance, both financial and emotional, in rearing their sons.
Much in the same way the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense proposed a ten-point plan to transform communities, ‘ghetto’ communities too require a properly laid out strategy to save these lost boys before they end up in the courts or in the grave.
A strategy centered around big brother mentorship programs, breakfast and feeding programs, after-school programs and most importantly entrepreneurial programs to allow young men to earn some money and learn responsibility.
These programs need to be taken into the heart of the communities, supported by police and non-governmental organizations, to provide single-mother households with the support they need to properly raise their sons.
While anti-gang legislation and harsher gun penalties sound good on paper, it is futile to close the door after the horse has bolted from the stable.
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