Mt Salem youths ris­ing up against vi­o­lence

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Okoye Henry Gleaner Writer

AT-RISK AND unat­tached youths in the Mt Salem com­mu­nity in Mon­tego Bay have de­cided that the time has come to put fear aside and make a pow­er­ful state­ment against the crime, which has been plagu­ing their com­mu­nity and re­sulted in the deaths of sev­eral young men.

The young­sters, some as young as six years old, are gear­ing up to lend their voices to a ‘Stop the Crime’ Pub­lic Ser­vice An­nounce­ment ini­tia­tive, which is di­rected at the ma­raud­ing gang­sters who have been turn­ing their guns on the com­mu­nity and cre­at­ing fear.

Floyd Fos­ter, pres­i­dent of the com­mu­nity-based Mandingo Youth Club, which is on a mis­sion to trans­form the lives of many un­der­priv­i­leged youths in the neigh­bour­hood, said there was no bet­ter time than now to take a stand against law­less­ness, which has brought pain to many fam­i­lies.

“What­ever we are do­ing now, we have to get the kids in­volved and lis­ten to them by us­ing their voice to change what is hap­pen­ing around us,” ex­plained Fos­ter. “Rather than ne­glect the young ones and let them grow up in the same sys­tem and adopt the same prob­lem­atic style, we must put the fo­cus on them and use them to set the way, for those who have al­ready bro­ken the chain.”

Fos­ter fur­ther said that in the videos that will be pro­duced, the chil­dren will be shar­ing their views on crime and what the com­mu­nity needs to do to move for­ward. Ac­cord­ing to him, the videos are al­ready un­der pro­duc­tion and will be up­loaded to Face­book and other me­dia within a few weeks. In ad­di­tion, Fos­ter said that the chil­dren would take con­trol of the peace march, with adult su­per­vi­sion, as they walk from area to area within the com­mu­nity, plead­ing to the other young peo­ple to stop the vi­o­lence.

“The teach­ers and kids are afraid and are be­ing trau­ma­tised by the vi­o­lence. I have two girls in my pro­gramme that lost their cousins re­cently to gun vi­o­lence, so now I have to let peo­ple hear their voices,” said Fos­ter.

Fos­ter also out­lined that em­pha­sis needs to be placed on skill train­ing for youths in the com­mu­nity. He pointed to the com­mu­nity cen­tre as the place that can fa­cil­i­tate a train­ing pro­gramme, but said the fa­cil­ity will need cor­po­rate sup­port.

“The cen­tre is a big build­ing that can do so much for the com­mu­nity by putting in a skills train­ing fa­cil­ity. It is the young peo­ple that are do­ing the vi­o­lence that is go­ing on now. The 14-, 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds, so we have to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause most of th­ese kids got kicked out of school,” said Fos­ter.

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