It is tragic that most bad boys I have heard of have similar background stories.
Grew up in a single parent house, father ran off after he was unable or in many cases unwilling to meet the financial demands of the family. In some instances the father was not there because the mommy got pregnant by some man she was in love with who only wanted to have recreational sex and left at the first sign of responsibilities. In other situations, daddy is dead or in prison.
By time the boy becomes a teenager and begins to watch television whether at home or at the corner shop, he realizes that this life, his “livety” is something to be embarrassed about. He is ashamed of the zinc fence and the one room house that mama lives in. He wants a life like the one he sees on T.V. Now he does not even need television, he only needs social media like Facebook where people make posts about their perfect lives and force ordinary people to question the legitimacy of their own banal existence.
Mama begs him to keep out of trouble but mama knows little about grooming a good man for she probably has never met one and as Tupac said it is hard for a woman to raise a man. The boy stop take “talk” from mommy and albeit mommy will want him to become a better man. She is unable to effectively teach the difference between ambition and desires. There is nothing wrong with wanting “the good life” but it is not solely money that maintains luxury but hard work and perseverance.
These notions were raised when I had a discussion last night at a memorial for a cousin of mine who was killed last year. I said to a group of boys, hoping that my words would not fall on deaf ears.
“You cannot get something simply by wanting it. Not because you feel entitled to something or you want it, it does not mean you should get it or people should facilitate it for you. We must learn that our life is our responsibility, yes we can blame our parents for never having it or politicians for never giving a damn, but at the end of the day people will measure your life and without care for the circumstances you were born into. You will be held accountable for your life.”
They appeared disinterested. Who was I to talk to them when I could not even get my own to listen?
My cousin’s death haunts me because I somehow feel responsible. I know it was not my fault but everyone knows reading about something and finding it on your own doorstep is an entirely different experience. I did not just lose the little boy I grew up with, I lost friends and the respect of people for being related by blood to someone killed by the police. They assumed he must have done something wrong and he somehow deserved to die.
They criticized my family,’ soo soo’ behind my back and questioned my integrity for having “people like that in my family”, something I believe I have no control over. I think they would have had me deny any relations to this boy like some people do. Other people got to choose their families but unfortunately I was born into one. So I was left with the burden of being blamed for the disaffected young men in my”breed”and if they were wrongdoers and a part of my kindred then it meant I was a criminal sympathizer,that I somehow must have known and upheld with whatever they did.
Now I know how some parents who believe they raised good children feel when one child falls by the wayside. I am human and it pricked at my conscience. I was vouching for the boy I knew, not the man it was rumored he had become. All I remembered was the kind boy who “wramp” too much, he was too trusting, not judgmental enough and never really took life seriously. He embraced everybody and it was this ” keep all kinda friends” attitude to life that got him killed.
I cannot adequately emphasize how difficult it is to speak to one of these young men and have them listen to a female. I often think how difficult their mothers must have it. They apparently only listen to other males, men who they want to emulate, men with power, money and guns. His story is epic; single mother, father ran off, mommy sell clothes pon roadside fe buy the chicken back and rice to send him and his several siblings to school.
I sometimes think that maybe if I “reasoned” with him instead of shunning him in the last months of his life because I did not approve of his companions then maybe I could have saved him. I often think if only I had reached out to him instead of “malicing him”. I alienated him because I believed he would come to his senses and if he really valued my opinion, then he would shake up his folly grounds and steer clear of bad company. He was only twenty three years old.
I feel responsible somehow. So I have taken it upon myself to encourage young men whenever I get a chance even though half the time they probably won’t listen. I have come to a conclusion that our young men have serious identity and self esteem issues. Our young men want money, they believe having a lot of money will make them a man. “They want to be like the Don or the Politician, who drive big vehicle and have a lots of girls”.
They have not heard of ordinary men with success stories only ordinary men who work all them life and never get further than the two room board house. Ordinary men getting killed everyday.Ordinary men whose women left them for men with supposedly more money. Ordinary men who are called dead beat fathers. Ordinary men who the people I went to school with call ” Old Neygahs!”
They do not read and I doubt they watch Profile on Sundays with Ian Boyne. They do not think that ordinary people like themselves of unborn opportunities can offer anything to this world. They cannot be like the “big boys” because they did not finish school and cannot get a “neck tie job”. I feel guilty about my little cousin’s death and so I encourage, educate and reason with young men every chance I get to see if I can save even one and save some other family from this tragedy.
And so tell them. :” Badness don’t pay and all gangsters must die. Most bad men we heard of in our lifetime died in their youths and that supposedly should be a lesson enough for you. So if you love your life, you steer clear of badness and guns”
Other times I try appeal to their morality by using analogies and references. ” Life is a cycle, you cannot expect to hurt someone else’s sister, brother, father and mother, and cause other people family grief and pain and not expect that some day your family will mourn over you too. What goes around comes back around. People have family and people who love them just like you do. Just like how you would be very upset if a boy come take your things a same way people ago vex if you take theirs”
I invite the men in my extended family, enticing them with the occasional cook out and rum. Sometimes I sit and listen for I get great material from their conversations for my stories. Other times I engage them in some “conscious reasoning” and they listen, nod with pensive stares, gazing out in space. Gone to another place, I wonder at times what they are thinking about and when they smile, I see the boys I have known all my life.
A friend of mine once said. “Crystal stop post up pictures with them bwoy bwoy deh a yuh yard. Them look like a some thief.”
I asked her “if is mi family them she a call thief?”. I could not blame her for her observation for I have had the same problems walking on the streets and seeing young men with kerchiefs tied across them face, wearing Hoodies in broad sunlight and stepping like Super Cat. The Boys I grew up with are not an exception, they too think dressing like that is quite fashionable and since Lil Wayne and Tommy Lee are doing it then why not. Everybody wants to look like a bad man to impress whom, I do not know since dressing like that only seems to attract leery looks and Police Harassment.
She told me one day in a heated conversation about how I sympathized too much with Ghetto people when they put up with too much slackness and how she seriously questioned my moral leanings. She went on to say that ” A one a them same youth deh weh me counsel might take my life.” I believe I told her. “It is the same kind of risk the Pastor, the social worker and even our teachers take everyday in this society. Somebody have to do it. We cannot all just sit aside and watch”. She laughed and shook her head calling in the support of her other intellectual friends to show me how much of a fool I was to think I could ever change “people like them”. She said.
“When I go back to my area, I talk to them, I say hi to the boys on the corner but I never make them feel as if they are my equal. I do not know if is fear you fear them or you a try fit in but sometimes you sound like and act like two different persons to me. You have crystal the blogger, intellectual extraordinaire and then you have Diama from down Westmoreland bush bush.” I told her that those of us who are from the gutter, from time to time a piece of us does fall off and float back down to the ground from whence we came.
I cannot blame her for thinking that way. I have found myself staring at little boys even babies whose mothers find funds to buy horse hair and Chinese tights to wear go dance and yet cannot send their sons to schools and wonder if I am staring into the eyes of my own killer. It is unfair for me to judge a child based on the circumstances he was born into. My friends will say. “Make them take up badness and see if them nuh dead”. I always respond. “Well every badman have a bad end. My only issue is how much a we them ago kill before someone gets rid of them.” I understand how my “middle class” friends think. I do not condone wrongdoers but young men die a lot because of badman image. I want them to know that they do not have to act bad, pursue ‘badmandship’ or get into gangs to seek validation.
I will continue to counsel. Anyone with dreams or fantasies of change knows that the work must first start with themselves and their small circles. I-nation (A book distributor) implored me to start a reading club in my parish. I will find out how i can go about doing that. Nelson Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon that can change the world. I grew up in the same circumstances like these boys, i believe the only difference was that i would rather read a book than play ball on the Play field. I am hoping that by encouraging literacy, that i might find an antidote. A commentator wrote on a previous article a quote from John F. Kennedy. ” ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”and it made sense.