Jahmai Donaldson, 26, one of two young men shot dead while cutting grass at his Pleasantville home last week, was remembered yesterday by one of his teachers as “a beacon of hope.”
At his funeral at the San Fernando Methodist Church, St Benedict’s College teacher Allyson Henry, who taught him English literature and Spanish, said his death has left the school in deep anguish and sorrow but his legacy of courage and change remains.
“Jahmai remains an exemplar to Benedict’s past and present. At a time when so many young men are falling to crime, Jahmai remains a beacon of hope to all that we can change, that we can choose to do what is right, that in each of us lies the strength, the courage, the determination, the persistence to rise above our circumstances and turn our mistakes into miracles.”
Members of his family also remembered him as a thinker and a dreamer who was studying to become a social worker or a psychologist.
Donaldson’s life is immortalised in a book, Wishing for Wings, written by Newsday columnist Debbie Jacob. It tells the saga of this young man, among others, who changed his life from a path of destruction to one of possibility. The book brought in thousands of dollars in grants, donations to continue the work and his inspiration to start a children’s library.
Jacob, who is credited with “saving his life” when Donaldson found himself an inmate at YTC, left not a dry eye amongst the congregation, which spilled over into the corridors and in the church yard, as she eulogised Donaldson, whom she said she loved like one of her own children.
She spoke of his story, written in the chapter The Forgotten Boys of Trinidad. Jacob, who taught him English language, in which he received a Grade 1 at CSEC, shared snippets of Donaldson's writings in which he declared his love for his family and shared the anger he felt. She said she encouraged him to read books in which he found an escape, and he taught her how to accept people for who they are and not how society labels them.
“I wish for one more class with you,” she cried, as the congregation wept too.
Pastor Duane Sam, in his sermon, tried to comfort his grieving family. He said the manner in which Donaldson was taken has left a gaping hole in their hearts.
He recalled that Donaldson, who was baptised in the same church as a child, continued to cut the grass in the churchyard and keep the premises clean.
“Life is a very unpredictable affair,” he said, pointing out that the best laid plans could be shattered in a moment.
He called on the congregation to make their peace in the midst of the storm and to pray for the perpetrators so that they too can turn their lives around.