President Paula Mae Weekes has urged gang members in hotspots to channel their energies into meaningful projects to uplift their communities and reduce stigmatisation.
Addressing the launch of i95.5FM’s 2018 Laventille Nights series at the Sea Lots Basketball Court, Port of Spain, on Friday night, Weekes said:
“A gang is a group of people and there are gangs that can do good things. So maybe if you change gang from the four letter word that means only bad things that call for anti-gang legislation into gangs that do good things, gangs that do projects, gangs that help each other and the young ones coming after, then you would have made some useful contribution to the society and help to change Sea Lots, at least change the reputation of Sea Lots to something that is more hopeful for those people who live here in the community and country in general.”
However, Weekes acknowledged the reality that many young men opted for a life of crime and delinquency quite early in their lives and may not be receptive to advice or criticism.
“...Especially in an age group like 12 to 18. If young men have not already put themselves on that path or been put on that path and with the distractions that are available, anything that I can say at this point might seem to be somewhat hollow and empty to them,” she said.
The President urged them to be futuristic in their thinking and not be fooled by the allure of instant gratification.
“All I have to say to the young men that are here today is that if you are attracted to and tempted by what seems to be that easy lifestyle, let’s get real.
“Is it that you are satisfied with a really short life in glory or would like a chance at a longer life that might take you a little longer to get those things that you might want but that you can live to see your children and your grandchildren?”
She said while life may be hard, it does not always have to be so.
“So, think about it for a while. Have conversations among yourselves and see what can you do.”
Aware of the volatility that exists in some communities, largely due to the worsening crime situation, Weekes observed that mothers have held their own, amidst incredible odds, in seeking their children’s interests. “This is not to give fathers an escape route or to allow them to abdicate responsibility. But I think that where a mother stands firm in a home, children in that home have the best possible choice of being successful.”
She urged mothers to be vigilant.
“I would say to the mothers, keep careful watch on your children. Watch them like hawk. See whether or not you can direct them into a very narrow path of going to school, whatever you can do to make them comfortable and able to take in the lessons.”
Weekes also urged them to establish bonds with the police.
“Don’t wait until its late. From the time you have even a suspicion, you get on it. Do your best to ensure you give them a head start in life.”
Weekes said a young man or woman does not have to leave Sea Lots to be successful. “I don’t think of success at all for the people of Sea Lots or any other community, of leaving that community.
“You may leave that community to migrate but you don’t leave the community to escape it. It is your community and you have to stand here and work for and in the community to make the changes that you want to see.”
Earlier, Sea Lots native Andrea Johnson, a criminal attorney, shared her story of the trials she encountered to achieve success.
She said while many of her experiences were daunting, she managed to survive with the help of her family, community and God.
Johnson urged the young people to work hard and persevere.