Mt Salem youths rising up against violence
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.