Recovering addicts spread message of change
Former drug users and activists said a community effort is needed to steer young people away from violence and drugs.
Ronald Butterfield said he sold drugs as a teenager but became a committed Christian and minister while being treated for heroin abuse overseas.
He added young people often fell victim to substance abuse after starting with alcohol.
He said that the sight of older people “party, party, drinking, drinking” contributed to the problem.
Mr Butterfield told the meeting: “We as adults, we are setting a bad example.”
He was speaking at a weekend event held to launch the latest edition of anti-violence magazine Visionz at The Centre in Hamilton which attracted about 40 people.
Desmond Crockwell, the director of YouthVision Promotions, which is behind the publication, said before the meeting: “We are trying to get the community together, community workers and parents, people concerned about their young ones, relationship builders.
“The message is to change the way young men think about themselves.
“Listening to a young person is key to helping someone really change the way they think about themselves.”
Mr Crockwell said the magazine included testimonies from people who have “been there on the streets and want to give back” as well as poetry from schoolchildren.
Patrick Bean, the new managing editor of Visionz and a freelance sports writer and commentator, gave an emotional address about his journey from promising student through years of street life and drug abuse to the 12 months he spent in hospital as he battled life-threatening leukaemia. He said his care in the US cost $1 million but the support of a loving family — as well as the prayers of other Bermudians — helped him survive.
Mr Bean said: “The spirit of that community reached me.”
The journalist fought back tears and added: “More than any medication, more than any drugs, more than any doctors, the care of the village saved me.”
Mr Bean said his experiences meant he no longer wanted to be part of the problem but instead part of the solution.
He added: “My life belongs to this village.”
Michael Weeks, the Minister of Social Development and Sport, told the meeting a life of crime and drugs was one of “anxiety, emotional distress, violence, emptiness and loneliness”, which “often leads to broken families, fatherless children and mothers having to bury their sons”.
He added: “Why are so many of our young, black men caught up in this kind of life? “It’s a conversation that we need to have, to get to the root cause of the violence that’s tearing up our community.”
Mr Weeks said: “This is not a government issue, this is a community, a government, church, sporting communities — this is our issue, because it’s not us and them.
“Let me be clear that when we are talking, we are talking about our sons and our nephews, cousins and boyfriends.
“So when we look at the issue, that’s our issue, I’m not going to point fingers at anybody but we should say, how can I help in this struggle to save our people, especially our young black men?
“We have lost 30-plus young black men to gun violence but that is not the national emergency. The national emergency is young men driving under the influence.
“We have lost four or five times the young black men on the streets riding motorcycles, driving cars under the influence of drugs.”
Mr Weeks said it was important for people to unite “to save our sons”.