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Grieving mom’s appeal on gun violence

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Community engagement: David Lovell Jr from Man on a Mission speaks at last night’s meeting (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A grieving mother whose son was shot dead fought back tears last night as she made an impassioned plea for women who had lost children to gun and gang crime to stand together.

Nicole Furbert-Fox’s call came during a community engagement meeting hosted by the Bermuda Police Service to discuss how to tackle the problem of gang violence.

Ms Furbert-Fox, whose son Ricco Furbert was murdered in 2013, also outlined her hopes to form a support group for mothers who had lost sons in the bloodshed, which was backed by Jeff Baron, the Minister for National Security.

“Nothing is in place for the mothers, there is no support group for the mothers,” she said.

“We mothers are carrying this. If we get lost or put on the back burner, we cannot do what we need to do.

“I would like to start a support group to bring the mothers together because I did not have anyone else and I did not know what to do.

“We mothers need to stand together whether our sons have murdered or have been murdered. If we mothers cannot unite, how can we expect our children to?”

Ms Furbert-Fox was one of a little more than 100 people who descended on the Heritage Worship Centre in Hamilton for the public forum, which was also attended by several police officers, Mr Baron, Walter Roban, the shadow minister of National Security and other political and public figures.

A panel consisting of Commissioner Michael DeSilva, Martha Dismont from Family Centre, Kimberley Jackson from the Mirrors programme, Gina Spence from the Champions programme and David Lovell from Men on a Mission, outlined their organisation’s work on the frontline of the battle against gangs before the floor was opened to questions from the public.

Ms Dismont called for greater investment and the strengthening of youth programmes in the community, while Mr Lovell highlighted the need for visible role models for young men.

Ms Spence exposed the harsh reality of life for young black males stuck in the gang lifestyle.

“The other day I asked this young man what his priority was,” she said. “He said ‘to live to see this Friday’.

“This is where some people are sitting, this is what they feel inside, this is their reality. It is important for us to understand what other things count as priorities to these young men to understand the problem.”

During an at times heated question period, members of the public urged police officers to get more involved in community activities to build stronger relationships in neighbourhoods, while others hailed the importance of the family unit and better educational opportunities.

Lynwood Richardson said: “One of the problems is better community engagement. There used to be opportunities for police to engage with the public in a social and relaxed setting.

“You have a police action team, that is good. But you have police officers who are more than just officers, they are ping pong champions and ballers.

“You guys need to use the gifts you have to get out there and engage the youth.

“The reason why some people are not giving you information is that you are just a uniform, blue or white. But if you come on out there, put on your sweats, your PT clothes, and play some ball or ping pong with me, sweat with me, then if something goes on in my community I’m going to check that guy who beat me 11-0 at table tennis. It seems like simple stuff.”

Darren Woods from Family Centre called for more qualified and committed young people to be hired to work with young men affected by gang crime in the community. “We need to meet the basic needs of our young people,” he said.

Musician Graham Maule told the meeting that musical organisations also had a part to play in “winning back our community”.

One member of the audience suggested bringing the leaders of the gangs into one room to discuss their issues, while another took aim at Mr DeSilva, calling on him to resign for “failing the community”.

Mr Baron rounded off the evening saying that gun and gang violence on the island had to be a concern for all sections of society.

Addressing the audience he said: “Because the room is not full tonight take what you have heard here, the good, the bad and the ugly and share it with at least three people.

“There are lots of solutions that have come out tonight that will resonate with people outside of this room. Nothing lasting, nothing endearing will ever come from more violence or hatred, except violence and hatred.”

Standing together: more than 100 commuinty members attended the Community Engagement Meeting at the Heritage Worship Centre (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Speaking out: “Brotha Ritchie” raises a few points at the Commuinty Engagement Meeting (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)