Community comes together to tackle violence
Representatives from the street, the clergy, the community and Government came together for an anti-violence event at the weekend.
The event — called Changing Lives — was organised by Desmond Crockwell, chief editor of Visionz Magazine, and coincided with the coming second issue of the publication.
The standing-room only event, held at the Bermuda Public Service Union on Saturday night, also included, among others, Cal Burgess, Kenneth Butterfield, Ralph Burrows, Ceble Crockwell, Kenneth Matthew, Andre Minors, Pastor Maria Seaman and Dr Gina Spence.
Areas touched upon by the presenters included the responsibilities of parents and women, the role of religion and the church, incarceration as a deterrent, the use of the term gang, and the motivations of those involved in antisocial behaviour.
Opening the event, Mr Crockwell said the focus of the forum was on positively impacting the lives of the youth.
“There are more people that have good intentions than those that have negative intentions,” he told those in attendance. “There are more of us than there is of them.”
A collaborative, community-based approach is necessary to tackle the problem, Mr Crockwell said.
“One person cannot save all of our young people,” he said. “Everybody here tonight has the potential to reach one young person.”
Dr Ernest Peets Jr said the issue of violence was one that all members of the community must own.
“The problem is actually us,” he said. “And therefore the solution must come from all of us.”
According to Mr Peets, two things were urgently needed — an immediate ceasefire, and a longer-term solution.
“I would recommend, based on what I've heard tonight, a massive public-private venture,” he said.
Grassroots movements, Mr Peets said, are what bring about change. “I'm not willing to accept the current conditions and the current climate,” he said.
Wayne Caines, Minister of National Security, described the incidents since the new Government came into power as a “baptism of fire”.
Since the General Election on July 18, two men — 20-year-old Jahcari Francis and Jahkoby Smith, 21, — have been murdered. A number of serious stabbings have also occurred.
The problem, Mr Caines said, was not one that would be solved through policing alone.
“We are not going to handcuff ourselves out of this crisis,” he said. “Arresting a person and locking them up — that is not getting to the root of the problem.”
Mr Caines said he believed the violence was a result of “systematic, untreated, long-term trauma”.
“We are now seeing a manifestation of that in our young men,” he said.
During his 30-minute speech, Mr Caines first laid out recent statistics relating to violence, followed by the Ministry's plan to address it, and finally the commitment he needed from the community.
Mr Caines asked those in attendance to sign up to be “peace builders”.
“I believe the strategy for healing this country is in this room,” he said.
“If you leave this room without getting on one of these committees, and attaching yourself to something, you are a part of gang and gun-related violence in this country.”