Rallying cry over scourge of violence

  • Desmond Crockwell speaks at an anti-violence forum in April this year (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

People are finally starting to recognise their own role in tackling Bermuda’s violence problems now that they can no longer blame the One Bermuda Alliance, according to an anti-gang campaigner.

Desmond Crockwell believes the Progressive Labour Party’s General Election victory has forced its supporters to look in the mirror and consider how they can be a part of the solution to the scourge that has blighted the island in recent years.

He issued a rallying cry to the community to attend a “Changing Lives” event this Saturday, when former gang members and convicts will join social workers for an open discussion.

“People are speaking out now, and it has a lot to do with the political landscape in Bermuda,” Mr Crockwell told The Royal Gazette.

“A lot of people were blaming the government previously for this violence. A lot of people now who voted for the PLP are saying it’s not government’s fault, we all have to come together and pitch in.

“A lot of people became blinded by the political landscape at that time, particularly black people. We can now see more black people speaking out. They don’t want to blame the PLP. They are more conscious of what’s going on and that we are all contributing to what’s going on.

“Now the PLP is back in, who are we going to blame? We have to look in the mirror and see we are part of the solution. We have done all the blaming; we have blamed everybody.

“The PLP alone can’t solve the problems. Teachers, parents, neighbours, co-workers, everyone who can work in this community has to work together.

“I hear a lot of people say, how can I help, what can I do?”

The event on Saturday will also serve as a pre-launch party for the second issue of Visionz Magazine, the anti-violence magazine of which Mr Crockwell is chief editor.

Speakers will include national security minister Wayne Caines, activist Gina Spence, shooting victim Ralph Burrows, former prison inmate Andre Minors, PLP election candidate Ernest Peets and pastor Maria Seaman.

Discussion topics will include how to provide safe havens, support workers and training for at-risk young men.

“Businesses need to work with street workers to offer facilities where we can meet,” Mr Crockwell said.

“Everyone is drawn to someone who cares about them. If we show interest in these people, they will listen to us.

“They want a roof over their head. They want their peace and quiet. They are people, not animals, they don’t want to be chained down. They want the same thing everyone else wants.”

Since May 2009, there have been 34 gun murders in Bermuda. The past month has seen a spate of violence, including the fatal shooting of Jahcari Francis, 20, the day after the election, and the fatal stabbing of Jahkoby Smith at Mr Francis’s wake ten days later. It was one of three stabbing incidents within five days, which were followed by a large fight at the Wellington Oval during Cup Match last week.

Earlier this week, national security minister Wayne Caines spoke of the need for the community to be held accountable for the surge in violence.

Yesterday, Mr Crockwell said violent incidents tended to spike during the summer as people attend alcohol-fuelled parties.

He said anger had also come to the surface as young men had grown frustrated at their lack of opportunities.

“Every child has a talent. We need more people to pull that talent out, because if not that talent gets submerged with anger,” he said.

“For example, there might be a child that really wants to play football but he can’t go to certain places. So he can’t play, which leads to more anger. You don’t get what you want; you have aggression.

“We as adults must come together. We don’t know who we influence. The guy in the neighbourhood doesn’t realise the young boy is looking up to them when he does his ignorance.”

Changing Lives takes place at the Bermuda Public Services Union on Saturday, from 7pm to 9pm. For more information, e-mail or call 297-2018.