Pastor Leroy Bean used the Live, Love, Life youth talent contest on Sunday night to reveal how he plans to reach out to young people vulnerable to the lure of gang culture.
The event, hosted by Juanae Crockwell, who has spoken about the role women can play in gang prevention, and In The Know’s Antoine Jones, was specifically targeted at aiming to inspire young people through creativity.
School students of all ages took to the stage to perform songs, raps, spoken-word pieces and dances they had prepared with an anti-violence message.
Members of Mom Bermuda, a group of mothers who have lost sons or whose children have been affected by violence, also shared their experiences.
The winning performance came from Dellwood Middle School students, who delivered a spoken-word piece highlighting black men who had been killed and incarcerated.
Mr Bean opened the event and later took time to speak to The Royal Gazette about his methods for tackling gang violence.
He said: “We need to deal with those already involved and those who are susceptible, while using those who might have already been sentenced and convicted of crimes.
“For those former criminals, we still want to break the cycle, so we are working to get some buy-in from them and to get them to come back and speak positively to the community. Many of them have interaction with people on the outside and they need to carry a message that crime doesn’t pay.”
Mr Bean said he is looking into opportunities both locally and overseas to help vulnerable young people.
He said: “We might need to send some people abroad to give them a sense of hope by putting them in a structured environment so that they can progress in their life. Those who might be fearful of becoming gang members, we might need to save them before they get involved. That structure might be through programmes or employment.
“We also have what we call 100 Job Builders for those who might be on the periphery. We want to redirect them, so we are asking employers to be open to this idea because it is important to get them involved in something positive to reverse the trend. “
Mr Bean said events such as Live, Love, Life can help younger members of the community.
He said: “Music is a medium that young people can relate to, and by using it to communicate positive messages it will help to stamp out negativity while providing a vehicle for them to become agents of change. “It is a preventive mechanism we are trying to use, so that children can use the gifts that have been placed in them.”
The West End Warriors from West End Primary School came second and Simeon Pearman took third. The People’s Choice winner was the Northlands Primary choir.
Mr Pearman’s spoken-word piece was particularly moving as it was inspired by the killing of his brother Jason Lightbourne in 2006.
Mr Caines, the Minister of National Security, attended the event.
He said: “This gives us the opportunity to start prevention at a young age and to give young people the opportunity to see through music and spoken word that there is another path for them to tread and for them to see that Bermuda is a place that you can live, have opportunities, and be yourself.
“If you create a strong, wholesome and loving environment they will have absolutely no need to join a gang. Tonight reinstalled my love, my hope and my belief in Bermuda. To come into an arena that seats 620 and every seat to be taken and people standing up is testament to Bermudians wanting change and believing in each other.”