“The idea that sex is something a woman gives a man, and she loses something when she does that, which again for me is nonsense. I want us to raise girls differently where boys and girls start to see sexuality as something that they own, rather than something that a boy takes from a girl.”
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Jamaica : How do we save our boys?
By time the boy reaches thirteen and start watch television whether at home or at the corner shop, he realizes that this life, his "livety" is something to be embarrassed about. He is ashamed of the zinc fence and the one room house that mama lives in. He wants a life like the one he sees on T.V. Now he does not even need television, he only needs social media like Facebook where people make posts about their perfect lives and force ordinary people to question the legitimacy of their own banal existence.
Mama begs him to keep out of trouble but mama knows little about grooming a good man for she probably has never met one and as Tupac said it is hard for a woman to raise a man. The boy stop take "talk" from mommy and albeit mommy will want him to become a better man. She is unable to effectively teach the difference between ambition and desires.
I had this discussion last night at a memorial for a cousin of mine who was killed last year. I said to a group of boys, hoping that my words would not fall on deaf ears. They appeared disinterested, who was i to talk to them when i could not even get my own to listen.
"You cannot get something simply by wanting it. Not because you feel entitled to something or you want it, it does not mean you should get it or people should facilitate it for you. We must learn that our lives is our responsibility, yes we can blame our parents for never having it or politicians for never giving a damn, but at the end of the day people will question your virtues and not theirs. You will be held accountable for your life."
My cousin's death haunts me because i somehow feel responsible. I know it was not my fault but everyone knows reading about something and finding it on your own doorstep is an entirely different experience. I did not just lose the little boy i grew up with, i lost friends and the respect of people for being related by blood to someone killed by the police. They assumed he must have done something wrong.
They lambaste, soo soo behind my back and question my integrity for having "people like that in my family", something i believe i have no control over. Other people got to chose their families but unfortunately i was born into one. So i was left with the burden of being blamed for the disaffected young men in my"breed"and if they are wrongdoers and apart of my kindred then it meant i was a criminal sympathizer, that i somehow must have known and upheld with what they are doing.
Now i knew how some parents who believe they raised good children felt when one child falls by the wayside. I am human and it pricked at my conscience. I was vouching for the boy i knew, not the man it was rumored he had become. All i remembered was the kind boy who "wramp" too much, he was too trusting, not judgmental enough and never really took life seriously. He embraced everybody and it was this " keep all kinda friends" attitude, to life that got him killed.
I cannot adequately emphasize how difficult it is to speak to one of these young men and have them listen to a female. I often think how difficult their mothers must have it. They apparently only listen to other males, men who they want to emulate, men with power, money and guns. His story is epic, single mother, father ran off, mommy sell clothes pon roadside fe buy the chicken back and rice to send him and his several siblings to school. He and his brothers went to church every Sunday for his mother is a christian and by the time they were teenagers, no longer listen mommy for she was not a man, they thought themselves men now. Men do not listen to women. These men stop going to church and did what they wanted to.
They know of the gender bias with regards to advice that exists in this patriarchal society. "Men don't take talk from women not even their own mothers", So i took it upon myself to encourage young men whenever i get a chance even though half the time they probably won't listen. I have come to a conclusion that our young men have serious identity and self esteem issues. Our young men want money, they believe having a lot of money will make them a man. "They want to be like the Don or the Politician, who drive big vehicle and have a lots of girls".
They have not heard ordinary men with success stories only ordinary men who work all them life and never get further than the two room board house. Ordinary men getting killed everyday.Ordinary men whose women left them for men with supposedly more money. Ordinary men who are called dead beat fathers. Ordinary men who the people i went to school with call " Old Neygahs!"
They do not read and i doubt they watch Profile on Sundays with Ian Boyne. They do not think that ordinary people like them of unborn opportunities can offer anything to this world. They cannot be like the "big boys" because they did not finish school and cannot get a "neck tie job".I feel guilty about my little cousin's death and so encourage, educate and reason with young men every chance i get to see if i can save even one and save some other family from this tragedy.
And so i tell them. :" Badness don't pay and all gangsters must die. Most bad men we heard of in our lifetime died in their youths and that supposedly should be a lesson enough for you. So if you love your life, you steer clear of badness and guns"
I invite the men in my extended family, enticing them with the occasional cook out and rum. Sometimes i sit and listen for i get great material from their conversations for my stories. Other times i engage them in some "conscious reasoning" and they listen, nod with pensive stares, gazing out in space. Gone to another place, i wonder at times what they are thinking about and when they smile, i see the boys i have known all my life.
A friend of mine once said. "Crystal stop post up pictures with them bwoy bwoy deh a yuh yard. Them look like a some thief."
I asked her "if is mi family them she a call thief?". I could not blame her for her observation for i have had the same problems walking on the streets and seeing young men with kerchiefs tied across them face, wearing Hoodie in broad sunlight and stepping like Super Cat. The Boys i grew up with are not an exception, they too think dressing like that is quite fashionable and since Lil Wayne and Tommy Lee are doing it then why not.
She told me one day in a heated conversation about how i sympathized too much with Ghetto people when they put up with too much slackness and how she seriously question my moral leanings. She went on to say that " a one a them same youth deh weh me counsel might take my life." I believed i told her. " It is the same kind of risk the Pastor, the social worker and even our teachers take everyday in this society. Somebody have to do it. We cannot all just sit aside and watch". She laughed and shook her head calling in the support of her other intellectual friends to show me how much of a fool i was to think i could ever change "people like them". She said. " When i go back to my area, i talk to them, i say hi to the boys on the corner but i never make them feel as if they are my equal. I do not know if is fear you fear them or you a try fit it but sometimes you sound like act like two different person to me. You have crystal the blogger, intellectual extraordinaire and then you have Diama from down Westmoreland bush bush."
I cannot blame her for thinking that way. I have found myself staring at little boys even babies whose mothers find funds to buy horse hair and Chinese tights to wear go dance and yet cannot send their sons to schools and wonder if i am staring into the eyes of my own killer. It is unfair for me to judge a child based on the circumstances he was born into. My friends will say. " Make them take up badness and see if them nuh dead". I always respond. " Well every badman have a bad end. My only issue is how much a we them ago kill before someone gets rid of them."
I will continue to counsel for any one with dreams or fantasies of change knows that the work must first start with themselves and their small circles. I-nation implored me to start a reading club in my parish. I will find out how i can go about doing that. Nelson Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon that can change the world. I grew up in the same circumstances like these boys, i believe the only difference was that i would rather read a book than play ball on the Play field. I am hoping that by encouraging literacy, that i might find an antidote. A commentator wrote on a previous article a quote from John F. Kennedy. " ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"and it made sense.