Targeted action needed
In my last column, I addressed the impact of street life and gang culture on young men, especially young black men, and I promised to delve further into how this culture can be changed. I am under no illusion that we will wake up tomorrow and there will be immediate changes as a result of this column, however, I can assure you that if anyone takes heed, excellent results become a distinct possibility, even a guarantee.
As previously mentioned, gang and street life is often promoted in rap music by rappers who have not come from gangs but use the gang culture to increase their popularity at the expense of the young men who actually lose their lives living this very toxic and dead end existence. The end result for most is either prison or the grave while the rappers often live in gated communities with armed security staff far away from drive-by shootings and abject poverty. So, what do we do to change the culture?
We have to begin by analyzing what produces results. Where have we seen a track record of success and turnaround? It begins with truth from credible sources. The message has to come from persons who have proved that it is possible to follow a better path. There are a number of successful programs that have targeted youth and have shown results. Carlos Reid and I led one such effort known as “Peace on the Streets” in the 90’s which produced such incredible results the prime minister actually invited us to his office to find out how they could assist us. This led to a program called Operation Redemption which saw well over 1,000 gang members make incredible turnarounds. Many fell by the wayside but those who remained have become pillars of the Bahamian society involved in many professions. Husbands, fathers, businessmen, pastors and the list go on. There is a list of names that proves that compassionate intervention can produce tremendous results. This model, based upon direct outreach on the streets and in schools, achieved such powerful results Royal Bahamas Police Force officials at the time credited the program with a major reduction in crime violence and gang warfare.
Today there are programs at Teen Challenge led by Eric Fox a former troubled young man from the streets; Dudley Suide of Reach Out Ministries in Freeport; Carlos Reid’s Operation Redemption, Shock Treatment, and the Hope Center; the Second Chance program led by Orlando “Landlord” Miller; DJ Counselor and the Salem Baptist program; Troy Clarke and the Lead Institute among others. Programs such as these that have shown tangible results should be encouraged and supported because results matter. These efforts need to be continually highlighted and community leaders and corporate Bahamas should review and assist in their development, maintenance and survival. We must put time and money where the results are.
We have to call for an end to what I call “digital” murder. This is a daunting task, but it is one of the big elephants in the room that most people never touch. We should do everything we can to highlight the hypocrisy of rappers who promote street and gang violence but are themselves far away. We need public service announcements from persons who have survived the street war and have made changes to encourage others to do so also. We need a blitz of young men and women in schools and communities, letting young people know there is a better way and discouraging them from destructive living.
I was recently made aware of a successful program in the United States focusing in on what are called violence interrupters. These persons are trained to mediate during times of heightened violence to restore peace and prevent further bloodshed.
These are just some of the measures that can be taken, but what we cannot do is sit by and just hope that things will change. Things will not change unless specific targeted action is taken. I encourage all stakeholders to learn about the individuals and efforts in this fight for our young people and as we learn and review these programs take the next step and offer support and encouragement. If we do this, we will see change.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.