Colleen Cohen | Using sport to tackle crime
"Sport, an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment."
- Oxford Dictionary
Our beloved country has been working assiduously for years to arrest the gorging monster called crime. I am of the firm belief that eventually this monster will be controlled. Sport, which is deeply cultured in the hearts and minds of every Jamaican, can be viewed as the ultimate weapon to tackle crime and fully liberate Brand Jamaica.
As Jamaicans, we love the entertainment, the vibe, the camaraderie and victory that sport brings. The river of black, green and gold comes down bank to bank with crowds of people; even gangs and hoodlums change their focus to join in the celebration. We all mingle as one and knock pot cover louder than the old Anglican church bell, when our Jamaican athletes are breaking records on the world stage. We are one proud set of people and nothing 'boasy' like wi when our winning athletes stand tall on the medal podium reverencing the best national anthem to ever grace the Earth and the legend of Usain Bolt, the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T), stands forever as a testament to the power of sport.
The Determination to Eat a Food
So, why is it that crime continues to be a force when the country is perfectly perched on a sporting gold mine? A gold mine that is fully capable of advancing sustainable developments while allowing us to quickly reap the benefits of Vision 2030. Well, 'bush', as the Jamaican proverb puts it, has ears and the bush that spans from Morant Point to Negril Point hears,
"Yow, dawg, mi hungry and waah eat a food."
"Yow, dawg, mi dawg dem haffi live, mi dawg dem haffi live... point infrared pon him forehead," according to popular song InfraRed by Vybz Kartel and Masicka. The insatiable determination to 'eat a food' in order to survive and sustain families by whatever means, even if it's through the use of a gun, has escalated crime to the point where ZOSOs had to be implemented. The struggle is real, but so are the solutions.
Every Jamaican loves sport, but those who have turned to crime in order to survive claim to have no other option; as money is a well-needed commodity and the quickest and easiest way to get it seems to be through crime. So then, it is safe to say that the need for money is the driving force and ultimate goal for criminals, and sport is the gold mine that can produce this well-sought-after commodity. So, why not pump our money into sporting programmes and properly tailor the art of sport to suit every youth and sport aficionados in our communities, especially in those communities that are severely affected by crime. This strategy has been employed by the Gregory Park community and crime, they say, decreased significantly, as they utilises the sport of boxing and football to stamp out major social ills among youth, who are major instigators of crime in our country.
They have also nurtured the sporting talents of athletic community members and brought their own and adjoining community members together, while earning from the sporting ventures. The work of Fight for Peace Jamaica also employs the art of sport through boxing and martial arts to promote respect, discipline, self-control, feelings of belonging and self-esteem. This has ultimately assisted in reducing youth violence in key hotspot communities. I suggest we become 'follow-fashion monkeys' and adopt their strategy.
Let's extend our hands in partnership with sporting federations, associations and athletes who can significantly contribute to the development of sporting programmes within our communities. They have enabled everyone, including gangs, to 'eat a food' the legal way and benefit financially, socially, physically and mentally. As these are all within our key priorities as a country, to reduce poverty, to be the home of feel all right and get Jamaica moving while working diligently to treat the disease of mental illness. This initiative, however, requires a collective approach; so let's unite with our resources and fund the art of sport, which can help to kill the monster that is trying to kill us.
- Colleen Cohen is a communications specialist and author.