Mark Wignall | Sleeping policemen and scared residents
Fifty-three-year-old Morris, a skilled plumber, slowly navigated his trusty old Nissan down the narrow streets of August Town Road and made the turn towards Angola. As he deposited his 13-year-old son at the modest home of his maternal grandmother, Morris said, "Remember whey shi tell yu. Don't stay a street after five. Find di yaad when evening come."
Last Saturday, I drove down the very same narrow August Town Road, made my way past Sizzla's Judgment Yard, and found myself in Jungle 12. The roadway was filled with men and male teenagers carrying out some type of roadwork. After turning back at something that looked like a constricted roundabout, I saw that the men were digging into the road surface and constructing 'sleeping policemen'.
They served a dual purpose. It naturally slowed traffic so young children could be safer on the street. Second, and more important, it protected the neighbourhood against drive-by shootings. To me, it was amazing that as I exited the rough inner-city pocket of Jungle 12, in a few minutes, I was driving down Hope Road and through the established middle-class neighbourhood of Hope Pastures.
Jungle 12 and Hope Pastures: two areas housing Jamaicans, two neighbourhoods worlds apart.
I saw the same thing in a section of Rockfort last year as gang war heated up. Residents knowing that their fate was purely in their own hands and that no government assistance or police protection would be guaranteed. So they dug up the road and built those semi-barriers while also dragging out old fridges, bed bases and logs to make their long nights more liveable.
Lanes along Mountain View Avenue and some of those off Red Hills Road, in Grants Pen (during the 'war' years) and in many of the troubled communities on the outskirts of Montego Bay are well 'populated' with sleeping policemen. Gang warfare has always been the main cause.
Having long accepted that Jamaica is a paradise inside which there are areas of absolute splendour and too many hell holes, our people live almost side by side, if the raw distance is any indicator, but the better off among us wake up each morning and free their minds of the reality of hell holes existing three minutes from their electric entrances and their well-protected gated communities.
When my children were preteens, it was always my belief that parenting included ensuring that they not indulge their childhood friendships to the point that night would fall and they were still on the streets. But even if they broke a few laws of the home, it was never a great concern of mine that their lives would be in danger as night fell. To many parents in troubled inner-city pockets, their reality is more dire.
According to Morris, his boy is doing well in high school ,and he wants it to remain so. Morris has never done any work for me, but I have been told by someone that if I should use his services, I should never ask him to write down anything on a sheet of paper.
He has family land in a rural part of the island, but his son is attending a well-known high school for boys in Kingston, and most of the plumbing work he gets is in the Kingston Metropolitan Area. His best shot at his son not ending up unable to write like Morris is to brave inner-city streets and wish for the best.
Many of us living in air-conditioned comfort and three minutes away from a security alarm have no idea how the other side lives.