Wed | Jun 26, 2019

Desmond Ranglin | Diaspora ready to turn Bull Bay into a beacon of hope

Published:Tuesday | February 5, 2019 | 11:26 AM
The entire community of Bull Bay needs to be involved to stop the bloodshed.

I am writing in response to the upsurge of violence in Bull Bay, Jamaica, and the security forces’ response to the problem. As a member of the Jamaican diaspora here in the United States, and as president of the Jamaican Association of Rhode Island, I would like to present some solutions to the problem of gun violence which, sadly, has plagued Bull Bay and its environs for generations. Kindly note that I am also vice-president/manager of a large financial institution. I am also writing as a former captain of the Bull Bay Football Club.

I welcome the presence of the local security forces and law-enforcement personnel in the community. It saddens me that there have been so many lost lives; these deaths could have been totally prevented. Although I left Bull Bay over 30 years ago, I have family and friends in the area and continue to play an active role in the community’s development.

Bull Bay is extremely important to me. I spent half of my life playing on the very same streets where the murders have been committed. It brings pain to my heart because one of the victims could have been me. These are the very same streets that I walked on from Eleven Miles to Nine Miles daily in order to play football and to keep me on the straight and narrow road.

The community has been stigmatised as being totally lawless, and some may even think nothing good comes from Bull Bay. However, despite the hardships, the area has cradled doctors, lawyers, teachers, managers, politicians, and law-abiding citizens.

What will happen to the youth of tomorrow if we all sit and do nothing or throw up our hands in the air? Bull Bay can, and must, become a shining light in Jamaica. Currently, and sadly, it is seen as a neglected haven for criminals, overshadowing the value and worth of its hard-working citizens. In order to restore long-term peace in our community, it is very important that both the private and public sectors pay special attention to the social and economic health of Bull Bay.

The opportunities for youth and their families are scarce. As a boy growing up in Bull Bay, there were four factories. Today, only one factory remains operational and it barely employs community residents. The infrastructure is considered among the worst in the country, and there are limited opportunities for the young men and women leaving high schools and colleges. The outlook is even bleaker for those not completing high school.

The truth is that businesses leave Bull Bay because for decades, the community has been neglected by both parties. Investors choose not to invest in a community where there is no available water supply even while water is transported out of the St Thomas area to more affluent areas of Kingston and St Andrew. The roads are dilapidated and only now has there been discussion, and probably movement, to fix the roads.

There needs to be robust social investment in Bull Bay. In the past, there was the Social Development Commission, which engaged the minds of young people in a positive way. Young people were encouraged to join and participate in various youth club activities such as football, cricket, or summer programmes. These have all but disappeared and we are left with communities infested with gun violence.

HEALTH ACCESS BULL BAY INTERNATIONAL

Readers may be asking, “What are we doing except writing?” My family and I continue to support our old neighbourhood. Each year, we have contributed financially to back-to-school and summer-engagement programmes. We have instituted a preventative programme, ‘Health Access Bull Bay International’, where we have partnered with the Ministry of Health to bring highly skilled and trained doctors to the community to provide free health screenings and free medications to citizens.

In addition to the proposals that I have outlined above, I firmly believe that the entire community needs to be involved to stop the bloodshed. This would not be a new approach, but one that we have used when there were upsurges in violence. I propose that the Church take a more active role in helping bridge the divide among warring factions.

Installing a police post at the Ten Miles Post Office would not only act as a deterrent to crime, but would also provide the opportunity for community policing.

I am hopeful that Bull Bay can be a safe place for its citizens again. It can be, as I mentioned earlier, a beacon of hope not just for its citizens, but a model for all other communities. It will not happen without intentional work. Here in the diaspora, we are ready to roll up our sleeves.

Desmond A. Ranglin is the president of the Jamaica Association of Rhode Island. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.