Southside: more than meets the eye
While it is easy to draw a link between 'Southside', the inner-city community in central Kingston, and crime and violence, there is a whole lot more to it than meets the eye, according to social worker Andrew Payne.
Payne said that while Southside is yearning for social and infrastructural development, there is already a strong showing of personal development, as the residents have begun turning their lives around through efforts from the Peace Management Initiative and other groups such as RISE Life Management.
Key to Southside's rehabilitation, said Payne, who was speaking at a Gleaner/RISE Life Management on the Corner with Unattached Youths forum last Thursday, is the knowledge that "is not only bad boys or unattached youths come from here".
"This community has been, and still is, home to many of the best people in Jamaica in the field of sports and academics," he added.
The likes of Jermaine 'Teddy' Johnson, the former Tivoli Gardens and Jamaica midfielder, who also played professionally in England for Sheffield Wednesday FC, Bolton Wanderers and Oldham Athletic, springs easily to mind.
The exploits of his contemporaries, Claude Davis, a former Reggae Boyz captain, Kasai Hinds, Christopher Jackson and well-known coach Percival 'Heightsman' Cordwell are also well documented.
Current Commissioner of Customs Velma Ricketts Walker is a proud 'Southsider', as are Damian Hylton of the Social Development Commission and Scotiabank executive Simone Hull.
"Our young people are not short of role models. In these people I have mentioned, they have some. But what is lacking is the political support. The kind that is able to say, you can be the best at wherever you choose to be," Payne said.
"Many of these young men have been frowned upon by 'big men' in the society. They have turned a blind eye to their concerns and, in return, it has turned them into what we are dealing with now: hardened youths with little care for the system," he said.
Payne reasoned that it was important that those who have made a better life for themselves should give something back to the community in helping it overcome stigma and its culture of violence.
"Every community has its bad and its good. Southside is no different in that way. People are always looking at the community as a hotbed of violence but still refuse to see the great people who call this place home," he said.
"This place has an extraordinary ability of giving birth to talented people in all walks of life. Musicians, dancers, footballers, teachers, artistes, business operators, and leaders have come from here. This is Southside," stated Payne.