Fight for a united, borderless west Kingston
Martin Baxter, Gleaner Writer
LITTLE OVER a week remained before the West Kingston Planning Committee (WKPC) executed its first project - a unity walk on Emancipation Day through violent hotspots in west Kingston - aimed at reducing tensions among communities.
The WKPC met once more at The Gleaner's 7 North Street offices, also home to the non-governmental organisation PALS, whose general manager, Janilee Abrikian, had been chairing the committee's meetings and mentoring its members.
The committee was busily designing posters, and placards bearing the unity walk's theme, 'Taking Back Our Communities' were being colourfully designed to enhance their visibility on the day.
"We expect a good turnout based on some of the people dem weh give out the flyers and all a dat," a smiling 'Scooby' told The Gleaner.
The motivation behind the unity walk is to reclaim the streets of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town, allowing freedom of movement of its residents and reducing instances of crime and violence that are already on the decline in the area.
"We're really optimistic that we're on the right track," said Superintendent Steve McGregor, commander of the Kingston West police division, adding that there had not been any gang-related incidents in the communities for nearly three months.
"These initiatives have gone a far way in helping what we're doing. This walk will also cement it, because it will signal the coordination between the people from Denham Town and Tivoli Gardens that were divided for a long while, and that they are now healing their wounds that they've had over time, and that they're working together," he added.
Threat of violence
Some committee members have family and friends whom they have not seen for years owing to the threat of violence that could be inflicted upon anyone who dares to cross borderlines, even for peace reasons.
"Mi know mi a go see whole heap a people long time mi nuh see," Alaphia said cheerfully.
"You have people weh live up the road and you and them was friends, you nuh see all two year now because you nah walk go up there and dem nah walk come down," she added.
Julene Reid shared her experiences of the damaging segregation that has kept members of her family apart: "My cousin live a Tivoli; my cousin live a Denham Town. Him fraid fi go deh so; him fraid fi come here so. It not supposed to be like that. We used to be one, and I think we are going to be back one when we're finished. That is what we are aiming for."
The WKPC's vision is a united west Kingston, a borderless west Kingston, and a community that is a nurturing environment to the communities' children.
"It's all about the schools and the kids for me," Alaphia shared.
"Before I came on the committee, in the community meeting, I start talking about ways of getting likkle money to give back to the likkle basic schools, and so for me, it's basically the kids in the community growing up because you waan change the system. You know seh a nuh dem fi live so, dem fi grow up so. It mek you kinda waan do sumpn fi dem; change fi dem thinking of the world."
"I do business in the area, and if the area can't come together, I can't do business," an enthusiastic 'Razzle' told The Gleaner.
"I have a lot of ideas, and if we don't have peace, it nah go reach nowhere," said the elder, who has plans to set up a mentoring programme for the youngsters in the area.
Ikon, one of the young members of the group, shared his vision of a west Kingston reality he is hoping to build through his work with the WKPC.
"My vision for west Kingston is just see back west Kingston inna one - everybody together again and a live good, go from one point to the next point, no boundary. Mi waan love and unity back within the community."
"We have to come together as a unit and show that we can do certain things without the politician dem," said 'Razzle'.
"That's why we a try emancipate wiself from a kind a mental slavery. So we a try show the world that, if we as a group of people inside the community can do it, then maybe other community can tek the same step, too, and replicate weh we deal with."