Destination downtown: Returning the love to LOVE LANE
Spurred into action by a Gleaner article published in April, which highlighted the impact of crime on businesses operating in downtown Kingston, director of Liberty Hall, Donna McFarlane, embarked on a programme to improve the lives of persons who live in the area.
McFarlane reasoned that if the business were being affected by the crime then the people who to live in the area would be more affected.
This was underlined when news broke that an 11-month-old baby was fatally shot in the hands of his mother who was giving him a bath.
For McFarlane, that killing was most painful because the 11-month-old was the child of one of her former students, who had worked another project carried out by Liberty Hall.
McFarlane’s answer to the problem was to enlist the help of the children in the area to create a mural in Love Lane as part of Liberty Hall’s summer programme.
"We are hoping that when someone is heading out to do something and come up on this picture, they can be dissuaded and look into themselves, because the picture sends a strong message of peace and hope," said McFarlane.
"And also to encourage someone to do the right things as the theme is ‘Up-you Might Race’ and ‘Where is the Love on Love lane’, and this is really what we are sending," added McFarlane.
She said the children where taken to Fleet Street, also in downtown Kingston, where they where shown the mural there. The children drew that mural in their books then came together to add this to different points on the wall.
The children creating the mural are mostly from inner-city communities in Kingston and St. Andrew and parts of St. Catherine and even if they do not fully understand the transformation it is trying to make in the violence ravaged community, they are enjoying seeing a dream come to life.
"The summer program is very entertaining. At I first I was afraid because of the things I have heard about Love Lane, but I am happy to know that our work can make a difference," said 10-year old Shantelle Clarke.
"It feels good being able to be apart of the summer program and I know people say bad things about Love Lane, but we are hoping that others can look at the wall and feel all the fun we are having while painting the wall," said 11-year old Rochel Cunningham who has family living in Love Lane.
Fourteen-year old Aviel Scott from Spanish Town told our news team that she has always been a very angry child without knowing why she is that way. According to Aviel, the artwork has helped her to release some of that anger.
"My experience has been very great and the drawing we put on the wall, showed me unity peace and hope. I hope then when the people of Love Lane look at it they can get the same message from it and make a difference whenever they feel to break the message of the painting," said Scott.
Parents whose children are involved in the program stood and watch them adding the life to the wall, while others whispered how proud they were to see their children making difference.
The parents and other residents of the area beamed as they viewed the mural.
"I work here and fix motor bikes and it is always a joy watching the kids doing their part to bright up the community," said a 75 year-old resident, who was born and has spent all his life in the community which has seen its fair share of crime.
The elder resident, who did not give his name, smiled as he watched the children adding the final touches to the artwork on the wall behind Liberty Hall.
"It (Love Lane) was nice once and I would like it to return to what it was," he added.
Love Lane, which runs behind the historic Ward Theatre, has long been earmarked for development as the cultural centre of downtown Kingston.
More than nine years ago the Government approved the compulsory acquisition of numbers two and four Love Lane to facilitate the development of the Simon Bolivar Cultural District.
This was expected to facilitate the active promotion and growth of Jamaican culture in the arts culminating in a strengthened cross-cultural link between the Caribbean and Latin American countries and included the development of the recently opened Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre.