From prison to painting - Ex-con wants help to achieve his dream
After more than 20 years in prison, Whyette Gordon is looking to get his life back on track by getting formal training in his passion, painting, but that is proving difficult as not many persons want to employ an ex-convict.
While he tries to achieve his dream, the Clarendon-based Gordon is doing some amateur pieces and trying to prevent other youngsters from making the mistakes he did by warning them about the pitfalls of becoming involved with "bad company".
Gordon was a promising student at Glenmuir High School, where he was selected to be the class monitor while he was in third form.
But then he started to move with the wrong crowd and his life spiralled downwards until he was convicted of murder at age 17 and spent the next two decades "lost in the prison system".
According to Gordon, as a teenager he did not have his parents around him as he lived with my grandparents. He said he was "very bright" at primary school and never dropped out of the top 10 performers.
Having won a place at Glenmuir High School, he initially did well before he started missing classes.
Gordon told The Sunday Gleaner that while at Glenmuir he felt left out every time he saw how involved parents were with their children, while his mother was overseas and his father was hardly ever around.
While declaring that he was not blaming his parents for his downfall as he is the one who made the bad choices, Gordon argued that if his mother and father were around he might have found the strength to make better choices.
But with his elderly grandparents his only support, Gordon quickly found his older friends on the streets becoming his main influence.
They never expressed any concern about him missing classes as they were more interested in his blending in with them and he was more than happy to do so.
ACTED LIKE A MAN
While still in early teen years, Gordon was going to dances, going home late at nights, having girlfriends and doing all that he believed he had to do to prove that he "was a man".
"I had older friends who hype me made me want to do things to prove that I really belonged to the group. No one ever asked me how old I was or why I wasn't going to school. They just wanted to know that I was among them and could do things," said Gordon.
He said he was so desperate to fit in with that crowd that he never thought about why he allowed himself to be pushed by these older persons.
Gordon was later arrested, along with some of his friends, and charged with murder, and while he is adamant that he had not been part of the act, he admits that he was in the company of those who did it.
Convicted and sentenced, Gordon was to spend the next 20-plus years in prison.
He has been free for the past two years and he is thanking his prison mentor, Dr George Leveridge, who counselled him and helped him to deal with his emotions.
"He was instrumental in my progress. He did a lot of work with me as part of his peer counselling class and helped me to control my temper," said Gordon, who helped to teach other inmates to read and write while in prison.
"He (Leveridge) always believed that I could be a better person. He urged me not to allow the past to determine my future," said Gordon as he urged Jamaicans to give him a second chance by allowing him to get formal training in his passion, painting.
According to Gordon, more than anything else he craves an opportunity to study at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts as he has a strong passion for art.
"I always liked it from a young age, but I started doing some drawing while in prison, I would read books on the topic and drawing gives me a sense of relaxation," said Gordon.
But having a prison record Gordon has found that most persons are not willing to offer him a job so he is struggling to find the money for the tuition fee.
Justice of the Peace Jacqueline Scott, who has been mentoring Gordon, since his release from prison, told The Sunday Gleaner that she saw his potential when they were both students at Glenmuir.
She is urging any person or entity which can help him to do so.
"No one is irredeemable," said Scott who does much of her work with at-risk youths.