Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Gangs of New York

Published:Sunday | March 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMNatalie Oh
Author Desmond Skyers at the launch of his book-Gangs of New York, a fictional characterisation of real life events.
Best friends, Novlet Deans (left) and Pauline Edie.
Model and aspiring singer Jessica Barret with author Desmond Skyers.
Steven Hudson and Marilyn Bennett at the book launch.
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AUTHOR, ACTIVIST, mentor and father, Desmond Samuel Skyers was born in London, England, in the year of Jamaica’s Independence – 1962. The seventh of nine children, and the last of six boys, his late mother, Dorel Skyers, forever referred to him as the little brother.

The family returned to Jamaica when he was only two years old, but the struggles his mother experienced providing for her family left him with too much time on his hands.

As a teen, he was drawn to a life on the streets, and was later seduced by tales of glamour and wealth. He returned to London in his early 20s, but the bright lights of the Big Apple lured him away. Arriving in New York City, he met up with old friends, and together they embarked on a path to that pyrrhic destination – fame and fortune – sans hard work. After being caught up in illegal activities, he was sentenced to prison. During his incarceration, he discovered skills he never dreamt he had – storytelling and writing.

The Jamaican Gangs of New York is Skyers’ second book, which he returned to Jamaica to launch at the Spanish Court hotel. The book is a fictional characterisation of real-life events, part of a trilogy – with the other two books slated to be launched in the future. Skyers’ first book was a political commentary titled Lack of Proper Leadership and the Conscience of America, which was published in 2012.

 

His testimony

 

"Young people are usually extremely cynical, more so of structures and institutions. However, there are reasons for this cynicism. Children being raised in depraved and abusive environments do not have much to emulate in their communities, or ideals to strive to - largely because some of the adults in these communities are the purveyors of crime, violence and guns. My life is a testimony. I have done my crime, and I served my time. Today, I want to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth. I am better able to teach youth the steps gang members use to recruit them, and how to avoid them - I give them the big, ugly picture."

During the 231/2 years that he was incarcerated, Skyers enrolled in a college correspondence course to read for a degree in journalism and mass communication. Having fathered six children prior to his incarceration, he bemoaned the fact that he was not physically involved in their lives to assist in their development. This was his motivation to make it on his release, his life's journey to guide other youth away from the perils of gang violence, the drug underworld, and a life of crime.

Since his release a little over two years ago, Skyers has successfully completed various mentorship training programmes and is currently a facilitator with the St Giles Trust in the United Kingdom. This non-profit organisation aims to break the cycle of crime and create safer communities by supporting people to change their lives. They believe the individuals with first-hand experience of successfully overcoming issues such as offending background, homelessness, addictions and gang involvement hold the key to positive change in others.

Through this and other socio-cultural platforms, Desmond has focused on anti-gang work through well-established avenues. He has, on invitation, addressed the House of Commons on the issue of sexual harassment on school campuses; the justice ministry on mental health issues; and the Kiwanis Club of London on community building and volunteerism. Skyers sees it as his responsibility to share his life experiences with others, and has interacted with over 15,000 students in the United Kingdom on the issue of gang violence and its effect on the country.