Jermaine Gordon takes 360-degree turn after tragedy - Gospel artiste spreading message of hope, positivity among youth
With just four child psychologists employed to the Child Protection and Family Services Agency and a wider shortage islandwide, gospel artiste Dr Jermaine Gordon has dedicated his time and resources to change the trajectory of the Jamaican youth towards violence, through his Inspiring Our Future 360 Degrees programme.
Self-described as a positive communicator, Gordon uses elements of art and other outlets to spread a message of positivity in the hope of changing the outlook of those he comes into contact with.
“I communicate through music, books, motivational speaking, storytelling, video games, teaching; and preaching positive messages on love, care, empathy, putting people above things and not the other way around,” Gordon explained.
The desire to do more came after Gordon heard the news of the Jamaica College (JC) student who, in 2016, was stabbed to death after resisting a robber who demanded his phone. He explained that he was so shaken by the unfortunate incident that he vowed to do something ... anything to make a positive change in the society.
“I was in accounting in the shipping industry for 23 years, but that story about the 14-year-old JC boy, who was stabbed in his arm and shoved off the moving bus, shook me to the core,” said Gordon. “For days, I was in agony at my desk, questioning ‘how can we continue as if it’s a normal day?’ I also began questioning things about myself, ‘what am I doing about it?’.”
This was when Inspiring Our Future 360 Degrees was created and, so far, it has reached scores of children in homes and schools all across the country.
“I have been using music as therapy in the children’s homes and have reached 863 children last year, and 120,000 young people in children’s homes so far,” Gordon stated. “We have had some other individual invitations, so we use art and music as therapy to help them with stuff like the more common temperamental issues in Jamaica - anger, impatience, not being able to resolve conflicts amicably, indifference, lack of empathy.”
Gordon explained that the programme does not focus only on the child by himself, but the things that influence a child’s life and upbringing. The five aspects that he brings attention to are the home, community, the Church, school, and their peers.
“We look at the issues that are facing our young people – behavioural disorder, social issues like verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and emotional abuse,” Gordon said. “In going around into the schools as well, it has opened up sort of a can of worms, because we are seeing some stuff that were always there, but we just weren’t paying attention to them.”
CHANGED BY JOURNALLING
Gordon stated that these things have overshadowed “the genius of our people” and it needs to change if we should ever have a better future. He shared with Outlook some of the changes that were seen after he visited a home.
“When I told the girls at the home in Stony Hill two years ago that instead of venting on each other, they should vent on the pages of their journal, managers called me back saying I should bring some more because it’s a completely different home. Those girls were finding more amicable ways to resolve their conflicts. So journalling is one of them, as is goal setting,” explained Gordon.
He added that reading is also a big part of the process and reading materials are donated by a partner of the programme. Gordon said the entire operation is run by volunteerism and where money is needed, it is taken from his own personal fund, which has cost him approximately $9.4 million so far.
However, for Gordon, it is all worth it because the programme has been working for many.
“In this programme, in terms of how we design it, you have impact over time with the reading materials, the journals and colouring books. We also benefit from what we call ‘fire component’, where somebody experiences the music, the art and the spiritual things; have an encounter with God and says I will never go back to who I was,” shared Gordon.
As a gospel artiste and singer of the hit song You are God, Holy and Righteous, the spiritual aspect of Gordon’s programme is important. He explained that he is currently implementing ways to measure the effectiveness of his programme before bringing it to the relevant authorities to have it implemented on a national scale.