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Category: Trinidad Society 17 Feb 08

 

This is a first person account of life in Laventille, based on an interview with Andy, 46, who lives in Picton, Laventille.

Andy has resisted pressure at gunpoint to join a gang. His brother was incarcerated for kidnapping and murder.

“I was born and bred in Picton. I’ve never been more scared in my life. It’s shottee they moving with. Fifteen shots a go. Gangsters are on a rampage. “On Saturday morning, I heard explosions. Police found a body down in the hole (the valley). Sunday morning, “ratatatat” shots, then an explosion.

“When I opened my back window I saw a neighbour’s house burning. The talk was the neighbour’s nephew was hiding a man and the warring gang was looking for him. A 16-year-old gang boy was killed.

“On Sunday, one of Crock’s partners was murdered. On J’Ouvert morning a next shower of shots. Two young women and a boy picked up bullets. On Ash Wednesday another boy got shot.

“Beverly Hills, Canada, Blocade, it’s all one road, controlled by different gangs. There are so many tracks in the area people don’t know where the bullets will come from—up, down, from tracks that we call short cuts.

“It is a ghost town. In my small area alone, there are ten gangs, each with 25 to 30 members between the ages of 13 and 30.

“Most of the youths in Laventille are illiterate. They put on book bags and never reach the classroom. In my time, your teacher gave you licks for misbehaving, and you got a second dose from your parents.

“Teachers now are afraid of students, who threaten them with guns, and parents don’t like their children to be corrected.

“Plenty 30-year-old women have teenage sons. Girls are pregnant at 15, 16. In Laventille, with no father figure around, the boys are out of control. No regard for God or man.

“This guy I know, his mother spoke to him and he kicked her in the face. Where are the fathers? Selling drugs, doing crime, making money, doing whatever they do.

“So many youths not attending school, their intention is to be gangsters. I see primary school, secondary school boys looking you in the eye, practising a trigger finger: thumb and index finger. Cursing.

“They watch the elder youths who smoke a joint in front of them. Twelve-year-olds are playing poker, wappi, knock romi.

“The first thing a small child says when he is vex is ‘I go shoot you.’ Parents laugh. These same parents bawl when their sons get taken away in body bags.

“The gangsters recruit from school dropouts. He might say ‘Look a 500 to buy a boots.’ For nothing. You are a teenager. You don’t go to school. You might be getting stress from home, pressure to find a job.

“The gangster would tell you breeze by me. You not working, you have no income. You end up owing him favours.

“Eventually he will tell you: ‘I have a little bag to collect. You want to pick up for me?’ He might ask you to juggle weed; take some, give you some.

“You get roped in right away. You start to cling to him. He starts to use you for his convenience. Easy money, very little work, a shooting here, a robbery there. You tell your friends.

“The gang grows.

“I have seen a man, not yet 20, checking 40,000 in $100 bills. I am amazed when they pull out their pile of blue notes so, thick as a brick.

“Them not working; I working. They will shoot a man without even thinking. ‘Harry giving trouble? You want to take him out or what?’

“There was a time I used to sit on a wall and lime with friends. Now I can’t go out for five minutes. I am afraid to go to work. Youths on the hill have guns, I don’t know where from.

“A lot of them have converted to Islam. We have two mosques on the hill. Crock was like the sheriff in the town. He kept the peace. Now Crock is dead, everything gone haywire.”

(To be continued)

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur