In October 2005, Jamaica was dealing with the news of the death of Sasha Kay Brown, a 10-year-old girl who died with her grandparents and aunt, when masked men firebombed her grandparents’ house on Barnes Avenue and then stood guard to prevent anyone from coming to the rescue of the family. Neighbours told of hearing the child screaming for help and saying that she was going to die, but not being able to respond to her cries.
A few weeks ago, in March Pen Road three children – ages 2, 9 and 14 – and two women were killed in an attack on them and their home, which ended with the house being burnt down. A 15-year-old girl and another adult were also shot and injured during the attack. According to the accounts, it seems to have been a horrific deadly blend of family and gang violence. The man who allegedly led the attack is in police custody and has been charged with 5 counts of murder and other crimes.
In an interview on Nationwide News, Horace Levy said that in all his years with the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), since it began in 2002, this was the worst scene in a community that he had ever visited.
Enough is enough. It has been enough for very many years in Jamaica. We have said it at so many points about so many acts of violence, with commitments to make sure that it never happens again. And there are people at various points in the society, in various spheres, who work for the end to the violence that scars our society. PMI is one such.
What will it look like when enough really is enough? Is it gradual persistent change from many different points, addressing the various problems that allow, encourage, support this violence? Or is it one big dramatic event resulting in change? Is it ultimately a problem to be solved at governmental, community or individual level or a combination of all three?
Jamaica is a violent society, though many contest that it is, questioning how widespread the violence is geographically, looking at the types of violence that are most pervasive, pointing to positives about our country and society.
Last week, we continued to be confronted with violence and its consequences as the court case in the murder of 17-year-old Khajeel Mais ended and 14-year-old Nicholas Francis, a Jamaica College student, was stabbed and killed on a bus by a man who was trying to steal his phone.
Will the outrage being expressed be translated into the actions that will effectively protect people, including the children? Will the voices of the students standing in solidarity and protest be heard by Jamaica’s adults and result in effective action?
As we act going forward, one thing we need to consider is the way in which, as a society, we approve of or tolerate some acts of violence and whether this approval/tolerance has an impact on creating an environment in which violence thrives more broadly and more extremely. Mob violence against suspects in crimes? Extrajudicial killings by police/police squads as a method of dealing with crime? Hitting & beating of children as punishment? Some instances of marital rape not being clearly prohibited in law and being accepted by some on religious grounds? Acceptance that sometimes a man is right to hit his wife, baby mother, girlfriend? The state carrying out the death penalty as part of the justice system?
When you place a piece of laundry blue in a basin of clear water, eventually it spreads to colour all the water in the basin. Does the same happen with tolerance of violence?