Decreasing Violence in Trinidad and Tobago
What have you learned and what will you do to create change?
I need to act on issues which outrage me in my community. I have found violence to be my main issue of concern. The women we studied this quarter have been very inspirational and motivating. I will continue to research these women and try to find a deeper insight into their lives. How some of them managed to continue struggling and fighting for what the believed in, is beyond my imagination. How some of those women could only have basic education but manage to lead an entire movement of people is mind boggling. My only guess is that, if you want something bad enough you will do what ever is necessary to achieve it. I truly want to decrease violence in my native homeland of Trinidad. “There is a crime situation in Trinidad and Tobago, and nobody is truly safe. You don't see people wandering around after dark as much. Burglar proofing abounds, houses are locked and passerby are watched suspiciously. After all, most of the kidnappings have happened at the front gates of the victims home (Rampersad, 2002).” I want to bring this country back to the days I remember, when children could play in the streets even after sunset, and you did not have to be afraid of your own neighbor. From the readings I have gained inspiration and motivation to follow through with my vision
All the women we have discussed and studied throughout the quarter have been very inspirational and influential in my own life. Seeing their struggles, humble beginnings and resourcefulness has truly opened my eyes to see what I have and what I can do, as one person. After reading their struggles, trials and tribulations and seeing how many of them were still able to small they managed to push on and fight for their beliefs, I was truly inspired. I find a lot of strength in religion, and was pleased to see that black women we studied also used religion as a stepping stone for the push to equality. Through religion, many slaves and oppressed people were educated. Education, enable the oppressed peoples to see the necessity for change. Courage, creativity and strength were what black women drew from religion and their culture. Some of the women we studied took it a step further and began to follow and experiment with foreign philosophies of non violence.
Gandhi was a main innovator of this non-violent thought that was used by activists to stage protests around many cities in America. This form of protest became very popular and worked very effectively. Activists used these characteristics to push civil rights and its movement further. They came from very humble beginnings, but did not let their lack of resources stop their spirit. As the other important women discussed throughout the quarter, education was their way out and their weapon to change society. Protests are indeed a major part of my activism in this project. Another great woman was Idea b. Wells. Wells, inspired those now a day whom we believe to be the founders of the civil rights movement inspiring Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. I do not want fame, or fortune, but I would love for generations after myself to learn from my failures, and capitalize on methods of activism that did work, so they can leave this world a better place, as these women did.
I could easily take each woman in Fifty Black Women who Changed America; and discuss what I learned and how it changed my perception, but I would rather focus on two, Audre Lorde and Shirley Chisholm. These two women have had a particularly significant impact on me. Audre Lorde, used her literary gift to inspire and create change here in America, South Africa and her native home of St. Croix. Her quotes such as “even the smallest victory is never to be taken for granted. Each victory must be applauded,” truly shows how someone should appreciate their own work, disregarding the magnitude. Contributions in any field do not have to be on a grand scale, the small things matter as much. This simple statement helps a lot of us take the leap to help, by overcoming the fear of being insignificant. None of these women we studied sought out to find fame, fortune or great acknowledgement for their work; they simply saw a problem and took action. Shirley Chisholm was the first woman to run for President of the United States. At a time when black people were still fighting for equality and pushing for more civil rights, Chisholm decided to bravely face a society that predominately looked down on black people, and run for the highest office in the land. This is an example on a large scale. Even though Chisholm did not win, she stood up for what she believed in, voiced her opinion and went after what she desired. These characteristics are what I hope to ingrain in myself and develop over the course of my lifetime. Bravery, opinioned and will to lead are some qualities I found in most of the women we discussed this quarter. Prior to this class I was not aware that I possess these characteristics, now I am aware of them and want to harness them and use them to push my plan forward. I have picked up quotes along this quarter which have showed me various ways of activism, one being “The pen is mightier then the sword.” I consider myself a better writer then a public speaker, and I will hopefully be able to use this to the best of my ability to help my cause. “If we don’t use our talents, we will loose them (Smiley, 29).” I have learned that no matter how hard my life is someone has it harder. I am put in a place of privilege. I have been given educated and a chance to make a difference. This is not a choice but an obligation that I am now aware of.
My passion in life is my culture. I am West Indian, and spend most of my time educating and encompassing my self with my culture. Through this class I have learned of West Indian women who have made enormous strives for betterment in this country. West Indian women, such as Shirley Chisholm and Audre Lorde have left this world a better place then when they arrived. This is a saying I want to live my life by. I, as a Trinidadian am very proud of my Caribbean heritage. My goal after is to find a way to help my people and those suffering in all parts of the world. Help them to overcome their trials and tribulations. I am fortunate enough to be given the chance to be educated and am in a place of privilege where I can help others. More times then not foreigners leave their native homeland to better their lives but forget where they came from and do not bother helping those who were not as fortunate and able to escape suffrage. Not for fame, fortune or recognition but to be able to say to myself that I am trying my best to help those who are less fortunate. On a smaller scale I want to decrease escalating violence in Trinidad. The country has an array of social and economic issues however, this is issue that needs immediate attention. “Be a pioneer. There are too many issues for us to tackle for anyone to claim they can’t make a contribution (Smiley 29).” I will not be a pioneer in trying to help the situation however, I have plans which have not been implemented or tested thus far. The issue of violence in Trinidad is where my plans and main focus will lie.
Throughout history, poverty, lack of education and resources has lead to a major increase in violence. There is a lot of corruption in Trinidad, and crime is escalating. Unfortunately there have been no scholarly studies done on crime in Trinidad, only a few websites which discuss the issue, these I cited in my bibiography. Realistically, in three to six months I cannot reform the Trinidadian government; however I can take other steps to help the alarming situation of violence. Due to the fact that “it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks,” I want to focus the majority of my attention on the youth. I want to implement extra-curricular activities in the schools, mentor the children at a adolescent age about violence and drugs and the array of other choices they have such as education. I would also like to work with smaller communities from my own, outward and have a frequent open forum where everyone’s ideas and opinions can be heard. Looking towards the longer term, I would like to start writing to politicians, public officials and those who have influence in the community to bring keep them aware that this problem is not going away and neither are we. As members of the community we will not simply face the escalating violence with a blind eye. To stop crime in Trinidad we need to talk to all economic classes of society. “The country is one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean, largely as a result of petroleum and natural gas industries (Bureau of Consular Affaris, 2007).” This leads to the huge class separation. The rich and the poor classes in Trinidad are separated by a large gap. It almost seems as though there is very little or no middle class at all. The impoverished have been recorded (not only in Trinidad but worldwide) to be the breeding grounds for violence. If you are barely making enough money to support yourself and feed your family, and opportunities are not readily available there is only so much one can do before resorting to illegal ways of earning an income. Drugs and violence go hand in hand in any part of the world, and to people in the above scenario dealing drugs is a very lucrative business. Drugs have been brought over from various parts of South American. Kidnapping in the late 90’s was a trend borrowed from South America. This form of violence is crippling the country. In this respect the rich are no more innocent then the poor, because they are the ones behind much of the kidnapping and exploiting the others. The wealthy have the resources to fund the drugs conflicts and kidnappings, in which they are the predominant profiteers. By reaching the poor and desperate families and children we will be getting at the root of this issue. Reinsure that the parents preach the absolute importance of education. No one wants to be told what to do so this has to be done very delicately and with care. Through a mentoring program, I want to have those educated and prosperous individuals volunteer time to helping those in less fortunate situations. As an adolescent you are more opt to listen to people who are successful and positive then those who are not. This is why drug dealers and gangsters seem so appealing. Children who have gone astray see these figures as leaders with certain characteristics which they want, and thus end up joining and following gangs. These characteristics may be positive but their uses are completely opposite. By having individuals volunteer their time that will take care of the funding obstacle. Through my research there is very little in the way of mentoring, and accessibility is as rare. I would like to work with the schools and have volunteers mentor a few students teaching them other ways of succeeding in life, various methods of self improvement, and the importance of education. Something as simple as getting a child hooked on a book can lead to great success. With any luck those working on this project can begin to draw more and more volunteers and help as many kids as possible. With a longer term goal we can get the kids to form grass roots organizations against violence. Starting a mentoring program will take a few months to gain support and approval of the community, but will have a lifetime of benefits. An aging society that has not turned to violence and ill means of survival is reward in itself. Starting locally has its advantages and disadvantages. I would be able to see what works and what does, through trial and error as well as use what does work on a larger level.
Sticking with the local theme of activism, I want to implement open forums in the community. There are many locations where these forums can be held. Schools and resident homes come to mind first. A neutrally economic area would be most beneficial, so we can gauge the various problems, and act on those most severe, domestic violence being one of them. Domestic violence is also problem in Trinidad. By educating these adults and children about the many implications domestic violence has, we can begin to decrease the level of attacks. Violence has many faces, such as outright assault to mental abuse. “Violent crimes, including assault and kidnapping for ransom and murder, plague the country (Bureau of Consular Affaris, 2007).” Having people discuss their outrages those oppressed will hopefully find some light and motivation to see help. “That’s what advocated do-read and listen and watch. Sometimes you have the one who sounds the alarm, in order to save everyone else from ending up in the ditch (Smiley 76).” The potential grass roots organizations that can spawn from these above scenarios are unlimited however for the sake of time; I want to simply state my role in activism by creating these local forums where individuals can speak their minds about the injustices in and around the community. Implementing local forums can take a matter of weeks, and through word of mouth we can gain a large participation group, where ideas and opinions can flow freely for the betterment of the community.
The last local method of activism against violence in Trinidad would be increasing extra-curricular activities in the schools. If I can get corporations and sporting stores to fund and donate equipment then this allow for a healthy option. Keeping kids off the streets especially when they are bored and having them co-operate learn leadership skills and have them interact with one another is a clean and positive way for them to get ahead. A simple game of soccer after school can teach all the above characteristics, and it is something kids can do for fun. Depending on the amount of donations and supplies we could even go as far as organizing leagues, practices and tournaments where sports can be the focus of their lives. I particularly like this idea because it can be implemented at all economic levels. There are fields open to the public for soccer and cricket which are the most popular sports in Trinidad and Tobago. Of the other methods of decreasing violence in Trinidad this has to be the hardest because we will need equipment and approval from the school administrations. However I believe it can be achieved within 6 months, if pursued aggressively enough.
If I were to take steps to decrease the level of violence in Trinidad outside the community realm, I would begin writing to politicians, public officials and anyone who has influence in the country, protesting my outrage and my call for action. “Violent crime has increased steadily in recent years and is a growing concern for the local security services and the general population. There were 368 murders in 2006 compared to 384 in 2005 out of a population of 1.4 million people. The lower number of murders in 2006 may be due to underreporting. Crimes related to economic gain, sexual assault, and domestic violence also continued to rise (Global Security News Reports, 2007).” The legal system is very relaxed mainly due to corruption. Corruption on all level’s the local and state. Drafting a plan for a transformative approach will take a long time and a lot of help to even have it read. That’s why this is something I can work on the side while implementing the “ready to go” methods discussed above. As far as the legal reform goes I would want to stop corrupt officials and those involved in gangs and violence. We need stricter consequences for those who are convicted, and harsher consequences for those who commit crimes. This will set the example for future offenders and perpetrators of the law. Let society know they cannot get away with such crimes, and if caught there will be serious implications. I would also call to have the international community contribute to the help and betterment of Trinidad. Outside help will curve and deter internal and governmental corruption. What troubles me, is the amount of violence and criminal acts that go unaccounted for and unreported. Then there are those cases that do no make it to the court system due to police corruption, threatening from perpetrators. However this is activism on a large scale, something I still hope to implement someday.
Today in Trinidad they are trying to stop violence however some of their methods are not effective. There is a blimp that is supposed to keep an “eye” on crime, but this is simply a waste of resources. One method that is working is the local musical artists have banned together to visit schools across the country. By doing this they are touching base with the students and discussing ways to be constructive and teach others to do so as well. Music is a large part of the Trinidadian culture so this is a great method, one that should be continued. Similar to the black women we have studied this quarter who used education and perseverance to better themselves and fight for their beliefs, I will use their experiences to better myself and push my beliefs as far as God wills. Through these women and their stories, our generation can be motivated to continue fighting for issues we are most passionate about. Overall I learned how key education is to change, and what a major part it played in initiating many movements. I will use education as a base for my form of activism.
1) Articles of Crime
Rampersad, TaranCopyright (2002)
Crime in Trinidad and Tobago
2) The U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs 2007
Trinidad and Tobago
3) Overseas Security Advisory Council: Global Security News and Reports
Trinidad and Tobago 2007 Crime & Safety Report
4) Doing What’s Right: Copyright 2000 by Anchor Books
Author: Smiley, Tavis