On her Sunday morning radio/television show, Ya Ya Marin Coleman interviewed a young mother from the Banak/Mayflower Streets area. This is a very tough area indeed, and the realities on the ground can be chilling. There is a difficult decision which faces young mothers in such areas. Does a young mother allow her growing sons to run with the herd, so to speak, or does she fight to confine her growing sons within her individual sphere of control, for their own ultimate good?
From her vantage point, the young mother from Banak/Mayflower can see that the herd of male youth is rushing towards crime, jail and destruction. The thing is that the attraction of the herd is magnetic for the individual boy. From an early age, boys want to be part of the action which involves the majority contemporary group. Ideally, that majority contemporary group is their class group at whichever school they attend.
In very tough areas, however, the children stop attending school at an early age. If they do attend school, many of them do so inconsistently and half-heartedly. Whether they are in school or out of school, leaders and heroes begin to emerge from groups of boys anywhere and everywhere. There is an energy within the group which dominates individual tendencies. You see that in all animal life. Birds fly in flocks; fish swim in schools; lions run in prides.
Every now and then, you will find individual prodigies who become separated from their group at an early age. The internationally famous example of this was Michael Jackson. He came from a poor family, and Michael was still a child when his father saw that the child’s gifts in music and dance could lift the whole family out of poverty. The result of this was that Michael was separated from his group of contemporaries. The group went their way, and Michael went his. Even though Michael became rich and famous, that separation from his group had an adverse effect on Michael’s growth and development as a person.
Whatever the specific group is, is a product of the socio-economic history and realities in the specific neighborhood. Now this is what you have to understand: in capitalist societies, and Belize is one such, the dominant energy is the determination of those who have accumulated wealth and power to preserve that wealth and power, while gathering even more. In Belize, therefore, there exists a ruling class of people who are happy with the status quo and wish for that status quo to be projected as an order of things which is right, natural and good. The ruling class of Belizeans, as in other capitalist societies, do not wish for the prevailing order of things to be criticized in any way, because it is that prevailing order of things which has provided the enabling environment for their accumulation of wealth and power. They do not want any criticism of the status quo, and they do not want change.
So now, in areas like Mayflower/Banak, successive groups or generations of young boys are coming out of a matrix of poverty and hunger. Their energy is directed towards finding food and sustenance, by any means necessary. They cannot wait until a projected high school graduation six, seven, eight years down the road, one reason being that such a projected high school graduation does not guarantee them a job. You cannot deny the reality: thousands of Belizean high school graduates are unemployed.
Successive groups of young boys coming out of very tough areas begin to find themselves in trouble with the law at a young age. This is the way it has been in Mayflower/Banak going for three decades now. “The law” is who is paid, to put it brutally, by the wealthy and powerful to protect their wealth and their power. Early on, the young boys from the very tough areas begin to see the law as their enemy.
In order to save her young sons from the fate she has seen befall too many of the young males in her neighborhood, the young mother interviewed on Ya Ya’s show has decided to use as much discipline as she can and whenever she has to use it, in order to force her sons towards the straight and narrow. Let us say that she succeeds. One of her sons becomes a preacher, and one becomes a lawyer. The price of their success will have been some alienation from their group. They will have had to develop a thinking separate and different from that of the group. They will have had to become apologists for the wealthy and powerful, or, at least, they will have had to learn to be silent in the face of oppression and injustice. They will have been made into bourgeoisie.
When I was a young boy, it was seen that I had some academic talent. I was the oldest of nine children. Our ‘hood was not as tough as Mayflower/Banak, but my mother decided that, for my own good, I would be kept out of the ‘hood, away from my street group of contemporaries. In school, as a result of being “skipped” two or three times, I ended up with classmates who were older than I was. I was to be an exception in order to guarantee my “success.” Sacrifices had to be made. The main sacrifice was separation from the group. My success was achieved. But, only for a little while. What went wrong? I missed my group, and so, I suppose, I had to find one, which I did.
I sincerely wish the young mother, Rosalie, all the best in her struggle. The thing is, if she succeeds, the propagandists for the Belizean wealthy and powerful will use her sons as proof that the present system is actually good, that anybody can make it if he/she tries, and proof that those who went astray did not have to do so. Propagandists for oppression and injustice will then benefit from this young mother’s extreme sacrifice, determination and ambition, to argue that everything is “curry.” It is not.
Understand me, please. It is written in the Bible. What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? Some of you who have fought the good fight and achieved success, some of you who have risen out of poverty to become members of Belize’s ruling class, I can see that you don’t remember those from your old neighbourhood, I can see that you consider them losers. You sniff on them from above and from afar. Brethren and sistren, you have gained the world and lost your soul. It is written.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle. Amandala