When one hears of an inner city community they often envisage drugs, violence and prostitution, however this is often a misconception. A visit through The City one evening to learn the true story of city life, proved the old adage true: you should never judge a book by its cover.
Driving along River Road with my friend, John, I made the left by Chefette onto Nelson Street; what greeted us was a piercing stench which I have met before but did not care to get to know any better.
With windows rolled up I proceeded, driving slowly and cautiously to avoid the crowds of people congregated in the roads, mingling and some dancing to the varied booming rhythms coming from night clubs on both sides of the road and which I felt pulsating through my hands as I held onto my steering wheel.
Unlike the area immediately passed, Wellington Street resembled a ghost town. Here was where I met 55-year-old Scottie who gave me my first dose of reality about the area. Sitting beneath a large tree opposite the popular Glen Workman shop, he conversed with friends, having a smoke. I politely interrupted the conversation. At first, he was hesitant to talk to me but when I explained my purpose he was more than willing.
The point he wanted to most emphasise was that the suspected happenings in Nelson Street did not occur in the entire community.
“Due to the fact that there is prostitution” he said “people usually feel that every girl out here is a whore and claim that everybody out here does go prison, which is a joke. The people who live out here, mainly the youngsters like sports: cricket, football, draughts, warri, dominoes. There aren’t no trouble trees, it is the people who come ‘bout here because out here is a kinda metropolitan area – people from all over Barbados, they does come ‘bout here and do what they got to do catch the bus then go long ‘bout their business.
“If you had to rate it on a scale of 100 you would find that maybe every three out of 100 bad. If you go looking for a job and you put down here as your address most likely you won’t get that job ‘cause they align everything as Nelson Street. Some of the people out here just aimless and need some help.
“They won’t go and brek nobody house, we don’t deal with that out here. Them ain’t all that bad like what you hear ‘bout people shooting them one another, people does come up here and do that – good products does come out of here,” he said as one of his friends shouted: “[The captain of the Barbados Football team Jeffrey] Williams is one.
As I sat to talk more with the self professed fun loving man he proceeded to tell of his life growing up in the area. He said that not much changed over the years but stressed that was not a good thing. He said what needed to be changed most was the lack of social amenities for the youngsters in the area, calling for a community development centre.
“All they got is a basketball court that people hardly does use ‘cause this ain’t no basketball community – this is a football community. So all they does do is play football on it and sometimes they would have problems getting light so we does have to use the hospital pasture.
“Traditionally we would use the park but that seem to be out of bounds now. Out here need programmes for the youths to teach them about their culture and skills so some of them won’t get into no nefarious activities.”
Heading to Beckwith Street I saw the Internet sensation and blogger, Bajan Fari, who sat by himself an old wrought iron chair and he too reiterated the need for the area to be improved.
Close knit in the geography of the houses and also in their relationships, he said that residents were fed up with their conditions.
“People outside don’t understand, whereas them does think that everything down in here is a fight, it don’t be a fight but we does fight to survive. You could see the gutters opened the mosquitoes in them but we does try to live as much with what we got and do with what we got as much as we can.
“There got every and any kind of people ‘bout here, there are a lot more that people can do to make betterment for themselves, you just got to know what you want in life will not be given to you and you got to get out there and work for it. Some people does see the light some don’t, some tell themselves I just seeing it so bad for so long I just keep living my life.
“A community centre would be nice because they got a lot of children out here … a whole lot of different things needed to help the people out here who living in bad conditions but you would see a politician when they want a vote but you gine not see he when he know they need help. Up to last night we was talking about this on the corner, that is things that people remember and have on their mind so come elections that is where government gine really see it… coming out of these so called neighbourhoods.
“Yes we have some trouble makers, every community does, but we feel it harder cause we is a ghetto.”
Many of the residents of the communities migrated from other areas across Barbados and the region, one such person was “Nicky Barnes”. In 1978 he was involved with a woman and he left home in Deacons Farm to set up house with her. Unfortunately that relationship did not last. However, 34 years later the connection with Queen Street continues.
Reclined in a chair with feet vertical and rested against a pole, he fired a shot of “the one eye man” chased with a soft drink as his friend who was visiting from Edgehill in St. Thomas looked on smiling.
“What you doing here? Where you from?” he asked as if our roles were reversed. “I’m Kimberley Cummins from Barbados TODAY,” I replied.
“I know that place, I does get it on my phone, sit down let me tell you something,” he instructed.
“Queen Street is a quiet place, has always been. When I moved here there were mostly old people and it was real quiet but sometime in the late 80s it started to look different. Paros started coming through, people started selling drugs. Don’t get me wrong there always had drugs in the general area but not in here. Nelson Street, Bay Street was the main area for prostitutes, you would only see them passing through but now there is a house where paros frequent. It had belong to a woman and if she see it now she would be rolling in she grave – things change,” he said.
As Barnes continued we were interrupted by a familiar laugh, “Ha ha ha!”.
“That is Daddy Plume. He would be a better person to talk to,” he said, so I proceeded to talk to him.
Daddy Plume said he too moved to the area because of a woman 21 years ago. He said he likes Queen Street because it was away from the main street and there were no clubs or prostitution. While he said that there were people with potential in the area he said he believed that their mindset was incorrigible.
“I don’t think nothing could really change ‘bout here they done got that speed like they see themselves as ghetto people so they live their life a certain way – the mind set.
“It is definitely too far gone. It is a ghetto and ghetto people got a way of thinking and it hard to change that, God would have to come. Especially for this generation, they are lost, not being taught the right thing. Whatever they see their parents do they would continue doing. Nothing can’t really change. Politicians coming with them lies and promises, so no positive ain’t happening to uplift the people out here.
“The only thing that can happen out here is if government clean up the whole area – knock down the houses and dismantle everything. To get that real change you have to destroy everything and come again, then there will be a different mindset,” he said.