A former national footballer is knocking down the call by one evangelical leader to dismantle every block in Barbados as a shallow and pedantic interpretation of the issues affecting today’s youths.
Former Barbados goalkeeper Horace Stoute said blocks only filled the void left by the absence of sporting and social programmes.
Reverend Dr Lucille Baird declared at a church service on Sunday at her Mount Zion’s Missions Church in Rock Dundo, St James to mark Crime Awareness Month that the authorities should dismantle every block if they wanted to put a dent in crime.
Baird described these gatherings of young people as breeding grounds for criminal activity, and called for those who frequent blocks to be engaged in more productive activities.
However, Stoute fired back at the religious leader, stating that instead of advocating for a rigid law and order approach to the block culture, community leaders should stand up and assist in providing alternative positive social outlets.
“We just need a group of people that has the time that put a structure in place, then along with the structure comes the discipline. The fact is that the talent is out there but you just need a collective group of people to channel that talent in a positive manner. I used to do it before but as time goes on and you have your family to deal with and a business to run, it becomes harder to keep up,” the Bagatelle coach told Barbados TODAY while going through his paces at his Haynesville barbershop.
Stoute, whose professional football career in Scotland was cut short by injury, drew a direct connection between the failed sports programme in Haynesville and the rise of the block culture there.
Haynesville, once a powerhouse in the Barbados Football Association’s Premier League, is now languishing in the second division.
“Blocks have always been around. In my time liming on the block meant playing dominoes or backgammon. You might find one or two fellas smoking a little weed but nothing serious because we all had sports to keep our focus. So really there was so much positive things going on at the time that the negative things couldn’t get through,” he stressed.
Fellow son of Haynesville and former BFA Premier League footballer Wayne Ward echoed Stoute’s sentiments. However, Ward went a step further by adding that there was need to strengthen the home structure.
“We don’t have proper home structures anymore, so the young men move towards the blocks and they are finding the love on the blocks and they are finding the love the wrong place. Everybody going to go on the block because they got brethren out there and that is where fathers come in. We have a lot of fathers lacking in their sons’ lives and daughters because, believe it or not, a lot of women now on the blocks. So fathers really have to play their part in this because mothers can’t do it alone,” Ward said.
Even as the men discussed the subject with Barbados TODAY, a number of youngsters were making themselves comfortable on roughly constructed shaded seats close to the Haynesville playing field.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the young men said most of their day was spent socializing; and they argued that the block culture was not always negative.
“There are times that we’re just out here discussing ideas. People may not know this but right here we have the combined skills of a small construction company. I am plumber, he does electrical work and he could do carpentry,” one member of the group said.
“It is youngsters that society has failed to educate or equip with a skill that bring the negative things down here [on the block]. Blocks have always been here but now you have some youngsters who can’t read properly but know everything about a gun that bring that nonsense here. Blocks don’t breed criminals, young criminals are changing the blocks,” the group’s spokesman added.
Meanwhile, another group of young men from The Pine simply stated that they would much rather be gainfully employed than liming on the block. They also challenged those who criticized their means of socialization to direct them to viable alternatives.
Yet, some readily admitted that while their lifestyle involved some illegal activity, the block represented a financial and security structure.