Reverend Lucille Baird is not getting much support for her call for the dismantling of blocks across Barbados.
And while veteran educator Jeff Broomes told Barbados TODAY he did not see any positive in the “block culture”, he warned that eliminating it without providing employment or education opportunities for the young people would be a bad move.
Addressing a service hosted by the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit at her Mount Zion Mission Church on Sunday, Baird called on authorities to break up and ban blocks, arguing that they were breeding grounds for criminal activity.
“We have to watch these blocks and we can’t be reactive, we have to be proactive. If two people sit together, break it up. If three people stay together, break it up before it becomes a colossal giant that we can’t kill. Because they sit there and it becomes a place for growing crime and criminals,” she said, adding that constructive programmes should be offered as alternatives to congregating on blocks.
While agreeing that initiatives were needed to assist young people in becoming productive citizens, and acknowledging that the church had a role to play, Chairman of the Family Life Committee of the Diocese of Barbados George Griffith told Barbados TODAY blocks were not all bad.
“We have to be careful when we speak about destroying any grouping in the society, or any places where the community will meet,” advised Griffith, who is also a trained social worker.
“The block is not necessarily a negative place, and we believe that we have to involve those who find some comfort in associating with the blocks. So we have to reach out, we have to be accepting, we have to be less judgmental.”
Griffith insisted there was a role for the people on the blocks and called for doors to be kept open for them and everyone in the society.
“We don’t see ourselves as advocating the destruction of any grouping of the Barbadian society in any case. The Constitution speaks about the right to assembly and association. I feel that we have to find a way of tapping into their consciousness and helping them to see that they have a role to play in the society . . . We have to appeal to what is best in them in order to get them to participate,” Griffith contended.
Anglican priest Canon Wayne Isaacs expressed a similar view.
“Our approach would be to get to them and work with them, but we would not take that view that you go in and push down. No, the Anglican Church [doesn’t] operate on that level when it comes to social issues. So, we would not agree with what [Baird] says,” Isaacs told Barbados TODAY.
Former secondary school principal Broomes disagreed with any notion that good could come from blocks, even though he concurred that dismantling them was not the answer to the problem.
He said blocks developed because of unemployment, lack of engagement, and “where there is nefarious behaviour”, and recommended that those were the issues that had to be tackled.
“Block culture is not something that I support . . . . I don’t see in what way it helps young people, I don’t see anything productive coming out of people hanging around the block. I don’t see it,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“But I don’t know if we can best address it unless we create opportunities for employment and training and education and that kind of stuff.”
Broomes offered his own recommendations for dealing with issues of violence, anger and disrespect among young people. He has launched a new programme, dubbed the TALL Project – Teach A Lifelong Lesson, which targets Class Four students, and aims to “promote, honour and highlight the youth in desirable and uplifting deeds”.