KINGSTON – WITH chants of “Enough is enough” and “We want justice”, students and staff of Charlemont High in St Catherine yesterday morning led a march to denounce the upsurge in crime and violence in society.
The march, which was well supported by the community, was held in memory of the school’s beloved mathematics teacher, Tanijah Howell, who was brutally murdered in February in the neighbouring parish of St Ann.
The Charlemont-led peace march was supported by several other schools in that section of St Catherine, including McGrath High, Bog Walk High, and Dinthill Technical High, as well as the Optimist Club, Linstead Community Development Committee, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, past students of Charlemont, parents, and several residents of Linstead.
“Today’s march is not only in memory of Mr Howell; today’s march also signifies that as a school community we are tired, fed up, and we are asking all members in the community to come on board with us. Enough is enough and we are saying no to violence towards all members of our community,” Charlemont Principal Garth Gayle told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
When asked what the school hoped to achieve from the march, he said: “It’s simply bringing realisation of where we are a country, and that we as a school are standing up to say we want the violence to stop; because when [no action is taken] it will eventually feed back into the school and we don’t want that.”
Participants in the march, led by Principal Gayle, journeyed from the school, just outside Linstead, to the Linstead Transportation Centre in the town square shortly after Eight in the morning, bearing placards which called for an end to crime and violence.
Former Youth Minister Lisa Hanna, in an address to the gathering, urged the students to examine themselves and to correct their behaviours and attitudes if they wanted to make an impact in the fight against crime.
“It’s not a very hard thing to solve, just check yuhself, check the music you listen, check how you relate to one another, check the way you dress,” she said.
“One of the problems we are facing is in your generation and what passes as disagreement is a culture of aggression, so it’s difficult for you to accept different opinions because you want to be right sometimes. And because you don’t have the ability sometimes to express an alternative view many of you get violent,” she said, in an apparent reference to the opposition she faced when she suggested earlier this year that music by imprisoned entertainer “Vybz Kartel” be banned from airplay.
Hanna, touching on the chopping death of a 14-year-old boy, allegedly by an 11-year-old boy, said: “It is very devastating to me that an 11-year-old could kill his best friend.”
She encouraged the students as well as adults in the audience to exercise patience when dealing with others and to learn to walk away from violence.
“It is the difference between mashing up yuh whole life or mashing up someone else’s life,” Hanna said.
“You have to see beyond the temper, you have to see beyond the attitude, and at the end of the day, as well, if we are going to solve this culture of aggression and violence it simply means that you can’t red-eye after somebody, and you can’t have nuh bad mind because bad mind and red-eye are going to kill this country,” she said.
Hanna, meanwhile, congratulated the school for the initiative and praised the participants, while urging them not just to walk and forget about the march.
“Don’t lose the message, if you want to correct this country you have to correct your attitude first.
“So everybody here, when you leave here, check yourself; what are you doing to contribute to the culture of aggression? Ask yourself how have I added to it and how can I take away from it, and let us not lose anymore lives,” she said.
Custos of St Catherine Jeffrey McKenzie urged those gathered to bond and not to be afraid of “donmanship”, but to partner with the security forces and report all acts of violence.
Parents who participated in the march said it was a worthwhile venture.
“The march signifies that we are not pleased with the death of Mr Howell and how he died, and we want to take action,” Patricia Lowe said.
Another, Daphne Stanley said: “The march proves that we can make a difference, and that even though we are afraid of getting involved, crime is everybody’s business, and I am glad that Charlemont did this so we can go out there and let them know we are serious about fighting crime.”
Students from Howell’s class were also pleased with the march and indicated that it will help them to better deal with his passing because it showed how much he was loved and respected.
“We feel like the message of ‘no more crime and violence’ was heard today,” Lowrie Reid, a student, said.