Tue | Nov 12, 2019

Cotton candy and sweet dreams of Rose Town rebirth

Published:Sunday | February 24, 2019 | 12:08 AM
Ian Allen/Photographer
Jevanti Harris, a resident of Rose Town in Kingston, who wants to see greater youth outreach in his community.
Ian Allen/Photographer Jevanti Harris, a resident of Rose Town in Kingston, who wants to see greater youth outreach in his community.

Jevanti Harris, born and raised in the gritty community of Rose Town, is concerned about the dwindling of the once-active outreach programmes that served as a buffer between young people and criminal gangs.

Harris, 21, said he grew up in the community with both parents, but despite securing nine subjects at Kingston College (KC), he’s now making a living selling cotton candy.

“After KC, me go (St) George’s to do sixth form, but me did drop out because me did stress out,” said the 21-year-old. “My grandmother died. And less than a year after that, my aunty died inna the same year when me a go sixth form, then me father get sentenced to 20 years in prison,” said Harris.

He said when his father got convicted of robbery, he had to step up to the plate and assist his mother by providing for the family.

“Them say him was like a getaway driver for several robberies, but to me, my father don’t get a fair trial, because we never have a strong lawyer from day one, and the whole family basically turn them back pon me and a did just me and me mother and you know me mother no so educated, so me just afi start hustle and try help me mother,” said Harris.

Even though Harris is selling cotton candy now, he said his dream is to become a musician. He has signed up to get training in Trench Town but won’t start until March.

“Me nah lie to you, me make a money, but it varies with the amount a work you put in. Anybody you see a sell cotton candy in the streets, a Rose Town it come from. About seven candy shops deh round here so. It’s a source o’ income for many youths weh no too do nothing,” said Harris.

But he is fearful of the consequences of diminished activism from once-vibrant foundations and other non-governmental groups will have for the low-income community.

“The foundation them basically cut off from the community and the society. The people them in there a just like no function nah keep. You nah see nobody a come, them nah call no community meeting again.

“... Everybody basically deh pon them own. Them normally give we directives to where we can go or them go on our behalf. It get weak,” he lamented.

Harris yearns for the return of community unity as well as an overhaul of social infrastructure in the decaying neighbourhood. But even amid the urban blight, the trying youngster said there are “whole heap o’ high-school and university students” who are a beacon of inspiration for Rose Town youths.

He recalls the influence of a youth camp last summer and wants that to be the model of greater community outreach.

ARTISTIC EXPRESSION

“Them get youths to use means of artistic expression to get them to have a more positive approach towards school and things like conflict resolution, and that was very successful through the foundation, but things like that don’t happen regularly,” said Harris.

The cotton candy vendor said he was recently involved in mentorship and training courses that imparted lessons on how to run an organisation. He and a group of youths from the area are also trying to jump-start the Information and Affairs Crisis Task Force, with youth development and career advice as its focus.

“Right now is a good time if we could get a chance fi represent weself. That would be good for us. You see, nuff a the youth them, is really disenfranchisement might a beat all ghetto youth, and them being shy,” reasoned the budding community activist.

“You might no know how fi approach people to get help, you don’t know who you can approach, so it’s really an information and affairs crisis a beat people, so we want to bring people in and help them to identify their own talents and basically guide them to a path.”

carlene.davis@gleanerjm.com