Sunday, March 29, 2009

No future, no life..."Jamaican Observer"

Anthony 'Teddy' Davis attempts to sell a motorist flowers near Devon House in Kingston.

Big dreams, tough luck
If only we could learn a trade, say street men
BY PETRE WILLIAMS williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com
Sunday, March 29, 2009
This is the final in a three-part series looking at the phenomenon of men and boys on Jamaica's streets.
Noel 'Toughy' Mattis dreams of becoming an engineer or a mechanic. Anthony 'Teddy' Davis and Dave 'Soldier' Johnson would simply like to learn a trade - any trade, just as long as it will take them off Kingston's tough streets where each day they strive hard to make a living.
"Mi woulda love if dem (government) woulda put mi in a trade. Mi woulda love be all a engineer," says Toughy excitedly. "And mi nuh too old fi learn. If mi a all a mechanic, mi woulda seh, alright, a me that."
"Mi woulda like learn a trade and all go a school," adds Soldier.
It's 8:30 pm on March 25 and Teddy is intent on selling the nine flowers in his hands. Their sale will determine, at least in part, how much money he will be able to give his mother for his two children.
When he's not selling flowers, he joins the hundreds of other men and boys who wipe motor vehicle windscreens in exchange for a few dollars, if they are lucky, each day. And when he's not doing that, he helps "a youth" sell newspapers.
MATTIS. when rainy time, mi haffi sleep inna water
"Mi nuh have nuh trade, a jus' this," the 38-year-old tells the Sunday Observer last Wednesday night. "It rough still; man thief all mi things," says the man who has been on the streets for more than half of his life, his eyes scanning the cars passing by Devon House in Kingston from where he operates.
Teddy notes that he is on the streets because he never learned a trade. That, and the fact that he hit the streets long before he should have.
"Mi did deh pon the street and thing, neva de go a nuh school. So mi family send me go a reformatory school," he recalls.
He was 15 years old at the time he was sent to the school in Mandeville, where he also learned to read.
He soon reminds the Sunday Observer that he must get back to selling his flowers.

It's now 8:55 pm.
"Mi haffi sell off dem flowers yah," he says softly, hurrying off into the distance with a slight limp.The harsh conditions of the streets lead Toughy to anger at times.
"Nuff a dem (motorists) nuh want give yuh a coppa (coin) much less a dollar (paper money)," says the 29-year-old. "Sometimes mi feel like mi would all lick the glass, but it would mek things worse pon miself."
He grew up in Allman Town, he adds, and has a five-year-old child.
"Life wicked," he laments. "When rainy time, mi haffi sleep inna water. Mi eye cyaan close when mi deh pon the road."
But while things may be hard, Toughy says the streets have saved him from the only other alternative - the gun - which by now would likely have led to his death.
"If mi neva find dis, a dead mi woulda dead," he says. "All a mi friend dem dead," he tells the Sunday Observer minutes to 9:00 pm on March 26. "A leggo mi leggo dem thing deh. Mi prefer ask than kill people."
Toughy says he served about seven of a 10-year prison sentence after killing the man - a friend and fellow teen gunman - who had killed his mother to get his hands on her money. He was 15 at the time.
"Mi di haffi murder the bwoy cold-bloodied. Di people dem seh 'Jesus Christ, yuh charge fi murder!'" he says animatedly.
Asked whether he regretted committing the murder, he said 'no'.
"Him dead and gone, so mi figet 'bout him," he says.
"If mi mother neva dead, mi wouldn't deh yah suh," he says, noting that he has a sister and brother who live abroad.
He says he has come a far way since prison and has cautioned other youths against the use of the gun.
"Gwaan talk 'bout unno a shotta and bus unno gun and lose unno life," warns the man who says he has been shot at least five times. "One time gone mi use to love the gun thing, but now mi know seh the gun thing nuh work out. The gun thing a serious thing."
Life on the streets, he adds, is no play thing and youths need to be clear on what they are getting into. However, he is quick to add that it is better to clean windscreens than to get involved in crime.
Soldier, who says he about 33-years-old, has been on the streets as long as he can remember.
"From mi little bit mi deh pon di road," he says, adding that he has an older brother who also makes his living on the streets. "Mi mother always tell mi nuh fi follow mi big brother and (instead) go school. But a pure follow friend mi follow friend and scull (stay away from school)."
Now, he regrets not having taken his mother's advice, as he reflects on going through life without a home.
"Life on the road rough. People see yuh and call yuh "waste man". Them call yuh "dog". Dem call yuh "faggot"," he says, adding that such labels make him ashamed.
Faced with such realities, he says he often drinks and has, on a few occasions, tried drugs.
"Mi try it more than one time, but mi nuh follow it. It just costable (costly)," he says. "When a man want it fi smoke and him cyaan get it, him sell all himself."
Click here to read part one - Needed: A place to call home
Click here to read part two - Eye on the prize

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