Wonderful and moving essay by Glenda Simms of Jamaica. We truly need to be the "keepers" of abused children everywhere, not just in Jamaica. I have also posted the May 5 article she refers to below. The murdered little boy's mother died two years ago, and his custodial UNNAMED DAD is "in custody"--but not yet arrested--for the crime.
Revisiting the village
Published: Sunday May 16, 2010
Glenda Simms, Contributor
The proverb, 'It takes a village to raise a child', is rooted in the worldview of many cultural groups on the African continent. The Igbo and Yoruba peoples of Nigeria are reputed to have translated this belief in their communal approach to child rearing. In 1996, Hilary Clinton used this proverb to be the title of her book on the communal responsibility in the important pursuit of raising our children.
Those of us who are over 50 and who were raised in the rural villages of Jamaica can remember the scrutiny of all the neighbours as we traversed the paths and roadways to school, church or the neighbourhood shop. Everyone had the right and the responsibility to reprimand us and to report our bad behaviours to our parents, especially our mothers.
No self-respecting woman of my mother's generation wanted to hear bad news about their offspring. As children, we watched our 'Ps and Qs' and we learnt to respect the adults, and heeded their warning, "Behave yuhself!"
While the changes in the social, economic and cultural patterns of our island nation have affected the ways in which we see ourselves and our communities, we cannot afford to give up on all the values and attitudes that made us a fairly decent society.
The most stark and gut-wrenching event that signified the death of the village was reported in Arthur Hall's news story, which was carried in the May 5 edition of The Gleaner. Titled 'A short, sad life', Hall detailed the gruesome end of a bright-eyed, innocent and horribly abused five-year-old boy named Evan Sebastian Spencer.
This tragedy took place in the community of Frankfield in the parish of Clarendon.
It was only after little Evan was butchered that the good folk who knew about his precarious situation found the energy to realise that they could have done something to prevent his demise.
According to Hall, these "church-going" neighbours of the ill-fated child knew about 'the squalor' in which he lived with his father. They were able to show The Gleaner the "dark and mouldy cellar in a partially abandoned building no more than seven feet by seven feet".
Dd nothing to save
It was unsettling to read the remarks of the many Jamaican citizens who knew about the continuous abuse of the little boy. They had the energy to detail the atrocities of which they were aware, but they did nothing to save a baby from his unnatural and inhumane situation.
It is instructive to note how much these informants knew. They provided Hall with the most unbelievable details of human cruelty to a child, but they did not have the intestinal fortitude to phone the office of the Child Development Agency, the Children's Registry, or 119 (the police line).
It is not enough to use fear as an excuse in these situations. While it would be naive to think that the population in general, and women in particular, are not now afraid of their shadows, we cannot allow such fear to paralyse us or to rob us of the ability to report the evils that we are aware of. After all, we are not expected to identify ourselves when we report a crime.
The reality of our complicity in our silence around the atrocities to which the most vulnerable in the society are exposed must be understood against our predisposition to whisper and gossip and generally, spread bad news to our friends and acquaintances.
I can well imagine some of the holier-than-thou citizens of the community in which Evan lived making the following remarks:
"Bwoy! You want to see di dutty place that the man and him pickney live in!"
"A long time mi no si di little bwoy. A wonder if him dead fi hungry by now?"
I wonder how many of these 'concerned citizens' offered this child a meal, especially at the times when the daddy was not around.
How many of them have ever tried in any meaningful way to reach out to a desperate family in the most desperate of situations?
If our ancestors were right, we should not forget that it takes "the village to raise a child" and each one of us has a responsibility to maintain the values, social integrity and the ideology of a healthy village environment.
In a real sense, the village is more than a geographical space, it is a way of life which puts more emphasis on communal response rather than on crass individualism. 'Every man and woman for himself or herself' seems to be the order of the day. But the time has come for us to stand back and find new ways of rebuilding the village.
We need to truly be our brother's and sister's keepers. We need to begin to care for each other in different ways.
Jamaica certainly needs a new awareness of the need to rebuild communities, not with bricks and mortar, but with love and compassion for everyone, especially the helpless children among us.
Dr Glenda Simms is a consultant on gender issues. Feedback may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A short, sad life
Published: Wednesday May 5, 2010
Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter
Finding a five-year-old boy with his throat slashed would leave any community in Jamaica shocked, despite the numbness caused by the rampaging crime monster which has left more than 560 people dead across the island since the start of the year.
But for the people of Frankfield, Clarendon, the killing of Evan Sebastian Spencer is even more painful as they wrestle with the feeling that they could have done something to help him.
The residents yesterday painted a picture of squalor endured by Evan in the relatively short time he was alive.
They showed The Gleaner a dark and mouldy cellar in a partially abandoned building no more than seven feet by seven feet where Evan and his father lived.
The smelly, small area had no light, no running water and no way for fresh air to enter the room. It contained a sponge for a bed, a chest of drawers and precious little else by way of furniture.
"Sometimes him ... lock up in deh for days and the only thing you see was him little eyes peeking out from the crack at the bottom of the door ... " one resident told The Gleaner.
Driven to act
While other residents worried about Evan and quietly wondered how he was doing, Joan Mitchell's fears drove her to act.
"Last week Wednesday me sit at me stall and me say to me friend, 'A long time me no see the baby ... '," Mitchell said.
She said she called a district constable (DC) who was based at the nearby Frankfield Police Station and told him her concerns.
"The DC tell me say him get transfer to Spaldings but him send some other police ... .
"To be truthful, me did see the baby Thursday but that is the last day me would see him alive," Mitchell said as she almost burst into tears.
Other neighbours related similar stories of concern for the young boy.
Evan's mother died two years ago.
"Last month, for about two weeks ... the boy lock up inna the cellar," another clearly angry woman added.
Evan attended Frankfield Primary and Infant School where he was a pupil in the infant one class.
"Last month he was missing from school for a long time but, before that, he attended regularly," Heather Carr, a teacher, said as she pored over the register.
"He was such a loving child. When I passed him on the road in the mornings with his father catching water, he would say, 'Morning, Teacher' and not stopping until I heard," Carr added.
It was a similar story from a caregiver at the school who asked not to be named.
"Evan was quiet and well-mannered and, because he had a speech problem, most times he did not speak," the caregiver said.
Young Evan's body was found in the house he shared with his father in the heart of Frankfield about 2:30 Sunday morning.
Investigators have taken the father and another man into custody but, up to late yesterday, neither had been charged.