| Leroy, at first glance, seems to live the life of an average 17-year old. He is dark, good-looking and smiles with a deep dimple planted in his left cheek. He has the look of any teenage girl’s dream guy. He has intelligence which complements his charm, and is very bright, which is evident in his 7 CxCs' (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC)) passes including English, Economics and History, all with credits. Leroy engages his leisure time with football and music, during which he listens to dancehall artiste Movado.
Quite ordinary don’t you think? I thought so too, but Leroy, with sadness lurking in his eyes that fateful afternoon in a library, revealed to me that he was a gang member and thus was leading a double life. During the day he attends a prominent high school where he is in sixth form pursuing four Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) subjects, and at night he is a typical “hustler” on the streets where he toils as he distributes drugs and picks up cash from his customers. He said he sells the “weed” for the “Don” in their community who he says is 38 years old. This “Don”, Leroy says, targets youth in the community within the fifteen to nineteen age group who have no father. He sends them on “missions” and even equips them with guns to exploit and extort people.
Leroy showed me how he pads his shoes with the “weed” as he transports it for sale at school. He actually packages the ganja in poly bags, cuts the soles in his shoes and then carefully insert the bags with the weed between the soles. This, he said, has to be done very skillfully in order not to create any wobble in his walking and elicit suspicions.
Leroy has his share of familial issues, which are what prompt him to continue his drug dealings. He lives in a small board cottage with his mother and younger sister. His mother is unemployed and has nervous system problems and is sometimes unable to source medication. He finds it even more difficult to single-handedly finance both his and his sister’s schooling.
“A me have fi gi mi madda a money more time fi buy her medication. Mi have fi lie to her and tell her a mi girlfren gi mi money cause she love mi. If mamma fine out she wuda get sicka and right mi no want stress her out,” he explains to me after I asked why he cannot just relinquish his sort of living.
Leroy also lamented the absence of his father, who he says is alive but contributes absolutely nothing to his well-being and is the main reason why he became involved in his nefarious indulgences. “If my father did deh yah me wouldn’t do dem tings yah trust me. Him woulda show me how to be a man and how to treat a woman. Nuff ginalship weh mi use bout woman and nuff tings mi know a pan di streets mi know them.”
He explains how his other friends who too are gang members and drugs dealers urge him consistently to leave school and become fully immersed in the business, but Leroy says he wants a solid education and a PhD in Economics, where he can offer his expertise in solving many of Jamaica’s economical dilemmas. Leroy’s ambitions also include becoming a teacher of Economics, relinquishing his nefarious indulges and becoming an exemplary figure to youth like himself who feel distraught and burdened. He wants to motivate them and be a father to his children- the father he wishes he had. He acknowledges that his doings are really bad but he says he has to continue for “survival,” because his mother cannot afford to properly provide for him.
Leroy also spoke of his numerous girlfriends who readily satisfy his sexual desires and who throw themselves at him because of his “bad bwoy,” “gangsta” image. However he spoke glowingly about the apple of his eyes who he says understands him and provides encouragement whenever his older brother, his biggest motivator isn’t around.
“A she mi rate,” he said with a loving smile which lit up his eyes momentarily. Leroy said he smokes and is even unable to study unless he does so. Smoking, he says, also helps him to release the tension and calms him down, when he sometimes cries and ponders on his situation. Even when I met him at the library he was in a gloomy mood and was deep in thought before requesting my company.
Leroy spoke also about his fear of dying but he says one has to be “tough out a road cuz it no easy at all.” With obvious sadness and remorse he said, “Mi neva do anything in a mi life because mi love it. A always fi stop a next problem. Trust me it hard fi me especially when me think about mi mother. Mi love har believe mi.” He then revealed to me the letter he wrote to her in case he dies. The letter reads:
I guess you are saying to yourself that I didn’t listen to the many warnings that you have given to me but what can I say? Life has been hard since the day you gave birth to me, mama, and I don’t blame you one bit for that because all the hardship that we went through just made me stronger. This letter was written with tears in my eyes, mom, and a special love in my heart for you. I want you to know that all the good things that you did for me are appreciated.
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I view writing as an artistic form of expression. Ti not only as as a medium for communication my own feelings but also a tremendous way of articulating the needs and sufferings of the voiceless, like Leroy in my Ghetto Story.
| Jul 23rd, 2008
its good artical
it open people eye about "bad boys" Elisabeth Cardoso Moniz
| Nov 26th, 2008
it is very dificult situation but i proud of you because you have responsability to your mother
hello shawna Ayo Morakinyo
| Mar 30th, 2009
life is beautiful....keep making it count
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