Commentary Jamaica Magazine

"Behind the zinc fences."

You who are all looking from the outside do so with perceived perpetual fears and shaking heads of despair, but have you ever ventured in? Have you ever reasoned with those behind the zinc fences, for if you have you would know there is nothing to dread my friend? Your ignorance would be absorbed with the knowledge that behind those fences are people with aspirations, people with hopes, and people with dreams and with aptitudes which are no different from yours or others on the outside. And so you would not be so quick to judge nor to endorse and promote the stigma of stereotypes the media, society and the government portrays on those behind the zinc fences.

Therein you will find great sculptors, artists, craftsmen, singers, poets, motivators, educators, philosophers, loving parents, deeply religious people, obedient children, stable relationships, caring souls and law abiding citizens. But all you outsiders see, are shacks, half clothed fatherless children unsupervised and unschooled, embedded in the thoughts that such a place is only the cradle of criminality, where tomorrow’s gangster, today’s gunman, nihilists, peculators, murders and rapist seemingly are incubated.

The mentality of the people behind the zinc fences are not to get rich by illegal means or die trying.

People are not born with those traits. They are generated from the circumstances of society’s neglectfulness; deprivation and un-available accesses; that is what ultimately drives a man to whom he might become.

The hardships the people behind the zinc fences endured are far beyond their years but in the hope of a better tomorrow their sufferings eases and find relief in their constant bid to overcome. It is in that mindset that they are comforted though not content and from those endless efforts the prized dreams of few has been realized. (Bob Marley and Portia Simpson- Miller readily come to mind.) Many lives there can offer much more, but many who have the skills have no tools and likewise those with the tools have no real opportunity to market their craft, talents or produce.

In order to win the war against poverty one must rage the battle against illiteracy and unemployment. If education is the key then why is it so expensive, unreachable and unattainable? Despite the colossus waves of indigence and the strong currents of police and military brutality some are able to make it ashore.

Day after day from behind the zinc fences scores of people travel along the roads, on foot, in long and endless searches in “your” communities for jobs. Determination tells the story of these people, forever their own odyssey. This is the starting point of their self worth, their own struggles for survival and ultimately for their own respect and dignities. Have you ever assisted?

Along your journeys you see some with the tools of their trade, here, there, everywhere, daily toiling; farming whatever little plot of land they posses, albeit captured. They chop bushes, burning coal, making brooms, baskets, mats, weaving tams, laundering you people’s clothes, cutting your lawns, crocheting things, collecting bottles, plastics, scraps of metals and just about anything that can convert into monetary value. Is this not a desire to better one’s self from limited resources? Ask yourself how much further those persons may have gone had they your privileges.

Between the cracks on the pavement of poverty a rose often blooms. There are many seeds un-germinated; they are lacking the photosynthesis of sponsorships, assistance and financing. You must empower them by nurturing investments in their skills and not only with the necessities of life, so day by day they can become strong with powerful “weapons” of advancement and accomplishments.

Be it Shanty Town or Bobo Hill, Trench Town or Sufferers Heights, Mc Vicker’s lane or Homestead no one is in complacency, everyone wants to move forward, none will stop at the first sign of obstacle or gain. The people need help but you all have deserted them prolonging the stressfulness to their existence, not realizing that there is an oasis of brilliant minds within and from it you can trap a vast amount of potentials.

About the author

Kharl Daley