Posted on

JEFF BROOMES: Don’t shoot the messenger


JEFF BROOMES: Don’t shoot the messenger

Social Share

SOMETIMES AN INDIVIDUAL’S well-intentioned comments are misconstrued and twisted because of the absence of one word. Such, in my view, is the unfortunate result of a direct and sincere cry from the Reverend Lucille Baird.

I have known this religious leader for several years, and I have very fond feelings for her. She is somewhat unconventional, but I see that as a positive. Her late brother was my friend, and I was principal to two of her nieces. I know her well, and I genuinely respect her.

Recently, Baird called for the banning of all blocks, and this started an immediate furore among diverse groups of Bajans. This included me. I think the idea of banning all blocks is tantamount to presenting the rainbow with one colour. This is just simplistic.

Barbados for all my life has been defined by a block culture. Some persons have met to play dominoes and discuss an assortment of issues; some have met to scale fish under the street lights (I remember my times in Church Street Gardens). Some simply met to roast breadfruit and salt fish or pigtails.

Some blocks have also been the virtual club houses for the formation of cricket and football teams. Here, the youth developed natural affinities for one sport or cultural area or the other and bonding took place. Some blocks also provided informal study group associations.

These, to my mind, are not the blocks that had attracted Baird’s attention. We may see her as the target and throw unfortunate verbal stones at her. That is a significant mistake. She is not the shrinking violet type that stays in her little castle and speaks from on high.

I have seen this committed woman doing the footwork and the seeking to learn from interaction. She goes into the nooks and crannies to meet the sinner and the pretend non-sinner. She cares and she has seen it as her mission to see the other block. It exists!

We may pretend and harken back to the good old days in defence of our positions as we seek to criticise and even condemn her, but she (and I dare say most of us) knows that there is also an ugly, dark block culture where drugs and illegal activity prevail. Such salacious and nefarious behaviour is omnipresent there.

Unfortunately, Baird was quite general in her expression, but I am sure that she was very specific in her intent. Do we disagree with her? We may see the group having a wonderful time imbibing the drink of the day, but on closer inspection, we see the drugs being passed for sale.

The disturbing underbelly of this particular block culture is the fact that the youth are the conduits most exploited. They serve as lookouts, as runners, as sex providers, as recruits and as salesmen within their individual schools. This does not portend well for our country.

What is the role of a religious leader? Jesus disrupted all activity and chased the gamblers and others out of the church. Baird saw that as her example to follow. She did not actively disrupt but used the contemporary legal process to seek support for her concerns. I respect that!

Let us not slam the messenger, but let us rather use our vaunted education to analyse the message and give support where it is due. We say all that glitters is not gold. Conversely, all that challenges our experience is not wrong!  Stay strong, Reverend Lucille Baird.

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: [email protected]