St Kitts and Nevis at this time is hosting the final matches for the 2014 Limacol Caribbean Premier league – cricket competition. Being far away from home like many I get my updates and news from Facebook. We all know that this is one place where nothing goes unnoticed and must be reported thanks to the many citizen journalists. Keeping within the boundaries of our unwanted Caribbean traditions, St Kitts and Nevis’ winning bid was met with controversies, mostly political.
Last night, while I was scrolling down my Facebook’s news feed a picture greeted me. Excitement flowed through my tablet’s screen. A sense of pride and joy took over my body. This picture was of a group of young men who were invited to be a part of the CPL’s parade. They were having fun, you could have seen their faces but their postures alone could have tell of their excitement. I know them, because they are from the same village where I am from and also where our current prime minister is from.
Over the years they have made public appearances as a group, especially around carnival time and sometimes they grace the stage of different festive activities around the island. They are known as ‘St Paul’s No shirt Crew’. They are an amateur dance troupe. They are a group of young men who love to have a good time. However, this simple troupe for some reason or reasons has had their share of controversy. Looking beyond the picture the caption that the photo carried was rather appalling.
St Kitts and Nevis Times which appeared on the media scene almost two years, could be less or more wrote: ‘Readers this image of shirtless men has been beamed all over the world. Some have declared that it portrays our country in a negative light as some have viewed the image of black shirtless men as being likened to a prison gang or slaves on a plantation. So what are your thoughts? Is this an appropriate or inappropriate image for our country and or the CPL? ‘
I couldn’t believe what the caption read. I felt attacked. I felt bad for the harmless guys who are just trying to have fun. I felt embrassed that someone could have seen these young men and in a split second term them as a ‘prison gang’ or even ‘slaves’. I felt even more embarassed for the ‘media outlet’ for publishing such petty statements, for which the public chastised it for.
As I said before I am also from the St Paul’s village and know the members. Some, yes have had their run ins with the law but have decided to not let that define who they are.
A picture really represents unspoken words, words that are sometimes in the thousands. When I saw the picture I did not see ‘prison gang’ or slaves or maybe I am blind or simply bias because we come from the same area. There were boys who are even fresh into their highschool years but now someone or some people have branded them as criminals. When I looked at the picture I saw an invitation to join the mas’, an invitation for unity which is lacking in our country as this moment, an invitation for cultural awareness and restoration, an invitation to join the fun, I saw a message to the general public stating that all is not lost.
We as Caribbean people should be looking out for and cheering on our young men. It is very sad that we are the same people who cry that these young men are straying and need help. The young men are listening and they are doing positive things while we still sit and criticise. I am still in shock as I find it unreal for anyone to sit and fathom the thought that a troupe of seemingly harmless, excited young men as a representation of a ‘prison gang’ or ‘slaves’.
I applaud these young men for doing something positive with their lives. I applaud them for going against the norms of society where young men are expected to be angry and take part in criminal activities. I applaud the No shirt crew for going out there to make themselves and the audience happy. I applaud them for having the foreingers asking for more excitement. I applaud them for easing the tension that lingered over Warner Park. I applaud them for answering the call to be featured at CPL.
I applaud them for being a ‘gang’ of No short revelers finding pleasure in our Caribbean music and carrying on our dance culture. I applaud them for showing the world that young men can come together to have fun without attacking each other. Most of all, I applaud them for representing our historical village of St Paul’s and of course St Kitts and Nevis.
The St Paul’s No Shirt crew is not a ‘prison gang’ or ‘slaves’ but a troupe of culture-minded exemplary men.
We must think twice before making such stereotypical statements about people. We must aim at uplifting our people. We must safeguard the youth.
What if they were girls, or from a different place even, I wonder if they would have been seen as the same ‘prison gang’ and ‘slaves’?