Excuse Me Driver protecting the youth

Observer writer

Friday, February 08, 2019

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If Ramona Samuels, creative director of The Voicebox, has her way, the ears of Jamaica's travelling minors will be free of the vulgar music being fed to them via the sound systems on public transportation. She intends to achieve this via her Excuse Me Driver initiative.

“It was formed out of inspiration from the innocence of Jamaica's youth and the daily emotional abuse they face taking public transport. For example, mini buses and robot route taxis,” Samuels told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.

Created in August 2018 out of Samuels's frustration with what she terms “the dirty, nasty dancehall music” being played on vehicles in the public transportation sector. She sees the music as a form of psychological abuse being meted out to Jamaican youth which can affect their self-esteem, among other ill mental effects.

Samuels is quick to point out that she's not against Jamaican music and dancehall, but feels it should not be forced on the impressionable youth.

“Persons love that we formed the initiative. They have shared their experiences travelling and being exposed to the lewd music and the verbal abuse from bus and taxi drivers when they speak up,” she said.

Other experiences highlighted include, drivers using the music from these 'party buses' to lure impressionable young girls into compromising situations.

“We've reached out to the Ministry of Transport, the Transport Authority and the police to assist us,” she explained.

Over the several months of its existence Excuse Me Driver has gathered steam garnering such high-profile artistes as Anthony B, joining the initiative to create a core group including artistes Queson Brown, Travellaa and Godson.

In October 2013, the the Jamaica Constabulary Force began a campaign clamping down on public-passenger vehicles with loud music systems and heavy tints, seizing more than 20 vehicles in the Corporate Area and rural Jamaica.

However, since then the campaign to remove sound systems from buses seemed to have fizzled.

If Excuse Me Driver is to have its way, passengers on public transportation, especially minors, will see the lewd songs replaced by clean, uplifting music. In cases where such music is being played, it can be brought to the attention of the person playing the music and be corrected. To help its cause the group has taken to the airwaves and social media to spread the word.

“Right now it's online, TV, print and radio interviews,” said Samuels.

The plan for 2019 is to visit schools and communities in all 14 parishes. Samuels hopes to push the conversation further.

“Excuse Me Driver is now an umbrella initiative to help in giving parents and all caregivers of minors tips on how to monitor their children's smartphone and tablets. The word driver is a broad term, meaning 'one in control'. That is all adults are in control and are hence responsible for all children. We want to bring back community parenting to Jamaica and respect our nation's youth,” Samuels added.

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