The Youth View Awards brouhaha

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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Irish dramatist Bernard Shaw’s quote that "Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children" — often rendered as "youth is wasted on the young" — is a sentiment that is more popular than we would like to think.


The greater truth may be that youth largely reflect the community and environment in which they are nurtured, and express that though frequently in extreme.


Last week’s presentation of the Youth View Awards (YVAs) has been generating much discussion about the values being promoted by the event, based mostly on the fact that convicted murderer Adidja Azim Palmer, better known as dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel, grabbed five awards from his eight nominations.


Vybz Kartel won the categories dancehall artiste of the year, male local artiste of the year, local chart-topping song of the year (Fever), hottest summer song (Fever), and best musical collaboration (Loodi featuring Shenseea). He has also done well in previous YVAs.


The argument against Kartel is that no one in prison for crimes against the society should enjoy the privileges and benefits offered by that society, including the right to be producing music commercially behind walls. That argument was also used against the artiste Siccature Alcock called "Jah Cure".


The organisers of the YVAs argue that the nominations are fan-based and the final winners reflect the choice of the youth who participate. They further contend that Kartel’s songs from prison are being played on most radio stations and his videos on television. The youth can hardly be blamed for selecting songs they are hearing and enjoying every day. The Broadcasting Commission, they say, should answer for that.


We find it difficult to argue with that view from the organisers. The problem is much bigger than the YVAs and is something that the society, as a whole, needs to tackle as such.


Social activists have always believed that rehabilitation should go hand in hand with incarceration to assist in returning prison inmates productively to society and thereby reduce the incidence of repeat offenders. Over the years, many projects have been started in the prisons, including furniture-making, agricultural production, educational programmes, and the like.


One of the more well-known success stories out of the rehabilitation thrust of the 1970s, under then Justice Minister and Attorney General, the late Carl Rattray, is the dub poet Oko Onuora, born Orlando Wong, who was once allowed out of prison to perform his poems at the Tom Redcam Library, now the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Library.


The question that we should wrestle with, in respect of the YVAs, is whether rehabilitation should go as far as allowing an artiste to conduct commercial business from prison. And, if that is to be allowed, who should be the beneficiaries, and what should the returns be used for?


To the correctional services we suggest the returns be used to establish a more comprehensive rehabilitation programme across the penal system.


Killing up ourselves over what decisions young people are making will not resolve the problem. In our democracy, young people are entitled to their opinions, whether we think they are valid or not.


After all, only the young can enjoy youth.

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