The birth of 'Gaza'

JASON McKAY

Sunday, August 25, 2019

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Many young people were shrieking and shouting 'Gaza' or 'Gully' about 10 years ago, as two entertainers were involved in a feud. I am not planning to discuss the feud, as I am not going to help to bring credibility to some brainless publicity stunt.

What I am planning to discuss is 'Gaza', as I believe those young people shouting the name, who are now themselves parents and approaching their 30s, should have some concept of the utter negativity they were helping to promote. I also hope to encourage some thought of the importance of taking responsibility for what comes out of their mouth.

This is important because if they will shout 'Gaza' blindly, then they will shout support for the Ku Klux Klan, the apartheid party, and the Aryan brotherhood because they have no concept of what they are endorsing.

Waterford is one of the few formally constructed housing schemes in Portmore that has mirrored the cycle of murder of the non-formal ones. This is because its creation was different. It was a virtual gift to supporters of the ruling party in the 1970s.

Many residents can trace their roots back to Rose Town in Kingston, where People's National Party (PNP) supporters were dislodged in the early 70s and had to flee for their lives.

This type of housing distribution only improves the infrastructural standard of living when manipulated like this, and does nothing to change culture or discourage gang creation. I ponder the motive. Hmmm!

Now for the gang history. The scheme always had corner gangs, but it was a deported drug dealer who brought size, structure and organisation to what would be Waterford's largest gang, aptly called 'Lynch Mob'. That deportee is now dead. And yes, this gang contributed to murders prior to 'Gaza'.

This gang encompassed a large territory in mid to lower Waterford and many people who later called themselves 'Gaza' were members of this gang, despite living at the top of the scheme adjoining the Gregory Park informal settlement.

This changed one night when a disc jockey was playing music in the 'Lynch Mob' territory, but was not playing music of artistes affiliated with the gang. One thing led to another and what normally happens when idiots are armed, occurred, and a gangster was shot in the conflict. The gangster was affiliated to top Waterford, later known as 'Gaza'.

The gunmen affiliated to that scheme responded and killed the disc jockey's mother. From there, 'Gaza' was born. And dozens would die because of that birth.

This was not a gun battle between warriors. This was not Omaha beach or Iwo Jima. This was just a bunch of young, lazy cowards killing a middle-aged woman.

That is what people were hollering in support of at Sting that year. When you said 'Gaza mi seh', you were endorsing cowards, criminals and women killers. Men who run from police, like scared school girls, when challenged, but ambush unarmed civilians. Not warriors, not rebels, just losers with no useful purpose to our society. Just the worst example of humanity our country has to offer.

Euphoria is often the fall guy when people are criticised about the words they shout in unison. This was done by what appeared to be decent folk in Germany shouting “Heil Hitler”. I do not excuse Germans for it and I do not think it is excusable when it is done at home. If you support killers of women, then you will support killers of children. Any killing is wrong. But the helpless make the most tragic victims.

Killing existed in Waterford before that night at that party and has continued since the fall of the 'Gaza' gang. But in the years before its fall the murder rate tripled and remained there for years until the leader and some of his followers were convicted. The community has returned to the murder levels of the era before the 'Gaza' gang. Still high, still unacceptable, but fewer are dying.

This is a perfect example of what can occur when large volumes of money end up in the hands of the wrong people, especially in a community where resources are scarce. It can become either useful or destructive. In this case it was the latter, mainly to the youth.

What of parenting?

Well, parents simply cannot compete with someone who is putting their son in US$100 track shoes and music videos and empowering him with a shiny gun. He is now important and even feared. Their lunch money is of no consequence.

That is the reality of poverty and deprivation in the inner city.

I recall telling a parent when his son was being freed from remand that if he remained in the community being a known 'Gaza' member, that he would likely be killed by his opponents or become wanted for a murder. The father promised me he would send him to the country, but I knew his efforts would be futile. His son would never stay there. In his mind he would 'miss all the fun'.

To be frank, the lad seemed to be a personable young man — as many do. But the attraction of gangs is very real in communities like Waterford, and as predicted, he was shot dead in a few weeks.

I recall the look in his father's eyes when I saw him a few hours after the death and it impacted me in ways I cannot express. But I can express how I felt angry, helpless, and discouraged that night when I saw a man on my television who should have known better say the words “Gaza mi seh”.

Jason McKay is a criminologist. Feedback: jasonamckay@gmail.com


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