The front page of my morning newspaper on Jan. 9 printed the words of Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Jamie Campbell...spoken as he sent Carvel Antonio Clayton to prison for the Nov. 12, 2016 killing of Shakur Jefferies.
Jefferies was 21 years old at the time of his death. Clayton is now 23 years of age; which means he would have been about 20 at the time of his crime. One life is gone and another appears to be heading down a very dark road.
At the time of sentencing the judge asked the question, “Why are there guns in this community?” There have been many gun related deaths in the HRM over the past years. Most of the deaths have been young men, and there have even been a few young women who have died. While guns are a very real problem, there are also reports of deaths from stabbings. While many of those killed and those who committed the crimes are people of colour, there are also whites involved in the taking of life, and lives lost.
Newspaper reports usually indicate males involved in these senseless acts. However, a front page newspaper account just one day later, on Jan. 10, told of the Jan. 4 brutal beating of a 17-year-old girl at different locations throughout Yarmouth. Three 19-year-old girls, a 64-year-old, and a 17-year-old girl were arrested; and three have been charged in the attack.
A friend of the victim indicated the beating was so severe that she did not recognize the girl. This same friend indicated the victim knew two of the people who attacked her...and that she had actually been very close to one of her attackers. The young girl who was beaten has physically survived the attack. However, there will undoubtedly be much psychological healing to be done.
While not always mentioned in news reports, there is a good chance that gang activity...often drug or turf related...would have something to do with young men killing and being killed in the HRM.
We don't hear much about gangs in Yarmouth. However, the fact that a group of girls beat another in an obviously planned attack seems to indicate gang mentality.
It would appear that a gang might have a leader and a bunch of followers. Within any group of individuals who are willing to break the law, there is the possibility that someone with an anti-social personality disorder is giving the orders. Those who are led into becoming followers can die or do prison time.
It seems that the young people following the “criminal” road are not putting much thought into the path they are taking. Life is not a practice run. Once you are shot and left to die, at age 18, or 20, or 24...you are gone. You will not have that extra 60 or 70 years to experience all of life's wonder. Seeing children grow up, building a career, experiencing the joy of grandchildren will not happen.
If you are the one doing the shooting you will also be the one who has to figure out how to survive prison life...and years will be wasted. There is no chance to explore the world while sitting in a concrete cell. Books and TV are a poor second to life-experiences. If you haven't opened heart and mind to exploring healthier options you may well find yourself back in that same place...doing more time.
Justice Campbell called on the community to ask the hard questions. “Why do young men have to keep dying?” I would add, “Why do young women think it is okay to savagely beat another girl?” It seems obvious the perpetrators of crimes are not thinking. It may be time for the community to rise up and make enough noise to get the attention of those who are considering going down the wrong path. The level of noise can be tamped down a bit if those young people can be brought into programs which offer healthy alternative life choices.
Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.