Reformed Gang Leader turned Father of Four Speaks on Turning a New Leaf

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Updated: November 7, 2016

On Thursday, November 3, Deshawn Jiwe Morris arrived from the United States to serve as guest speaker for Friday night’s Youth Awards in Belize City.  His 16-minute presentation focused a lot on the needs of the young persons as well as his mind-set as a reformed member of a gang.

DESHAWN MORRIS

“I look at this whole situation, this issue with gangs, the inner cities as a team effort, there is no one person or one organization that is going to fix this problem but collectively that is the ultimate goal in any community. Back in the states we have a saying that says it takes a village to raise a child, I’m not sure if that is something here. It takes a village to raise a child and that is really where I commend Ms.Deborah, the most just being here these past couple of days and some of the places that she’s taken us and just hearing about the work that she’s doing that is a role in the team. It is so vital because no a days these youngsters they don’t feel like anyone cares and if they do care a lot of times there is compensation or benefits that a lot of people work off of those benefits and you have people out here that are doing things with their own time, and free will that is more of what the youth need. Again growing up a lot of us didn’t have both parents at home, a lot of us didn’t have any parents at home so we looked for surrogate parents and that is where that village comes in handy. Being here , looking at the issues that Belize faces versus where I’m from there are a lot of similarities, there are something that you guys are dealing with that are not issues where I’m from but there are lot of similarities and I’ve said that I’ve felt that pain, that’s universal. Things that I’ve gone through I’ve seen those exact same things as I’ve been here and there are a few things that I have not seen but I challenge the parents to involve yourselves with your parents. If you do not invest in your children the system will.”

Morris’ message was directed mostly at parents and the communities, in general where he spoke of the importance of providing security and protection of children as they are being raised.

DESHAWN MORRIS

“Dual message here with parents that I think there has to be a better attempt to engage, interact and bridge gaps with the young people. That is a big part of why there is no communication taking place from the young people that feel abandoned and neglected. They feel a void and a lot of times they’re filling those voids in the streets. The inner cities, the streets, the neighborhoods are a place for those that are feeling abandoned and neglect and this is where they come to to receive all of that via food, clothing, shelter, brotherhood and sisterhood, a place of self value and self esteem. These are the things that we should be getting and I say we,you, I, us as children we should be getting from the home and a lot of times these youngsters are not receiving that. Then you have a child who turns to the streets for these things, basic things that we need and require in life and we turn to the streets to get these things and it seems that the parents, and this is not to place blame on any parents,but the time that they do choose to intervene it’s already too late. They say the best way to stop a cold is to stop it from the beginning. When you first start to feel that sickness coming in that is when you intervene , then. The disconnect is so outrageous and so enormous that it becomes a war between youth and adult. We know that there is danger out there, we know that there are obstacles and hurdles out there, we know that there are a lot of unfortunate situations, we know that these things exist in the world so it’s our jobs as the parents, I’m a father of four it’s our job inside the household to prepare them and instill in them and help them with their self esteem, help them have self worth so that when they step outside of the house they have the tools needed to combat the issues in the world. That is the ultimate goal as a parent, to prepare you child so that when they go out into the world they can fight those evils, they can fight those pressures that these kids are dealing with it. For many of us that don’t have family, when we go out there we are exposed to everything that the streets have to offer and that is the biggest challenge that I have trying to engage parents with the young people.”

Morris who is a 35-year-old father of four from New Jersey highlighted the fact that there isn’t much difference between the struggles here in Belize and the United States.

DESHAWN MORRIS

“Back in the states there are so many parents who are so far removed from what is currently taking place in the streets so they are behind. It’s difficult to teach a child when you are outdated. I engage with the parents that calls for them getting more involved with what is taking place in more neighborhoods , social issues, economic issues, housing , things that are taking place so that you can know the challenges that these young people are facing out here. One of the biggest problems that we have when we talk about gangs, many youths join gangs for many different reasons, there is no one reason why we join gangs but what I can tell you though is one of the reasons we join gangs is for a sense of belonging. When you don’t have that especially as a child like myself, I did not have that that is the biggest challenge that I challenge all parents to ask themselves everyday when your child leaves the house have I provided all these needs for my child. It’s bigger than just providing food, clothes and shelter, it’s bigger than that. Nowadays these youngsters need camaraderie, they need brotherhood and sisterhood, a lot of us don’t even know how to articulate ourselves, we don’t possess basic life skills to actually survive out there in the real world. These are things that should come from home that we always say the home is your first teacher, your parents are your first teachers and your first form of protection and when that is not taking place inside the home naturally what will happen is that we will venture off to find it.”

Morris remains in the country making special visits to the Belize Central Prison among other locations. He was brought into the country with special efforts by the Department of Youth Services, The Love Foundation and United Airlines.