THE stand-off between security forces and ‘Dudus’ supporters in Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston, last week overshadowed a significant move towards peace in two other troubled Kingston communities.
Passers-by stood in amazement as residents from Big Yard and Cassava Piece, two long-standing rivals at the centre of a bloody feud, faced off in a busy parking lot off Mannings Hill Road.
But instead of trading bullets and harsh words which has been the norm between these warring factions, men, women and children bridged the long-standing divide with firm handshakes, hugs and a friendly smile.
Throngs of residents from both communities walked slowly towards each other, meeting on the imaginable half-way mark in the busy Super Value parking lot to broker the peace deal organised by the Rev Al Miller-led National Transformation Programme (NTP) and the Peace Management Initiative (PMI).
A week prior, members of the NTP and the PMI toured the Cassava Piece community which is aligned to dancehall entertainer, Mavado and Big Yard which has connections to rival deejay, Vybz Kartel. At both communities, residents who had expressed a deep desire to see an end to the constant blood-letting, sealed the deal with hearty handshakes and hugs.
Jennifer, a resident of Big Yard, was emotional as she hugged the young man from Cassava Piece who had threatened her son resulting in him being sent from the area to board elsewhere.
Overwhelmed at what was unfolding before her eyes, Jennifer said she had been praying for this peace for the longest while as the violence between both communities had made it impossible for her to even venture to night services at the nearby church.
“I feel joyous and good,” she said with a big smile.
Not only was she forced to send away her fourth form son, but her six-year-old son and granddaughter had to take the longer route to get to school as they could not pass through Cassava Piece.
“Ah girl was carrying them through there one morning and someone shouted ‘why you bring them through here’,” she told the Observer.
An outward showing of this new peace commitment for both communities will be the staging of a Labour Day clean-up project followed by a peace dance scheduled for today.
They have also pledged to form a joint peace committee to ensure that dialogue continues before a situation escalates. In support, the PMI will establish an empowerment group for the women in both communities.
“You can’t do anything about the past but you can do something about the future,” Rev Miller told the peace meeting, stressing that without peace, prosperity and development could not come to their communities.
Following this persons were given the opportunity to air their grievances in bid to move forward.