Rap, poetry, drama and debate will be used to appeal to school children and their parents in an ambitious community campaign against drug abuse and crime in Port Elizabeth’s troubled Helenvale area.
At a meeting this week Pastor Jerome Liberty of Victory Ministries International (VMI) briefed local school prinicipals, community leaders and police officers about the proposed campaign which will start with a youth day event on June 16, be followed-up with school vists, and culminate with a high-profile and “highly professional” drama production.
In February VMI sponsored a successful talent contest and school visits campaign aimed at instilling a sense of worth and hope in the community. A rap song, “Genoeg Is Genoeg”, written by Northern Areas teenager Jean-Mikyle Roos and performed by him during the February campaign, captured the local sentiment that the community had had enough of living in fear of gangsters and wanted a better future. Three thousand five hundred local people, including gangsters, watched the performances on a stage erected in a Helenvale park.
After the February campaign, violent crime in the area declined to zero and stayed at that level until a recent outbreak of gang-related shootings, said Liberty. “We need a sustained community upliftment campaign to keep crime down. There is no reason why we should not have faith that the crime level can be kept at zero.”
Liberty said the June 16 campaign theme would be the dangers of drugs. Roos would perform a new rap song entitled “Drugs Is Gevaarlik” and Helenvale primary school learner Shanice Damons, who was a co-winner in the February talent contest, would recite a new poem. The event was expected to be staged on a school field in Helenvale. Thereafter Roos and Damons would perform at primary schools and high schools in the Helenvale, Gelvandale and Schauder areas in a follow-up drug awareness campaign. Police and VMI reperesentatives would participate in the school visit campaign. Massive outdoor billboards featuring Roos and Damons have been erected in front of VMI churches in the city to promote the school vists campaign.
Describing the proposed high-profile drama campaign, Liberty said stars of the 7de Laan TV series would audition local schoolchildren for roles in the show in order to create excitement around the project. Professional scriptwriters were being contracted to write the script. The writers would spend time in the local community in order to capture the local lingo. There would be hard-hitting scenes reflecting the community’s role in condoning sexual abuse of children and gangsterism. A real long-term prisoner, in his prison clothes, leg irons and handcuffs would sing a moving Christian song in the show and would appeal to children not to follow his example. Children, depicting candidates for the “Peopols Party”, would also debate relevant issues and there would be an “election” to determine the winner . The show would probably be staged in the Gelvandale Community Hall which would be so lavishly decorated that it would be unrecognisable. The goal was for all scholars and there parents to see the show. All income from the shows would be ploughed into local schools. The overall message would be to say “No” to crime. Dates for the show still had to be finalised.
Calling on school principals to participate in the initiative, SA Police Services Commander for the Mount Road Cluster, General Dawie Rabie, said that the Government was implementing long-term plans to address community upliftment but that it was urgent that the community itself started to take positive short-term steps now.