CJ Interviews

Dennis Rahiim Watson Talks Crime

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - July 1, 2011

Above: Dennis Rahiim Watson (Photo: Clyde Jones)

By Alexander Britell

Bermudian motivational speaker Dennis Rahiim Watson has made it his mission, inspired by his mentor, Bermudian pan-Africanist and ecologist Dr Roosevelt Brown (Pauulu Kamarakafego), to help tackle the global problem of crime by educating young people on a different direction. Watson, who says he was kicked out of high school 37 times, has been honored for his work in schools, churches and communities with five different White House citations, most recently from US President Barack Obama. Watson, who chairs the National Youth and Gang Violence Task Force in the US, was a featured speaker at last week’s Caribbean Tourism Week Awards Gala. His latest initiative is what he dubs “The Winners Program: Life Lessons from Big Mama,” a 150-point series of edifying advice gleaned from his mother, Eula Watson-Stewart, that he hopes to bring to the youth of the Caribbean. Watson talked to Caribbean Journal about his latest project, his work with Attorney General Eric Holder, and his plans for tackling Caribbean crime.

How often do you work in Bermuda?

I’m based in New York City, but I travel to the Caribbean on a regular basis, and I’ve been appearing and speaking in prisons in Bermuda since 1981, and in high schools [there] since 1979. I’m in Bermuda on a regular basis trying to provide leadership, along with getting an opportunity to speak at conferences and churches. But my primary work is in the United States of America, because this is where the major problems affecting the Caribbean can be traced. Every young person between the ages of 15 and 30 has access to cellphones, televisions, rap videos, ipods, they’ve got it all. Whereas in my generation, it was a transistor radio, a black telephone and a black and white television.

What is the mission of your organization?

Well, our mission is simply this — we tell every young person we connect with — and we’re talking about anywhere from 300 to 1,000 that come out to hear me speak at colleges, universities and churches — we say the bottom line is this — there is no excuse for success. No excuse, no nonsense. You’ve got to have a mission, you’ve got to have a purpose in life, you’ve got to have goals, initiative and persistence and confidence. I talk about the history of black folks back in the day, and our grandmothers’ and grandfathers’ generation, who had nothing — absolutely nothing — and they created some of the greatest institutions of higher learning on the planet. Howard University, Fisk University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, all of these universities were created in the 1800s, some in the 1900s. Black people have historically been able to make something out of nothing, and one of the greatest black men to ever live came out of Jamaica, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. You can’t go anywhere on the planet without somebody mentioning his name. If Marcus Garvey, without a fax machine, without a computer, can energize a whole planet, then this generation ought to be a mile ahead in terms of what they can accomplish.

Talk about your plan for the Caribbean.

Well, I was blessed to be the gala closing speaker for the Caribbean Tourism Organization two weeks ago. And I had an opportunity to meet with many of the prime ministers and tourism ministers that were there, and many of them came up to me and said, we need for you to come and visit the Caribbean this year and next year. We like your message — it reminds us of Barack Obama’s fire and Steve Harvey’s sense of humor. So what we’ve done is put together a 150-point program of qualities and attributes you need to be successful in this globally competitive world. It’s called “The Winners Program: Life Lessons from Big Mama”. Black mothers have given their sons and daughters over 150 life lessons, and I can remember 500 that I put down.

What is the solution to Caribbean crime?

There are three things that cause violence in the Caribbean. Number one is ignorance, number two are guns and drugs and three is unemployment. But even if you removed the guns, and got people working, we’d still be in the same boat, the same dilemma. Because the thing most social scientists have not looked at is the impact of profanity and threats. All of these words that come out of the mouth of the ordinary person today, back in my day it would lead to a fist fight. Today you can be dead within three seconds to a minute. We have to address that — it’s how we talk to each other. That’s why we’re coming to the Caribbean with a message that Marcus Garvey would have loved — because the Caribbean is a place that gives sunshine to the world. God has blessed the Caribbean people with the best part of the world, and we’re just giving up hope. I’m bringing hope, and I have a message of hope and leadership and success. I’m on my way back to the Caribbean this summer to speak at churches, schools and community centers, to go on radio stations and say, “This is the time to get up, wake up and live your best life.” It’s based on the life lessons I learned in Bermuda from my mother, my aunts and uncles and the formative black men who acted as father figures for me.

Watson can be reached at saving.ouryouth@yahoo.com.

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