By Neals Chitan
2008 was a year of crime in the Spice Island of Grenada. According to researcher Dave Alexander, drug control officer, in his 2012 research “An Analysis of Homicides in Grenada 2008-2012”, he recorded 19 homicides with 17 male victims and two females. As unbelievably high as this figure sounds, and although still remembered years after as the highest homicide rate we have ever seen in Grenada, this number would on the other hand have been considered quite a blessing if recorded as the lowest rate to some other Caribbean islands.
Neals J. Chitan is the Grenadian-born president of Motiv-8 For Change International -- a Toronto based High Impact Social Skill Agency that is specially dedicated to the social empowerment of individuals, families and communities
In March of that year, I was invited by Minister Emmalin Pierre, the then minister of youth empowerment, who by the way is now the current minister again, to come in and engage some of our high impact crime reduction sessions across the tri-island state.
Upon arrival to Grenada, I was handed quite a detailed and busy schedule that saw me engaging students, parents, staff and community youth in the high impact sessions of “Project STOP ‘n’ THINK” – our internationally recognized crime reduction and prevention campaign.
However, my heart skipped a beat with excitement when I was invited to engage my social rehab session with the inmates of Her Majesty Prison in Richmond Hill. This I saw as an opportunity to deliver a message of hope, inspiration, motivation and challenge to the men whose freedom was obstructed by their decisions.
As a social rehab contractor who at that time had worked within the Ontario judicial system for the previous eight years, I was accustomed to the somewhat callousness, tight security and unflinching surveillance of working behind bars in Canada. However, this time it was different, I was in the right place at the right time to make a dream come true. You see, frequently as I did my work in North America and saw the powerful impact it has on the individuals I worked with, I became quite troubled by the thought of how beneficial these sessions can be to the inmates in my homeland. And guess what? I was standing on the soil that gave me birth with that opportunity in hand.
So as I entered the facility, I was ready! I could not wait to have the gentlemen gathered in the large meeting room to inspire them with my heart gripping concepts, and what do you know? It went as I planned.
As is my usual practice, after the session I made myself available for the lineup of inmates who I realized wanted to speak with me. At the back of the line was a gentleman with a docile and pleasant personality. He waited patiently to introduce himself and to fill me in on the awful mistake he had made that landed him in jail and ended his own brother’s life. With tears in his voice he verbalized how sorry and repentant he was. He spoke of the power of my session on his mind and described what a difference it could have made for him if he had heard these concepts before.
However, he was prepared to pay his price for his action and to use his eight-year sentence as a time of reflection to take his life to another level. I encouraged him and wished him the best. As I left the prison that day, I thought to myself, “Wow, Nicholas Gilbert, I shall never forget that name and that face.”
2010 saw me back in Grenada, under a new government. As I landed I met and spoke to the new minister of my interest of adding another session at the prison to my busy schedule. It was negotiated and arranged and I was on my way up to Richmond Hill one more time.
This time my session was captioned “The Metamorphosis of a Man” where I likened prison time to a cocooning period which could be used for introspection, self inventory and planning, keys to phenomenal success. I looked for Nicholas Gilbert, and what do you know? He was sitting at the back with a pad and pen taking notes.
Again, after the session, he was first to come to meet me this time. He told me of his involvement with in-house educational activities within the prison. I saw a different man that day. He was resolved to be an agent of change despite his own mistake.
Mr Gilbert was truly experiencing his cocooning from a drab looking caterpillar into a beautiful Monarch butterfly, and he was looking forward to the time when he would no longer crawl, but would spread his newly formed wings and fly out of prison to make a change on the nation’s youth.
Of course, as usual, within two weeks I had mounted the iron bird and winged my way back to my home in “the true north strong and free” to continue my life’s mission of working with individuals seeking change. But deep in my thoughts were embedded the face, name and plans of Nicholas Gilbert, this young Grenadian man who despite his criminal act was determined to turn his life around.
Three years after, I was thrilled beyond words as I sat on my desk in Toronto and tuned into the Grenadian TV talk show Chit Chat with host, the young vivacious Lexan Fletcher and heard her announcing her guest “Recently released Nicholas Gilbert, a man with a plan.” I could not contain myself as I listened intently to every word of that interview as Mr Gilbert, a former soca artiste with the former stage name “Little Nikki”, articulated his metamorphosis from a sentenced criminal into a ‘Man on a Mission” with even a new stage name “Titanium NG,” to impact the decision-making process of as many of the nation’s youth as he could reach, through his performances, his talks and his example.
I therefore take this opportunity to wish Mr Gilbert the very best in his continued rehabilitation. As he said in his interview, he knows that as humans it will take time to gain the forgiveness of everyone, but he is prepared to work hard to earn it.
And so I ask! Is there hope for criminals? I answer it with a resounding, “Yes there is!”
Way to go Titanium NG.