Down Liberty Avenue 6: Guns, Cars and Henny!


The police officer rang the doorbell. It was 3 o’clock in the morning. The lady that answered was puzzled. “Does Ravi live here?”’ the officer asked. The lady nodded and explained that she was Ravi’s mother. “I’m afraid there has been accident, ma’am,” the officer said. The lady became nervous. “There has to be some mistake because Ravi is in bed. It can’t involve Ravi. I saw him to his room.”

The officer asked the lady to see whether Ravi was at home. She rushed upstairs with a pounding heart to find Ravi’s bed empty. He had sneaked out of the house when everyone was asleep and joined his friends. As the news began to filter in the community five young persons had died in a smash-up on the highway and Ravi was among them.

The parents were devastated as they struggled to understand why some young people would go speeding in the night and without a care in the world. At the outset, it should be stated that many young people play by the rules. They get good grades, graduate from schools and colleges, get decent jobs, and move up in the society.

But there those that throw it all away by following the wrong crowd, cut school, join gangs, do drugs, drive under the influence of alcohol, disrespect women, are rude to their parents, and refuse to listen to anyone. They are ill-mannered and short-tempered and in a good many cases their parents are afraid of them. These young people are hard and mean and think that they know it all.

According to one parent, “You just can’t talk to the children these days; they are ready to curse you, they think that they know everything. But when trouble meet them they keep running to the parents for help. What are parents to do? They give the kids everything and are treated with no respect.”

There is no question that the ever-suffering parents and guardians have to face the glare of publicity, media attention, comments from the public and to bear the loss of their loved ones with stoic resignation. In the end, those that lose out the most are the loved ones. The parents and guardians must look at the empty rooms and stare at walls and imagine what might have been if he or she were alive.

Liberty Avenue is the strip of dreams. Its confluence flows into houses of worship, and to fast food joints with freshly baked bread to spicy doubles with everything. It is Liberty Avenue that has come to define the aspirations of the honest trader that looks out for his client, and to the hustler that makes all sorts of promises for the quick dollar.

It is Liberty Avenue that leads to airports and to other worlds. It is also Liberty Avenue that is the scene for the weekly drama that brings diverse crowds into the nightclubs and bars that open all night and into the next day. Liberty Avenue has seen its fair share of violence from the young; of people being beaten by baseball bats, guns blowing off body parts and knives ripping into flesh.

The actors are different; you can flip the script but the outcome is the same. No one takes the blame for anything. The violence is merely a response to someone else’s behavior. It is never about taking personal responsibility. If Liberty Avenue could spring to life it would belch with the weight of senseless violence. It would speak of hundreds of stories in which young people are led astray by drugs, alcohol and crazy all-night parties.

In this culture of denial nothing sticks; everyone shifts the blame to the other person. In the meantime the senseless killings continue. The first murder of 2017 was a block from Liberty Avenue. The loss of life is horrible in any circumstance but the incident on January 2, 2017 reached the depths of depravity.

Ricky arrived in New York from Guyana on a Wednesday to attend his grandmother’s funeral. On the Saturday night he was in a nightclub with his brother. Someone saw his gold chain, took a liking to it and words were exchanged. At 3:30 on Sunday morning Ricky and his brother were shot. Ricky didn’t make it. His mother said, “He come here for a funeral and he’s dead now.” He went to New York for his grandmother’s funeral and now his mother had to plan his own.

It is mostly in the early hours of the morning when the alcohol and the drugs have done their damage, and the security is nowhere to be found, that the craziness take over. The children you raised are not yours anymore as the ‘street’ and peer pressure do their damage.

One worried parent went to a nightclub in the early hours to get his son and could not recognize him. He said, “My son was with his friends in a group drinking shots openly as they kept egging him on; I asked him to leave but the friends surrounded him and prevented me from getting close. The place was loud and the young people were drunk. There was no security and most of his friends I had not seen before.”

Do these young people really care about the sacrifice their parents make to put food on the table? There is no doubt that a good many do but there are others that take life for granted. The answer is to stay close to your children, know who their friends are, take them to places of worship and instill in them the importance of good manners, daily. If not, the ‘Henny brigade’ waits to take over.

A young man was gunned down in a street off Liberty Avenue a few years ago. At the wake, there were Henny bottles lining the street. The victim’s friends drank and partied in the driveway as the priest read the holy book inside the house.

The victim’s mother whispered, “Look how they behaving outside. I brought my son here from Guyana for a better life and now our lives have changed forever.” In the years that have passed none of the Henny friends has reached out to the family to find out how they are coping.

This brings us the December 2017. One friend picked up another in Far Rockaway and headed to Liberty Avenue. The party was in full swing, words were exchanged, there was a ding on a car, and arguments for a parking space. There was a stabbing and in a blur a car ran over a group of revelers. It was 4:30 on a Sunday morning when most people were asleep. The blur became all too real: one friend had killed another.

The father arrived to view a crumpled body on Liberty Avenue. He was Ricardo Chattergoon. He came to America, from Guyana, eighteen months ago for a better life. Ricardo was buried in Guyana, the dream extinguished too early.

There was a brief pause; the neon flashed in dimensional colors and someone touched a button. He pumped up the volume and the party was again in full swing in Liberty Avenue.

REACHING OUT: NYPD Police Officer Khyume Khan and Dr. Dhanpaul Narine offer condolences to the family of Ricardo Chattergoon.


DR. DHANPAUL NARINE IS AN INDEPENDENT COLUMNIST. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.