the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,

  Authors & Artists


Faces & Voices 4
Faces & Voices 5

My Experience
Davis Kwame
Trinidad & Tobago - Insurance

        Crime is everywhere. Everyone either has experienced it or knows someone dear who has felt its horrifying effects. Despite crime’s global presence, some areas are more prone to its intrusion than others. I am a Trinidadian and a freshman at Howard University. Before coming to Howard, I heard many horror stories about violence and crime in America especially in the black neighbourhoods. Crime is not as prevalent in Trinidad as it is here in Washington D.C. and by living in DC, I have felt its tremors. This is my experience.
        I live in Carver Hall, which is an off-campus dormitory in what many call a rough neighbourhood. To the uninformed outsider, the neighbourhood appears innocent enough. Yet, during my short stay, numerous incidents testify to the exact opposite. In the beginning, we, the dorm residents, received stern warnings about the area surrounding Carver. At first, these warnings seemed to be exaggerated. Then, incident after incident occurred. I was overwhelmed by robbery stories from some of my fellow dorm residents. These stories, vivid and gripping as they were, were not very convincing and did not register in my mind as support for dorm management’s concerns. It wasn’t until the time when I arrived at the dorm and met one of my female friends who was leaving with two other girls. After we had chatted for a brief moment, I went to bed while they left only to be held up at gunpoint and ordered to lie on the ground while being robbed. The most terrifying aspect of this whole fiasco was that it happened in the playground, which I passed merely five minutes earlier. I can’t help but wonder what would I have happened if I were in that situation?
        Many nights when coming from the library or the Information Laboratory (I-lab), I am reminded of the fact that I reside in a violent neighbourhood. One night I saw some of the most devious characters I ever laid my eyes on. These men looked dangerous and very vicious. They embodied all the attributes of the most feared street criminals. On several occasions, I have seen police patrol cars searching for the ones responsible for some offense. My curiousity, however, is extinguished by the fear of impending danger. I remember distinctly witnessing two fellows, one of whom was much younger than I, hotwiring a car. This was near the same playground mentioned in the previous paragraph. To ensure my safety, I have adopted the motto: “See no evil, do no evil and speak no evil.”
        My experience with violence at Howard University is not restricted to the immediate vicinity of my dorm. Howard University is situated in the heart of Washington DC. Washington has an established notoriety for hard-core violence and crime, which is why it was once dubbed the murder capital. I was very elated when Georgia Avenue Day came by. The event promised to have a lot of fun activities for everyone. It had not been hosted in over two years and I was about to find out why. Three of my friends and I were venturing off the main campus onto the Avenue to partake in the activities when I observed some men sprinting up the street. My first thought was that it was a small scuffle. Suddenly, people poured onto the campus in droves causing one massive stampede. I saw a lady clutch her baby tightly to her chest as she ran to safety. It was utter chaos. I had no clue what caused such a spectacle and opted not to stick around to find out. It was a shoot out between two rival gangs. Helicopters circled the area in an attempt to capture those responsible. I should have known that it was inevitable for too many people to be gathered in one place without an outbreak of violence.
        Howard University’s Homecoming is carded as one of the biggest events on the campus’ calendar. It comprises the yard fest, the parties, the football game and the all-round festivity. Homecoming turned out to be quite disastrous. Along with the merriment came the shooting outside the Howard University Towers for which the cause is uncertain. Then, there was the groping and harassment of civilians on Georgia Avenue by the notorious biker crews. Many of the local hooligans seized the opportunity to revel in their perverted fashion. Homecoming showed the difficulty involved with hosting massive events like these. These negative episodes served to damper the entire Howard University Homecoming experience.
        Crime is nothing alien. What is alien, however, is the intensity and frequency with which these criminal acts are executed. No one should live in fear; yet, I ponder about when my hour of tribulation may come. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. It seems to be a matter of fate, of destiny. A phenomenon controlled by the forces that be. Or is it?

© 2002 Howard University
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse, Prose & Art, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2002. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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