From the heart of the Bucknor community, the echoes of a turbulent past linger. Once notorious for violence and discrimination, the streets that were shrouded in fear are now the stage for a remarkable transformation. Residents’ voices carry stories of resilience, testaments of a collective struggle to break free from a cycle of despair and a determination to reclaim their community.
“This community was pure bush. Only two of us lived here, now houses being are being built and people looking for land to buy,” shares resident of Bucknor for over 40 years, Lynford Thomas. “The violence in the community slow down because who was supporting the violence dead and gone. It needs the residents around to live well with one another, away from that I don’t see anything wrong with the community.”
The lasting impact of violence, however, remains embedded in the community’s fabric. The collective psyche is a tapestry interwoven with the threads of trauma, resilience, and a longing for peace. These invisible wounds, often overlooked, have left residents grappling with a prevailing fear.
“Even twelve o’clock a day you afraid to come out”, said Thomas, “I remember police come when them (criminals) shoot a man right there so (pointing at the spot in front of his home) by the willow tree”.
Despite these challenges, the Bucknor community stands as a testament to the human spirit’s tenacity. Years of violence and discrimination couldn’t extinguish the spark of hope that’s driving the residents to address the root causes of violence. Their struggles are not just about survival but about redefining their community narrative.
“I think we are moving away from so many of these things (violence). I know that we have a stigma that Bucknor is a ‘bad community’, but we are not as bad as how it is portrayed,” explains Maxcell Beckford-Dunn, otherwise known as ‘Miss Katy.’ She added that the community’s name tended to be called in association with violence whether they were involved or not.
“It is always Bucknor, because of our name whether bad things are happening or not, it is still Bucknor. Even though our infrastructure has improved so much and things are looking different persons on the outside still say Bucknor,” she said.
For residents like Miss Katy and Mr. Thomas, this is a story of Bucknor reclaiming its civic space, shaking off the shackles of a troubled past, and rallying to foster a safer and inclusive environment. For them, Bucknor’s story is one of resilience and aspiration, a collective journey towards healing and systemic change.
History of the Bucknor Community
Nestled about 5 kilometres outside the parish capital of May Pen lies the community of Bucknor, a region steeped in history and resilience. With over eighty years of existence and a population of about 3,700 residents, the community, which is surrounded by the districts of Bucks Common, Stewarton, Baileys Avenue, and Rectory Land, paints a picture of endurance and communal strength. The tale of Bucknor is an embodiment of overcoming challenges. Until the 1980s, basic amenities, such as piped water, were not available to its residents. People had to embark on arduous journeys, covering many miles daily to procure water for their needs.
Up to the late 1970s and early 80s, Bucknor was a community of peace and tranquillity. Crime and violence were far from the lived reality, and the residents moved freely, secure and unhindered in their own neighborhoods. However, according to residents, the face of Bucknor began to change as waves of violence washed over it, replacing the free movement of earlier decades with fear and apprehension. These were times that tested the resilience of the community, as every act of violence chipped away at its unity and peace.
Owen Brown, Deputy Superintendent of Police and the officer in charge of the Community Safety and Security Branch in the Clarendon division, shared his reflection of the Bucknor community:
“The Bucknor community is one of our interesting communities in that it has had its worst days. We have days in Bucknor where officers patrol and have to be stationed 24 hours in the community and that was the state for violent encounters to happen anytime,” he said. “From what I’ve heard, even before I came into Clarendon (in 2011), is that that Bucknor was one of them hotspot. Hotspot meaning where a serious crime can happen anytime.”
These past decades of strife left indelible marks on the community, with the echoes of violence shaping not just the present but also casting long shadows on the future.
Growth and Development of the Community
Bucknor’s story is not merely about its past but a testament to its determination to carve a brighter future. This determination, combined with the community’s resilience and a shared desire for change, paved the way for transformative partnerships with supportive organizations. At the forefront of this transformative journey stands the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF). Collaborating closely with Bucknor, JSIF’s vision aligned seamlessly with the community’s aspirations.
Through its Inner City Basic Services Project (ICBSP), JSIF committed to two groundbreaking projects that promised to change the face of Bucknor. With a combined investment of $100.5 million, these initiatives revitalised the road and water networks and provided a community hub in the form of a multipurpose centre.
“JSIF run pipe all bout…. so the place develop good, because you have water, you have light about”, recalls Lynford Thomas.
“JSIF played a big role in this community, they took us to places where we can see the other side of what to expect in the future…. persons even benefited from it because we have persons who are working now and it is because of their intervention”, said Miss Katy while reflecting on the work that has been done in the community.
Furthermore, the Bucknor Integrated Infrastructure Package, a massive venture pegged at $44 million, stands as a testament to JSIF’s dedication. This project encapsulates more than just brick and mortar. It promises a rejuvenated Bucknor, where upgraded water systems, roads, and storm water drains pave the way for further growth and development. JSIF’s investment of $42.8 million, coupled with the community’s contribution of $1.15 million through sweat equity, is a reflection of this shared vision and collective effort. Parallel to this, the 600 square-meter multi-purpose centre signifies the community’s heartbeat.
A space where residents can gather, learn, and collaborate, this centre which houses a meeting hall, storeroom, computer room, kitchen, and offices, was all brought to life with a budget of $56.5 million with JSIF’s contribution of $53.5 million, and the community pitching in with an impressive $3 million in kind.
Managing Director of the JSIF, Mr. Omar Sweeney, weighs in on the changes seen in the community since JSIF’s first intervention in 2006.
“There wasn’t much there, it was like a dust bowl with a lot of zinc fences, informal housing, no water supply and the roads were just pathways, but good hardworking people had settled there and out of that settlement there was crime and violence,” he said while adding that it was during some work with the World Bank that the community was chosen through the Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) approach to restructure a community to help create safer environment and better perception.
“We first started by creating a cooperative benevolent society with the citizens of the community enabling them to have a legal personality allowing them to form legal contracts with partners. We established a community center. We established good roads and drainage. We established a community park, a football field (fenced). We established formalised water supply and removed a lot of zinc and fence,” he said.
The journey of Bucknor’s renaissance is a tapestry woven with multiple threads. The Social Development Commission (SDC) and local government representatives have been instrumental in amplifying the community’s voice, ensuring that the path to development is not walked alone but as a collective.
“(Bucknor) Is a community where we have a very active space where they have a police youth club that has been very active and they meet very regularly with the police and other entities. Police have worked also with the Benevolent society within the space as well as with the SDC and other youth agencies,” explains DSP Brown. “We have worked with the Councillor (Tanyalee Williams), the member of Parliament, other community leaders and so we’ve been able to forge a partnership that has seen major reduction in serious and violent crimes that has been happening in the space. So I would have to make mention of the citizens of the Bucknor community who bought into the concept of safety and so they have personal contacts with the police. They are not afraid to have regular meetings to come out as they recognize that safe community means working with police”.
While organizations like JSIF have provided a pivotal backbone of support for Bucknor’s transformation, the partnership and persistent involvement of local government officials have been instrumental in bridging the gap between the community’s needs and actual policy implementation.
Local government representatives such as Joel Williams, Chairman of the Constituency of Central Clarendon and Representative of the Denbigh Division, Tanyalee Williams, representative of the May Pen North Division in Central Clarendon, have consistently been on the ground, establishing a direct line of communication with community members. This on-the-ground approach ensures that the initiatives undertaken are not just top-down directives but are genuinely reflective of the community’s needs and aspirations.
“When I came into this community five years ago there were still sections of the community that didn’t have water and meeting with NWC…we were able to get a new pumping system in October 2018,” said Councillor Tanyalee Williams. “JSIF has played a vital role within this place with our member of parliament, to date no community have superseded the amount of money that Bucknor have gotten from JSIF since its inception over 20 years ago. Persons from time to time try to rebuild gangs, but as their local government representative and as our member of parliament along with the police and the residents here (in Bucknor) we will not allow the community to get back to that place.”
Engagement has gone beyond mere consultations. Regular town hall meetings, open forums, and participatory budgeting sessions have been integral in fostering an environment where community members feel empowered to shape their future. Their voices and insights have been pivotal in shaping the direction and nuances of the transformative projects.
“You are looking today on a transformed community, as it relates to education, quality houses that people have built, the community centre that is here to help with the development of young people. We are looking at putting in some training program at the facility, where they (residents) can get training, get a certificate, and find themselves some meaningful employment,” said Councillor Williams.
With a youthful population of about 270 persons between the ages of 14-19 these collaborations have not just transformed the landscape of Bucknor but also its spirit. They’ve sparked hope, reaffirmed the community’s strength, and paved the way for a future where Bucknor’s dreams aren’t just visions but tangible realities.
Amidst the backdrop of a challenging history, the narrative of Bucknor is a testament to the profound power of collective determination, collaboration, and hope. Over the years, this community has transitioned from a place marred by violence and discrimination to a beacon of resilience and transformation. Residents, who once lived under the shadow of fear, have taken the reins of their destiny, driven by a relentless yearning for change. Their voices, echoing the stories of both past hardships and present victories, underscore the heart of Bucknor’s transformation.
But to truly appreciate the essence of Bucknor, one needs to delve into the profile of its residents. Over the years, Bucknor has produced a myriad of professionals and tradespersons, each contributing uniquely to the community’s tapestry and the wider world.
There’s Tallia Scille, a 23 year old youth who has lived in the community her entire life and went on to study at Northern Caribbean University, now certified as a registered nurse in the country. Her hope for the community is “ to see the young youths both male and female taking up a skill so they can work instead of doing idle work on the corners”. Additionally, there’s also Dcotor Kenyata Thomas, a member of the community for over 20 years. Dr Thomas is a recipient of the Governor-General Achievement Award (GGAA) in 2022 and he also host free back to school medical at the community centre.
In terms of talent, the community boasts former national netball player and Sunshine Girl’s coach for the 24th CAC Games, Nicole Aiken-Pinnock, as well as, Evangelist Paulette Gray, a gospel recording artist who has graced numerous events with her compositions and album entitled “Lord I Know”.
In the realm of trade and entrepreneurship, Dale Collins aka “Rasta” stands out as a beacon. Beginning with a small bee farm in Bucknor, he’s now a revered name in the town, with two successful businesses Mommy D’s Mini Mart and Wholesale and Click Cleaners Souvenir store and cashpot outlet. His brother Otis Collins, is a certified electrician and skilled professional who is employed at the Jamaica Aluminum Company (JMALCO).
From entrepreneurs to academics, craftsmen to law enforcement, the residents of Bucknor stand testament to the community’s rich potential. They are a living proof that despite challenges, with the right support and environment, talent can flourish and create waves of positive change.
Collaborations with organisations such as JSIF have paved the way for infrastructural developments that promise a better quality of life for every Bucknor inhabitant. Local government officials and the community-based organization, through their hands-on engagement and genuine commitment, have bridged policy with the pulse of the community. Other development agencies such as the Universal Service Fund (USF), Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) and corporate agencies such as Flow Jamaica have also supported Bucknor’s development.
The police, too, envision a future where Bucknor stands as a model of community-police partnership, where safety and trust are cornerstones. According to Deputy Superintendent Owen Brown:” Where it is that people learn to settle their differences successfully, domestic violence…. (and) other motives are on the decline there is an indication that the community is mature, and it tends to remove the kind of stigma from the space. Where persons want to come in and persons are renting, building homes and buying lands and their things aren’t being stolen, they aren’t assaulted – these simple things. Utilities companies (JPS, NWC) ……aren’t being harassed, these are indications of a community that is matured and moving in the right direction.”
When asked about the future vision of the Bucknor community, Councillor Joel Williams said that, “The long-term vision should be to continue on the path that you are on, because the path that you are on is the right path that any community would want to emulate. You’re on a path right now of human development which is the key.”
Similarly, Miss Katy said, “ I hope to see more involvement especially for the youth to be more in school and more involved in positive activities and those that are not in school can get a skill or a job”.
While for Councillor Tanyalee Williams, her dream is to “have that skills training centre up and running during my tenure here as their local government representative so that I will be able to train more people within their own space where they will be very comfortable and for person on the outside to come inside and to get their training…… I will not stop until that project is off the ground.”
Looking ahead, Bucknor’s residents see an horizon that is luminous. The foundations laid, the collaborations forged, and the spirit of unity that now defines the community signal a bright future. A future where children play freely on the streets, where every resident thrives, and where the tale of Bucknor serves as an emblem of hope for communities everywhere. In the end, Bucknor’s journey reminds us of the boundless potential that lies within every community when its members come together with hope, vision, and unwavering determination.