Thursday evening at Samaans Park, during the monthly spoken word and improv series “Head-phunk” at about 9:50 Adrian Augier was right in the middle of his recital “Freedom Song.” The piece was read in honour of master drummer Athanasius Laborde who was brutally stabbed to death in his home last June. “Freedom song” was the last composition according to Augier which he had performed with Laborde at the launch of the carnival band Rituals in June. Like so many of the homicides of 2010, Laborde’s which stunned the cultural community, remains unsolved, but not forgotten, especially by those gathered at the park Thursday.
As the words of “Freedom song”rolled off the tongue of Augier a young lady well known for her involvement in the arts and dance diverted her attention to her BlackBerry when she got the message. She lowered her head in shock and horror. Friends tried to console her. That same message soon spread to others, not just in the audience, but over the wider Saint Lucian community. “They just kill Arfo from Graveyard in Carellie,” the message read. Arfo was her uncle.
Later that evening the STAR would confirm that Arthur “Arfo” Clarke, 48, originally of Wilton’s Yard and now a resident of Bexon had been shot several times by gunmen in area near Chase Gardens as he made his way out of his vehicle.
According to a police report Arfo was shot several times on the upper part of his body and was pronounced dead at Victoria Hospital. This brings to seven the number of homicides for the year.
Arfo, by all accounts, was like a godfather to many in Wilton’s Yard—a place where his family has made their home for decades. And so it was quite a somber mood in the area when the STAR visited on Friday morning. People were talking, some were asking questions, others were crying, no one was laughing.
Peter Reynolds, president of the Wilton’s Yard association shook his head when we approached him, as he noticeably held back his tears. “This is stunning, everyone including myself is still in shock,” he answered when I asked how he was doing. “Considering the character of Arthur Clarke, he was more or less a peace maker and has been over the last few years. As a matter of fact he has had more influence than even I
myself as president
when it comes to those young guys, the teenagers, because he has been the one pleading with them and begging them to stop the violence and even as far as you know, making the little treaties to quell things,” Reynolds says. “He was one person who could have gone to any ghetto. I mean people used to come to see him regardless of what battles and what friction was going on between different communities. So you
know it is a blow and he will be sorely missed,” he went on.
According to Reynolds he will miss Arfo particularly for his wisdom and guidance. “I learnt a lot from him and he was a really active member of the association and was very instrumental in our peace programs and when he spoke people would listen,” Reynolds revealed. Then a disconcerting mood appeared to overwhelm Reynolds as he state: “Right now I am very fearful as to what will happen now as far as the crime situation, because he was really holding it down. He was even my strength when I came up with any obstacles, so what’s next?” Reynolds says that the friends and family would just like some answers about Afro’s demise adding that right now his association was unaware of any motives. “We do not condone violence and we are not preaching retaliation, but we want answers,” he says. According to him the authorities are doing things to stem the crime situation, but he still believes more can be done. He then made another plea to his fellow Saint Lucians: “Please let’s stop it, we are too small for this level of violence, we are not doing this country any good. Let’s all just work to make things better here and end this violence and crime.”
As we spoke, a young girl, Shania, came to embrace Reynolds.
“Arfo was my uncle,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Arfo was like a father to me. My father never took care of me. He sent me to school, he took very good care of me, he loved me like I was his own child and he was always putting peace in my family. In the area he was a good person,” she gushed out as the tears overwhelmed her. As she composed herself she came over to me and said softly, “And you know what, today is my birthday. We had already planned on doing something for my birthday.”
In the background Cheryl Clarke, a very close sister of Arfo and vice-president seemed inconsolable. Her words were hardly audible as she said, “He was one sweet brother of mine. I am gonna miss my brother so much.”
So far police have released no details about any leads or motives in this latest incident.