“This youth on youth violence is crazy now. It needs to stop.” This simple, yet impactful statement, was the reasoning behind this month’s youth forum. Far too many young lives are being snatched away by pointless acts, which leave a trail of heartbreak behind.
On June 21st, we met in Project B to discuss violent crime and of course, try to come up with solutions to the problem. In order to gain some deeper insight, we were joined by Fenella and Pat from JAGS Foundation, as well as Bilal from One Minute in May.
JAGS is an acronym for James Andre Godfrey Smartt-Ford, a 17-year-old who was shot at Streatham Ice Skating Rink during a party in 2007. He was one of 27 young people under the age of 20 who lost their lives to gun and knife crime in that year. His mum, Tracey, founded JAGS Foundation in 2012 “to raise awareness of the consequences of youth murder and address issues affecting young people”, providing bereavement support, youth awareness and restorative justice based programmes.
The ‘One Minute in May’ campaign was set up to “confront the ever-growing threat of knife and gun crime.” It was started by Tracy Cumberpatch in 2006 (with the help of Wayne Campbell) in remembrance of her 15-year-old son, Kiyan Prince, who lost his life after being stabbed while trying to break up a fight in May 2006. ‘One Minute in May’ aims to hold a vigil on a particular day during May every year, with a dedicated silence and a balloon release (or doves) to represent all the lives lost to youth violence.
When discussing why violent crime has become so frequent and where some of the issues stem from, there was a wide variety of responses, which is what makes the main source of youth violence so hard to pin down and solutions so difficult to put into place.
Fenella believes that it is because of things that are easy to get access of and because a lot of youths are pressured. However, 24-year-old Kyle took it a little deeper, expressing that “it stems from a lack of awareness and a lack of knowledge, and identity.”
Kyle also added the factor of social conditioning from what goes on outside, as parents don’t always have the awareness of what their child is like once they step out the door. He thinks that some children detach themselves from their parents, because they don’t have that emotional support.
Jason, 24, believes that a lot of young adults don’t love themselves, especially young black boys – “A lot of them are actually killing themselves when they stab someone else.” Mohamed, 20, added to that point, saying, “If you learn to love yourself, you won’t hurt someone else.”
Next, we spoke about why the actions and initiatives put in place by the police and the government haven’t worked. Fenella says “they’re talking to the wrong people”, 25-year-old Andrae thinks they “always use the same tactics” and Bilal believes that it’s revenue for certain things. Pat said: “If they wanted something to stop, it would stop.”
Jason took it even further by saying that he doesn’t think anyone cares, although he does think the community cares – “Only we can change it,” said Pat in response to Jason. Mohamed also added that it’s about developing a relationship between parents and children.
This led on to the discussion of what part we think the community has to play. Kyle believes “we’ve got to work together”, which Fenella agreed with, saying that “we’re all aiming for the same thing.” Pat also added that you can’t do it alone, as one person can’t solve the problem.
Rhianna, 20, strongly expressed that there needs to be a lot more education of life skills and she later said, “Stop telling [young people] you have to know what you want to do by 16.” Mohamed later backed up her point by saying that it’s not a bad thing if you don’t know what you want to do with your future at a young age.
Finally, I asked the question of how violent crime can be prevented. Fenella and Pat’s first and strongest point of focus was on going into the schools. Pat says that it’s about catching the issues early, and that it’s best to reach vulnerable young people in schools, because they’re unlikely to reach out to a service. She also believes that it’s about being consistent and persistent in what we’re doing.
Mohamed believes that it’s about making the message more clear, while Jason thinks that we need to make forums and programmes that are aimed at young people cool, so they will feel inclined to attend. He also thinks that it’s about getting the right type of high-profile individual who will speak out about it.
However, Chinelo, 18, later brought up passive and active audiences, saying that many young people aren’t going to listen until they’ve actually experienced it for themselves. Yet like Mohamed, I think that “sometimes it takes a young person to make another young person understand.”
The next forum will be on July 19th at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm, when we’ll be discussing relationships with a special focus on women. You won’t want to miss it.