What thoughts do you have on youth violence?

On April 17th, the conversation at The Kickback was focused on youth violence.  As this topic was chosen by Jamal Khan, he led out on the night – “I don’t only want to find a solution… I feel this is a form of therapy for young people.”

With this in mind, Jamal expressed that he wanted to start with a clear out session, which was a chance for us to air out any thoughts we had on youth violence.  Let’s just say that the clear out session did not end, as the conversation flowed and questions were posed organically, so it didn’t make sense to stop it.

Jason was first to speak, asking how we can come up with solutions or a way to make things better without an example – “The only thing we can influence and change is us…We can make that change and be that change.”  Going a little deeper into this, he stated that “everyone is a philosopher and expert on everything in the world except themselves.”

Jamal felt that the Mayor of London is not doing enough, explicitly referencing the ‘London Needs You Alive’ campaign.  Still referring to those in politics, Andrae said that Theresa May is focusing on things in other countries, not what’s happening here, to which Jason responded, “Young people dying doesn’t make money.”

Jason then went on to make one of my favourite points of the night: “Politicians are like a dog, a wolf and a fox.  They may look different, but at the night they all howl.”  Ultimately, he believes that it is us who can really fix the issue of youth violence.

Hannah made an intriguing statement, which was, “People polarize adults and young people, but we’re all the same… Adulthood confuses me.”  She later said, “Young people are influenced by adults and adults have changed.”  However, Kim counteracted this point by saying, “Parenting has changed, parenting styles have changed, power given to parents have changed,” which many of us strongly agreed with.

When speaking about some of the causes, Jamal said, “I think a lot of it is senseless violence.  No one knows what is going on…  The reasons are different, so the solution needs to be different.”  This seemed to tie in with something Hannah raised earlier: “People do not show enough love to people anymore.”

Anil thought there is a lot of influence in music, to which some individuals slightly disagreed with or thought depended on the age of the listener.  However, Jamal stated that “regardless of what age you are, if you are constantly hearing this music, you become desensitized… The society we live in is violent.”

Jason made an interesting comment, saying, “Our society is transaction based… No one’s actually living life with purpose.”  This was backed up by Dwight, who expressed that a lot of young people don’t have purpose and don’t know who they are.

The conversation turned to ‘stop and search’, prison sentences and fear – “If you see a lot of your friends getting killed, you’re going to carry a knife,” Jamal said.  He later went on to say, “My issue is not with stop and search.  My issue is that young people are going to be fearing for their life… This is going to mess up people’s lives.  People are going to be arrested without ever having being arrested before.”

Dwight rebutted this point, asserting that “not everyone carries a knife because they’re scared,” as some people just want to carry a knife around.  Although Jamal did not dispute this, he believes that the increase of young people getting arrested will lead to more murders – “When you go to prison, you just meet more people who do crime.”

Kim caused us all to think as she spoke about a lot of young people backing their friends, going back to when she was growing up and would support her friends or family members in conflict.  After sharing a personal anecdote, she said, “We’re loyal… We’re wrong and we’re strong.  We’re raised with that mentality – don’t snitch.”

Rhianna thinks that it’s hard to find a solution when you don’t find the right cause.  She suggested that we approach young people, show them that we care and ask them why they carry knives.  She also believes that we need to give young people ways to figure out what they want to do with their lives.

This led onto further discussions about what we could do to address the situation.  Andrae thinks the gang leaders need to be targeted, resulting in people dispersing.  Jennifer expressed, “There needs to be a strong man.  There needs to be someone with backbone who can step up to the plate.”

Kim strongly asserted, “The work that needs to be done with young people won’t happen until there are youth centres and places to offload… Everything takes a process.”  This paved way for discussions about youth services, what’s happening in schools, how to reach young people and what we each think community is.

“For young people, respect is their currency… A lot of the knife crime and violence is ‘I’m going to do you before you do me’… There is no empathy,” Kim said.  However, Dwight also raised an important point: “There’s a reason behind it.  They don’t feel part of something.”

“It frightens me that the world is too far gone and we won’t be able to pull it back,” said Hannah.

To end, Jamal asked each of us to share what we were going to do to reach young people and try to prevent youth violence.  Responses included:

  • “Network with other organisations.” – Dwight
  • “I’m going to have more road maps and projects to work on.” – Anil
  • “Do more networking and signposting information.” – Kim
  • “I want to become a mentor.” – Rhianna
  • “Show more people in the gang life that there’s more out there.” – Glenn
  • “Do my best to develop YPI and reach young people where they are.” – Shaniqua (myself)
  • “I think the best thing I can do is be the change I want to see myself.” – Jamal

The Kickback returns May 15th when we’ll be talking ‘Mental Health’.  Join us in Project B from 6.30-8.30pm for more great conversation, snacks and new faces.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

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