Developing Connections Through Young People Insight

Whenever I describe what Young People Insight is, the tagline is always a platform that empowers the voices of young people and encourages community engagement.  However, there is a lot more to it than that.

One of the things at the core of YPI is developing connections, which essentially stems from the community engagement element.  I want young people to build connections that would have been otherwise missing if they did not attend a YPI event, expanding their creative, cultural and personal networks.

It is creating a caring, nurturing environment where friendships are formed and people feel not only loved, but able to be themselves.  That is why I refer to anyone involved in the platform as part of the YPI family.  Once a part of the YPI family, always a part of the YPI family.

I do my best to look out for all of the young people involved and show support in any way I can, whether that is through congratulating them on their achievements, wishing a happy birthday or attending a poetry night where they are a feature.  The personal aspect of YPI is key, and I believe it is one of the ways that makes it stand out.

It also manifests in making young people aware of or providing them with various opportunities, which include job openings, the chance to share their poetry in different settings, and having their voices heard in different forms.  I want to ensure that young people are aware of the opportunities available to them – too often, information is not shared or readily available, meaning that young people miss out.

During the last festive season, it meant a lot to be able to give three young poets who had shared their work at Poetic Insight the chance to be part of Croydon’s Festive Fantasia, with their words projected and heard (I was fortunate enough to read their reads) in Croydon Town Centre.  It is important for me to act as a connector between the young people who engage with YPI and the rest of the world outside of YPI.

However, what I most love is seeing the different connections that form between individuals who attend the events.  Sometimes I worry that I am not making a difference or having enough of an impact, so watching those connections and friendships grow provides me with evidence that YPI is actually making a difference in the lives of others.

I smile when I listen to the great conversations continuing after The Kickback has formally wrapped up.  I am filled with joy when I see personal exchanges taking place at Poetic Insight, which I did not even want to stop last month despite having poetry performances to get on with.  Yet what I love most is hearing about and seeing evidence of friendships being solidified outside of the monthly events.

There are quite a few that have built over the past two years, but I want to highlight the most recent friendship that developed at last month’s Poetic Insight.  Samirah and Mhairi did not know each other, but the both of them were coming to a poetry night for the first time.  They ended up sitting next to each other, eventually started talking and then did not stop.

When I saw Samirah and Mhairi at a poetry night in Croydon on Tuesday (Samirah got up on the open mic and smashed it in her first ever sharing of her poetry, which made me really proud), they were sitting together behind me and told me that they had also been to a poetry night together on the Sunday just gone.

I later learned that they had been in regular contact, which I thought was beautiful – two people who were initially complete strangers became friends because they came to my poetry night.  For me, that is what YPI is all about.  I want people to be able to make friends through meeting new people that would not have come into their orbit without The Kickback, Poetic Insight or even TCFT Croydon.

We live in a technological age where physical human connections and interactions are being lost, which I think is incredibly sad and can also become a danger to well-being.  That is part of the reason why I started YPI and believe that the events are essential to young people in so many ways.  I’m glad that I can play just a small part in connecting others and making meaningful links.

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.

How can we address youth violence?

We’re focusing on youth violence at The Kickback next Tuesday, at a time when youth violence and violent crime as a whole in London has been plaguing the headlines.  The reported surge in gun and knife crime is being labelled as an epidemic, which unfortunately isn’t a surprise to me, as I saw it heading in this direction years ago with knife crime increasingly becoming more of a normality.

I hate that it comes as no surprise and it sickens me to continuously hear of young lives being snatched away at the hands of other young people, but this was bound to be the case considering the poor handling of youth violence over the years.

It should never have become such a common occurrence, but the government and the majority of the police simply don’t get it, because they don’t get young people.  Slapping the gang label on them is certainly not helpful, and an increase in ‘stop and search’ is not the solution – young people are not stupid and they will find a way around that.

Mayor Sadiq Khan was right when he attacked the government over cuts to services, as that likely has a large part to play in the rise of youth violence.  However, there are a number of contributing factors, which is what makes addressing and driving down violent crime so complex.

Factors and influences can range from austerity, peer pressure, lack of opportunities, toxic masculinity, postcode wars, trauma from witnessing previous attacks and ineffective policing.  Music and social media may also have a part to play, but that’s the difficult thing – a number of parts make up this problem, meaning that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Before we can find any solutions though, more needs to be done to get into the root causes of violent crime and address those first, which I think is what the government and police are missing.  Focusing on harsher sentences and ‘stop and search’ are not the answer.

The focus needs to be on young people as individuals, getting to grips with their needs, understanding their struggles and taking notice of who they really are.  Voices of young people also need to be heard, as I don’t hear enough from them in response to an issue directly affecting them.  Has anyone considered that they may have some of the answers?

Working more with community groups and youth organisations should have also been a strong focus from the get-go, because it is these organisations that work with young people on a grassroots level and have an understanding of them that the government or police do not have.  Common ground needs to be found between young people and the police before significant progress can be made.

What is also clear is that scaremongering needs to stop.  Although the headlines have been reporting more murders as a result of stabbings and shootings than we may be used to, it is important to remember that this is a constant all year round.  There are most likely a number of other stabbings or shootings that have taken place in the capital under the radar and not made it into the news.  Why are spates of violent crime reported at chosen times?

Rather than inciting fear into the nation, we need to focus on the root causes and share stories about those working to put a stop to youth violence.  Most importantly, we need to highlight the great things that young people are doing so they don’t feel vilified by society and will consider the options that are out there for them, not giving thought to picking up a gun or a knife.

Join the conversation on ‘Youth Violence’ at The Kickback on April 17th at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm.

What’s Coming Up This April?

Clocks have gone forward and more sun has been in the sky, which hopefully means that spring will finally arrive this month.  There’s also a lot coming up for YP Insight in April that I am very much looking forward to.

As part of Matthews Yard’s 6th birthday celebrations on April 21st, there will be a Poetic Insight segment from 8.45-9.15pm, which will be a special event to be part of.  There is an opportunity for some of the poets and spoken word artists who have performed at Poetic Insight in the past to share their poetry on the night, so please email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com if you would like to be part of it.

On April 22nd, we are collaborating with Poetry Prescribed to put on a free poetry workshop, for 16-26 year olds in Croydon, on the subject on mental health.  From 1.30-4.30pm, young people will take part in a  thought-provoking session of reading, speaking, creating and sharing poetry.  You don’t need to be a poet to join, just come with an open mind.  Spaces are very limited, so register now to avoid missing out: bit.ly/letsdiscussmentalhealth

The focus of YP Insight this month will be violence, which could not have come at a more relevant time.  The spate of violent attacks and killings in London so far this year has been crazy and like nothing I have never seen reported before.  The use guns and knives seems to be more prevalent, raising more and more questions with limited answers coming to the fore.

This is why the conversation on ‘Youth Violence’ at The Kickback will be of the utmost importance.  The Kickback is not only about focusing on topics that matter to young people, but also trying to come up with solutions to create a better society for us to live in.

The event will be hosted by Jamal Khan, as it was his chosen topic of conversation, on April 17th from 6.30-8.30pm in Project B.  This is not to be missed, so if you want to have your say on something that involves all of us and be part of making change happen, register here: bit.ly/letstalkaboutyouthviolence

‘Violence’ will be the theme for Poetic Insight the following week, giving us the opportunity to speak our minds and shine a light on the issue in a creative form.  I believe that this is going to be incredibly powerful and another unmissable event, especially as we are going to be joined by local youth organisation, Music Relief.

Save the date of April 24th and remember be at Project B between 7-9pm – performances start at 7.30pm.  If you’re a young poet or spoken word artist wanting to perform, please email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com or send a message to 07910092565, and I’ll add your name to the list.  If you’d prefer to simply engage by sitting in the audience, register for your free tickets here: bit.ly/poeticinsight-violence

It was great to be back at the YP Insight events last month and I am looking forward to seeing you throughout April.  Please do make the most of the opportunities available, stay safe and most of all, show love and respect to each other.

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.

Warped Structure

I want to sling a jack hammer, send it slicing through you
Watch your walls became dust.
Not that eyes can’t see your erosion.
Crumbling, subsiding, as every second passes
Yet standing firm, not tumbling down.

Restoration long overdue
Your warped structure poses constant danger
Wreaking havoc with lives has become normality.
Still you stand your ground
Firing canons on whoever fights to rebuild.

Looming down from your kingdom
Sealing off access to outsiders
Possessing tools to fix this calamity
Refusing to let your foundations in an ancient presence
Disappear from the midst of society.

Your falling debris the cause of deaths
Lawful brutality, scarring young for life.
Your deformity thrives
Discarded stones subside
Sucking up resources needed elsewhere.

You’re an eyesore, blocking out the sun.
Cracked and ugly, you should have been done away with long ago.
Driving me mad with fury
I know demolition is necessary
Your destruction cannot come soon enough.

Atop Olympus

Coiled in shadows, concealing agendas of fibs and fables –
Venomous tongues, sibilating vowels and consonants forming non-existent meaning,
Stinging media mouths; coughing up pretensions of protection,
Vomited into open lips of the hungry, who consume but will never be full.

Starving stomachs craving sustenance, yet rarely receiving;
Writhing in pain, falling by the wayside, wondering when relief will come.
Waiting for snakes up high to drop food into their gnashing jaws,
Unlikely to ever come, fending for themselves.

Hearing declarations that fields of gold are drying up, signifying colossal cuts.
Yet wars and power plays continue to be fed,
Outside nations receive exports of gold galore
As the plight of the starving is ignored.

Perched comfortably atop Olympus, ignorant to hazards facing those below.
Never been on the receiving end of a knife or empty account;
At no time have they thought distributing herbs or rocks was the only way up,
That this will be the day they’ll finally look past my record and offer me a chance.

Watching in apparent disbelief as emotional turmoil rises and violence boils over,
Hiding behind public displays of sympathy and recipes for action
To conceal a lack of care and obliviousness to suffering never experienced.
How many of them were forced to miss a meal or witness the butchering of a friend?

Out of touch, keeping those they view as less significant out of mind.
Hissing when the moment calls for it, otherwise silently prepping for personal gain.
Happy to devour them alive or allow them to consume one another,
It’s time we wised up, fought for ourselves, fed into each other.

It’s Time for Young People to Rise Up & Make Change

Last week, it was reported that 72% of 18-24 year olds came out to vote in the General Election.  The youth voice appeared to play a huge hand in the results, in which the Conservative Party lost their majority and culminated in a hung Parliament.

Young people were more engaged in this election and its results than I’d ever seen them before, having their say on politics and who they wanted to run the country.  This probably had a lot to do with Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, doing a great job in relating to young people and grime doing a stellar job of engaging young people.

However, young people began to find their own voice along the way and they were calling out for change on issues that effected them, because there are numerous factors effecting our lives that are intertwined with politics, even if we may not be interested in politics directly.  This includes getting on the housing ladder, benefits, mental health services, policies to address violent crime, education and a whole lot more.  We were stating that we want change.

Yet I must ask the question to all my young people out there, if you want change, what are you personally going to do about it?  Yes, you may have made your voice heard by casting a vote in the election, which is great, but what part are you going to play in creating change in community and society?

After the horrific Grenfell Tower fire, which has brought austerity measures to the fore in the most tragic way, young people have not been silenced and the way everyone has united to come together has been amazing.  On Twitter, I have seen numerous posts from young individuals demanding that the government and the “more powerful” individuals in society to be held into account, as austerity seems to have played a major part in this tragedy.

However, if we want to create real, lasting change then we as young people need to unite and do more than posting on Twitter, which some do and has definitely been the case during the Grenfell Tower incident, but it needs to be a much wider number.  Let’s create programmes, initiatives and movements that will allow us to become the change we need to see.  Let’s work together to challenge policies.  Let’s come together to topple the system, because that is definitely at the heart of the problem.

More and more, I’m beginning to realise that wider society and the powers that be want to keep young people down, and keep us silenced.  But if this election has taught me one thing, it is that we can’t, no, we refuse to be silenced anymore.

Young people are intelligent, clued up and full of potential, speaking raw, honest truth that is sometimes difficult for others to hear.  Our elders could learn as much from us as we can from them, but they need to stop putting us down or brushing us off and take the time to listen.

However, we also need to do more to make them hear us and make more movements so that they will genuinely take us seriously.  So keep making your voice heard, but shout louder.  Keep tweeting, but also make movements away from the screen.  Let’s do more to come together, and we can make real change happen.

The Importance of Love in Young People Insight

As you my already know, it’s all about love this month at Young People Insight, with love being at the centre of the topics for our forum and poetry night.

Despite love being the focus of our topics for February, love is at the core of Young People Insight all throughout the year.  It is my love for young people and love for my borough of Croydon that pushed me to start the platform in the first place.  It is my love for writing that led to me starting this blog.  It is my love for people that makes me want to care for them, encourage them and watch them be the best we can be.

Image by cherylholt and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by cherylholt and used under Creative Commons License.

I want love to run through the veins of YP Insight, spreading other positive elements and characteristics that will make our communities happier, safer and more civil places to live in.

Out of love for one another should come respect, especially when an individual shares views that are different to ours.  Respect, especially respect for life, is something that has been lost in our society and we need to work hard to get it back.

Love should lead to positive and effective communication, as we take time to listen to each other and respond accordingly, in a calm and civilised manner.  Poor communication has led to a myriad of problems within society, our relationships and other aspects of life – we need to do all we can to fix that.

I want YP Insight to be empathetic and caring, providing a genuine listening ear and support to all young individuals.  I want it to be patient and understanding, tolerant and kind.  It should create an environment where every individual feels comfortable, accepted and part of something.

Although this is a month where love is the focus, I want love to continue to be of the highest importance all year round, as there always needs to be more love in the world.  Don’t you think?