Not the New Normal

“Oh no, not another one,”

“It’s happened again,”

And again.

And again.

And again.

15-year-old stabbed to death yards from school gates,

Business studies student stabbed to death near university halls,

Teenager stabbed in chicken shop,

16-year-old stabbed in the head yards from secondary school;

Teenager stabbed,

Teenager stabbed to death,

Young person stabbed,

Young person stabbed to death.

Stabbed,

Stabbed,

Stabbed,

Fills the headlines,

Not seeming to go away;

Increasing

Rather than decreasing,

Respect for life

Continuing to disintegrate.

Wielding knives somehow popular,

Knife crime and violent crime

On the rise;

What authorities have tried

Clearly not working,

Leaving more families

With crying eyes.

Too many precious lives

Stolen away in their prime,

Unable to fulfill their potential,

Get their full quota of time;

Yet somehow our society

Has become desensitized,

Barely batting an eyelid

At the loss of a young life,

As if it’s somehow normalised.

Nothing about it is normal,

Such violence is sick and sad,

Leading to further trauma,

Making our streets war zones,

Bleak and bad;

Time for society to snap out of it,

Click your fingers and wake up,

What happens to these young lives

Effects every one of us;

These are our communities,

Our streets,

Our voices for the future;

The more it increases,

The more it intensifies,

The more it draws nearer;

Getting closer to home,

Closer to your son

Or closer to your brother,

Because one day

It could be you looking up

Seeing your loved one in a newspaper.

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Discussing Violent Crime at the Young People Insight Forum

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Follow @YPInsight on Twitter or like Young People Insight on Facebook for any updates.

Info for June’s Young People Insight Forum

Two double shootings in the space of a few hours in early May.  Three people stabbed over the bank holiday weekend and the Met revealing they had been called “to more than 9,000 knife crime incidents in London in the year ending April 2016”.  A Sunday Mirror investigation revealed that a child is arrested every two hours in the UK for carrying a knife.

Violent crime has infiltrated our community, causing serious damage.  These unnecessary crimes are destroying and ripping away the lives of individuals, whether it is literally taking their lives with a weapon or having their lives taken away by going to prison, not to mention what it does to the lives of the families involved.

It is a dire issue that continues to get worse, not better, and we don’t seem to have a way of stopping it.  The severity of the situation shows that what the police and government has been trying to do is not working, so it is up to us a community to try and rectify the problem before it spirals completely out of control.

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Hopefully, we can come up with some solutions at this month’s forum as we discuss violent crime, and work together to put them into action. We’ll be joined by representatives from One Minute in May and JAGS Foundation to help drive the discussions forward, so come ready with your questions, points to raise and your own stories.

So if you’re 16-25, don’t miss the Young People Insight forum on Tuesday 21st June.  We’ll be meeting from 6.30-8.30pm in Project B (1 Bell Hill, Croydon CR0 1FB).  This is an opportunity for you to speak your mind and meet new people.

Young People Insight Forum- Project B

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter.

Who Is To Blame???

When it comes to the issue of knife crime, there are a number of factors to consider, as it doesn’t usually come to one thing. As young blogger Naiya asks, who or what do you think is to blame?

You can follow Naiya on Twitter, @OpinionsOfNaiya

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Hey Readers, 

I apologise for the delay, but I have been doing so much but if you know me then you know that I will always have something to say or something to write about so please bare with me 🙂 

If you read my last post then you would have noticed that I did say that I would be doing a continuation and be addressing some of the “theories” about who is to blame for youth crime and knife crime. On this topic I have so much to say, I could go on for days…

While I no longer live in London, I am still very familiar with what has been happening over the previous weeks in the terms of knife crime and what I would like to do is present you all with some ideas and theories as to why so many young people have turned to…

View original post 1,015 more words

Discussing Knife Crime at the Young People Insight Forum

When we met in Project B on March 15th for the third Young People Insight forum, careers was meant to be the point of discussion.  However, after learning about the fatal stabbing of 20-year-old Mujaahid Wilson in Thornton Heath on the previous night, I decided to change the subject of discussion from careers to knife crime.

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Knife crime is a major issue among young people, which regularly terrorizes our streets and pointlessly rips young lives away from their families, friends and futures.  It is something that needs to be addressed and prevented immediately, but finding the answers is proving to be difficult, with knife crime showing no signs of going away.

When I posed the question of why young people carry knifes and why some of them ultimately end up stabbing another human being, one of the first reasons given was drugs and the effect they have on your behaviour.  This particular young people believes that drugs can make you very boisterous and aggressive.

Other reasons included people’s insecurities and wanting to fit in, the feeling of empowerment that comes from carrying a “tool”, problems at home, certain genres of music, territorial rivalries and naivety.  There was also a strong point raised by a 25-year-old who said that “People think no one can touch them”, giving them a sense of courage that may lead them to carry out violent crimes.

He later added, “Certain people, they think before they act,” which I think is key, because too many young people make bad decisions and carry out horrific acts, without stopping to consider the consequences.  If more young people stopped to think about the consequences of the their actions in that moment when they reached for their knife, then some of those young lives might have been spared.

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The same 25-year-old also thought that some people see knife crime as normal — “When you see something everyday, you don’t fear your life.”  I think that the common occurrence of knife crime and the reports of stabbings on the news, without many solutions, has made many individuals feel numb to it.  It has started to feel like a normal part of life for many individuals, which is a huge negative, as it makes the issue of knife crime a lot harder to fix.

Race also came up in the discussion, as an 18-year-old expressed her sadness over a lot of the knife crime having something to do with black people, which helps contribute to the unfair labelling of black people by the media.  This interestingly led into a conversation on race and the music industry, which was a little off-topic but a strong discussion nonetheless — it just shows how the forum can take different twists and turns, and that the youth have so much to say.

To wrap up the discussion, I asked how we could possibly prevent knife crime, as one of the main elements of Young People Insight is coming up with solutions to address the various problems young people face, rather than simply talking about them.  The responses included:

  • Give young people something to do
  • Keep them busy
  • Have more jobs and also have more initiatives in place to help certain individuals find jobs
  • Create a short film (or another media resource) that will show the realities of knife crime.

For knife crime to truly be prevented, it will take all of us working together as a community, finding the root of the problem and reaching out to the young people in the most effective ways possible.

The next forum will be on the 19th April at Project B, for anyone who is aged 16-25.  This time, we’ll be discussing careers, so come ready to talk about reaching your career goals and if a career is really any different to employment.

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Follow @YPInsight on Twitter to stay up to date with any updates or information.

 

The Life He Chose Review

Consequences.  Unfortunately, this is a word not taken into consideration by too many young people when making decisions or taking action.  Not considering the consequences of having sex without contraception.  Not considering the consequences of bullying an individual.  Not considering the consequences of taking someone’s life with a knife.

Consequences of bad decisions are at the centre of the novel, The Life He Chose, by Candace Bertram.  It tells the story of a young couple, Jay and Lauryn, who are living a fast, flashy lifestyle, which is being paid for by Jay’s illegal dealings.  However, the real price of all this is deceit, unhappiness, betrayal and violence.

The Life He Chose is Candace’s debut book, which she started writing after tragically losing her brother to knife crime in 2007.  He was just 24 when he died.  Losing a family member who was so close to her was incredibly difficult and Candace was struggling to grieve, so she made the decision to channel her grief through writing.

Candace says: “I knew that I needed to spread a message to young people about living a meaningful life and staying away from the wrong crowd, who were doing the wrong things.”

Despite knife crime playing a role in The Life He Chose, it is not the main focus, with the story focusing heavily on drugs, organised crime and unhealthy relationships.  Candace also says that her book explores why some of the younger generation choose to go down the criminal route, which becomes evident with the many references to designer labels, flashy cars and showy houses.

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What is most interesting about the novel is that it comes from Lauryn’s point of view, rather than Jay’s, as we see her “perfect” life begin to fall apart and she finally starts to see Jay for what he really is.  It gives us the opportunity to look at this type of lifestyle from a female’s point of view, which isn’t often the case.

Lauryn’s naivety and sometimes outright stupidity jumps out at you from the first chapter, all the way through to the end.  You constantly find yourself wondering why she accepts the flash lifestyle without questioning how Jay is able to realistically afford it.  And you can’t help shaking your head when Lauryn expresses that Jay is the best boyfriend because of all the expensive gifts he showers her with.

However, when the novel flashes back to how Jay and Lauryn met, it seems that a then 20-year-old Jay preyed on a then a 16-year-old Lauryn, who was an innocent girl lacking any real life experience.  We later see that Jay has been manipulating Lauryn, and begin to sense that he has isolated her from her family and friends.  Jay has a girl under his control.

It shows how quickly life can spin out of control for girls like Lauryn, who crave attention, love and material things so much, they will do anything or give up anything to get it.  The choices Lauryn makes to land her love and attention are eventually what lead to devastating consequences, which she will live to regret.

The Life He Chose is a fast-paced story that you will not want to put down, as you try to anticipate what will happen next.  This is a novel that is extremely relevant and will hopefully make young people think twice before making certain decisions, giving more thought to the possible consequences of their actions.

Candace Bertram has done well in writing her first novel and hopefully her efforts will cause change, especially as it is a book the evolved from her grief over her brother’s death.  I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Weapon of Choice

Don’t you find it confusing,

That what was once a cooking utensil,

Sometimes a utility tool,

Is now a lethal weapon?

A weapon of choice for young men,

Wanting to intimidate,

Inflict violence,

Cause pain.

Instead of using their voice box

To talk,

The blade now becomes

The voice of reason.

Instead of being shiny and beautiful,

Silver has become a colour

Connected to violence

And death.

Sometimes the cold sharp blade

Slashes or cuts,

Leaving the victim lucky

With just a permanent scar;

But there are the times

When it will slice through

A little deeper,

Penetrate an artery or puncture an organ,

Leaving the victim not only with a scar

But a time of death.

Because with that weapon in their hand

They feel big,

They feel strong,

They’ve got power pumping through their veins;

Without realising that blade

Isn’t a part of them,

That they alone

Will have to deal with the punishment,

The consequences,

The hurt faces of family and friends,

But that knife they held

In the palm in their hands

Will still be completely free.

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