Freedom to Speak at Poetic Insight

Poetic Insight returned on March 28th for another inspiring night of poetry and spoken word from a group of talented young individuals. With no theme this month, we were treated to young people speaking their mind on a variety of topics.

Rhianna reminded us how hurtful our words can be to others, while Tony dropped some deep poetry about oppression.  Faith was an element throughout – Aaron let us know that Jesus has his back and Jack told us that we’re all beautiful because we’re made in God’s image.

Two of the most memorable moments of the night came from Alana, who expressed how sagging pants corrode our eyes, and Sid, who finished off the night strong with a spoken word piece touching on Islamaphobia, Syria and the USA.

I want to say a big thank you to Rhianna, Aaron, Alana, Tony, Jack, Melvis, Gamma Kid and Sid for making the night so special.  These events would not be possible without you.

A poem shared at the beginning of the night was sent in from Nina, a young person in Bosnia, who wrote about the anniversary of an artillery attack on Tuzla during the Bosnian war.  Here it is for you to read:

The Gate

The sky is grey today.
And it will never
be bright on this day.
I am gray today.

A place that always calms me
is now on my mind.
The air is evaporating
and I can’t breathe.

My heart is cramping
the bone in the throat is enormous,
my town is silent today,
as it was once…

Silent, quietly remembering
the beauty of colorful faces
the white skies and bright smiles.
Someone dared to destroy that.

I’m not here
but I feel something
missing in my heart
I feel a cramp.

How much more families would it have?
Would I meet their children,
maybe play with them?
Would I love?

I don’t know.

But it hurts that the clarity of my town
Was destroyed by a gray cloud and strong lightning,
and there was only liquid.
Are they not sorry?

Are they not thinking of the beauty of the taken souls,
the smiles so bright and sunny?
How can they not see
that they are the stain they pretend to clean?

My town aches me today
and the last thing I want to do is sing.
But that is the only way
I can show myself crying.

The next Poetic Insight will be on April 25th.  Like this month, there won’t be a theme, so let your creative juices flow and feel free to speak your mind on anything you want.  If you want to perform, email me at

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.

Introducing You to Our YouTube Channel

One of the things I’ve mentioned a number of times on this blog is starting a Young People Insight YouTube channel, but I think I may have failed to mention that the channel has been set up!  You can now enjoy the visual element of YP Insight, as well as the written element, which is what I’ve always wanted.

If you couldn’t make it to the first Poetic Insight of 2017 or if you want to re-live some of the amazing poetry, you can catch some of the best bits here.

If you want more, here are some more of the best bits, but be aware that these are just a little more explicit.

And if that wasn’t enough, you can now catch half of the performances from last month’s Poetic Insight.

Part 2 will be coming soon with the rest of the performances, so keep an eye out for that.  In the meantime, enjoy watching these videos as many times as you want and please subscribe to our YouTube channel, Young People Insight.

See you next Tuesday at Project B for the youth forum and then on March 28th for this month’s Poetic Insight.



Poetic Insight: Love & Hate

On Tuesday 28th February, it was time for the ‘Love & Hate’ edition of Poetic Insight, bringing dsc_0049together more special young talent who made their voices heard
through poetry and spoken word.

It was a beautiful night, filled with sultry sayings, emotional dsc_0024expressions and wonderful words.  Different ideals of love or hate,
sometimes love and hate combined.  Everyone brought a different element to the evening, especially the first time performers, who we welcome with open arms to Poetic Insight.  Most of all though, love filled the room as we all supported each other.

The night would not have been possible without Mr Grimez, Sh’kira, Rhianna, Emili, Josephine, Jeffery, Tony, Abigail, Nyasha, Jennelle and Melvis.  They were all amazing and I’m so thankful to them for performing.


However, a few days later, I got inspired by the word hate myself, as I found myself reading about a case of injustice that brought home why I hate injustice all over again.  I was driven to write a poem, which I would like to share with you:

Words cannot express how much I hate injustice,

Words cannot express how much I despise cruelty,

How much it makes my blood boil;

Words cannot express,

Instead my body manifests;

Lips twitching,

Fists clenching,

Head shaking,

Heart racing,

Eyes spilling

With salty tears.

Forced to face

A human race

Turning into feral, savage creatures,

Forced to watch a system



Almost broken beyond repair.

Notice I said almost,

Because there’s still good out there,

Something can be done;

Let’s make our voices heard,

Create ripples of change,

Flip the bird

To those saying we can’t;

Cos we can’t let injustice persist,

Cruelty endure

And those in authority

Abuse power as they wish.

No more banning immigrants,

Killing black men,

Wrongly incarcerating youths of colour;

Forcing life-changing decisions on us,

Judging by race or gender,

Hating the unfamiliar.

We’re human beings,

We should be better than this,

Fighting for the good of each other;

Spreading love,

Re-igniting hope,

Righting wrongs of the past

For our present and future.


The next Poetic Insight will be on March 28th.  This time around, there is no theme, so let your creative juices flow and feel free to speak your mind on anything you want.  If you want to perform, email me at

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, and liking Young People Insight on Facebook .

Poetic Insight: Moving Forward & Celebration

A month before the first youth forum in January 2016, I launched a short film that kick-started the youth platform that Young People Insight has evolved into.

It made perfect sense that the first birthday of Young People Insight would be celebrated with a night of poetry and spoken word, at the first Poetic Insight of 2017.  On January 17th the theme, Celebration & Moving Forward, resulted in a number of inspiring and thought-provoking pieces from some amazing young talent.

Not only was the theme a perfect fit for the occasion, but it was a perfect fit for quite a few of the performers, who were moving forward with their craft by performing their poetry in public for the first time.

dsc_0827Giving young people the opportunity to speak their mind through poetry and spoken word was the reason why I started Poetic Insight in the first place, so I was happy to learn that this platform had given them the chance to do that.  In spite of the nerves they may have had, their delivery was clear, their words strong and impactful.

One particular individual was Ashan, a last-minute addition to the schedule, who asked me to perform on the night.  She revealed that she was sharing her poetry with an audience for the first time and then went on to blow us all away, with poems on the subjects of mental health and Black Lives Matter.

First time performer Jack was first up on the mic, challenging our perception of success, while dsc_0834Tekisha Henry brought the house down to end the night, as she reminded us that we’re ‘A
Promising Generation’.  DanielWrites brought variety by reciting his spoken word accompanied by Joe on the keyboard and Authentic Alanie got into character to perform her spoken word.

Sh’kira, a member of the audience said: “It was so interesting to hear the different themes that people chose to speak on.  Also the different styles of spoken word was really great to hear.  It was also nice to hear people share their personal issues, like their mental health, and I think it was good that people felt that they were in a space to confidently share their issues, even with people they didn’t know.”

Every individual bought something different with their performance, making it a special night dsc_0820bursting with variety, so I want to take this time to thank Jack, Jennelle, Keshon, Alana, Daniel, Nyasha, Jamal, Lopez, Ashan, Aaron and Tekisha.  This night could not have happened and would not have been the same without you.

I want to end with a few words from one of the performers from the night, which perfectly articulate everything I want Poetic Insight to be.  Jamal says: “It’s so good to see that there’s a place young people can go to get something off their chest.  If there’s nothing like this then we would keep our emotions in and express it in negative ways.  Poetry is therapy.”

The next Poetic Insight will be on February 28th and the theme will be Love & Hate, so get writing now and if you want to perform, email me at


Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following@youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, and liking Young People Insight on Facebook.


Being Inspired by Young Talent

Young people are regularly villainized by the media and it sickens me.  You can be sure that the wrongs committed by youth will be reported, but the good things they are doing are often kept under the radar.  Don’t you find yourself asking why that is?

I feel privileged to know some truly amazing and talented young people, who are doing great things and inspire me.  Unfortunately, not enough noise is being made about them, when everyone should know their names, because they are going to play a part in changing the world and taking it by storm.

dsc_1074On Wednesday 26th October, I was fortunate enough to be one of the people invited to attend 140 BPM, an exhibition celebrating grime music and culture through fine art.  The exhibition was organised and created by 19-year-old Sophia Tassew, an art director at FCB Inferno.

I was lucky enough to meet Sophia last year, when we were contributors to Live Mag UK, and I could see the sparks of brilliance in her then. It’s no wonder that she became the youngest art director for FCB Inferno and then went on to put on an exhibition after she received acclaim for her artwork – she’s a determined, hard-grafting young woman who goes out and gets things done.

Putting out a message for help on landing an exhibition space, Sophia ended up being sponsored by Converse, who allowed her to hold the exhibition in their London headquarters.  Sophia exhibited some of her artwork alongside Tom Fitch, Raman Aso, Simon Wheatley and Jasmin Sehra, who are all incredibly talented and shone a light on the world of grime in different ways.


Sophia is going to keep on ascending, with more exhibitions already set to be in the works after the success of 140 BPM.  Only this time, she plans to open her exhibitions to the public, which I know is necessary after an overflowing guest list.

dsc_0775As I traveled to and from 140 BPM, I happened to be reading a book of poetry by 20-year-old Ismael Musoke.  The Lost Essays is a stunning read, with Ismael telling his story of growing up in South London through a collection of poetry.

Each poem is thought-provoking, touching on real life situations and emotions that many of us go through.  I found myself relating to a lot of what he had written, especially as a young black individual who has grown up in South London myself.

I found myself all up in my feelings, as I sat on the Tube reading the pages and taking in what each line had to say. I felt a connection to Poetruth, as my heart was struck by the first stanza: “He sits there in fear, / Constantly doubting himself / Doubting his own intentions / self-doubt is the cousin of fear / And fear is the son of failure.”

My ultimate favourite poem though, was D.R.E.A.M.S, which brought a tear to my eye and took my breath away.  As someone who is striving to reach my dreams, this poem resonated with me more than any other.  “Someone told me black people don’t do poetry / So I picked up that pen and told my story so they know it’s me”, Ismael writes.

I can’t tell you how glad I was when Ismael performed D.R.E.A.M.S at our first poetry event on November 1st.  He brought the poem to life with a captivating, powerful performance that made me fall in love with it all over again.


Ismael was just one of the eight amazing poets and spoken word artists who performed at our first poetry event, Poetic Insight.  It was an inspiring night bursting with young talent, which made me incredibly proud of my generation, as well as the borough of Croydon.  It also gave me the opportunity to share some of my poetry and speak out on something that is very important to me – showing women in sports the same level of respect as men after the WNBA Finals wasn’t shown again in the UK.

On the night, we heard about relationships, perception, life experiences, grief and real-life events.  Usually personal to her, Josephine honoured us with one of her poems, and 15-year-old Original Shai blew us all away with his dynamic delivery and wonderful way with words.

Every single poet and performer brought something different, which made the night all the more special.  I cannot wait for the regular monthly Poetic Insight events to start in January, when we’ll hear even more from young people speaking their mind through poetry.


Young people are doing going from strength to strength, and that needs to be acknowledged.  The good needs to be reported to balance out the bad, which will immediately change the perception of young people in society.  For now, remember these names, because you’re going to be hearing a lot more from them.

Guest Post: Breaking Barriers Through Dance

Chaz Bonnar, 24, shares his story so far, which has led to him using dance and the creative arts to “educate youth about positive health and wellbeing”.

A lot has changed for me over the last 10 years. Even though I came from a good area of Glasgow and had a good childhood, I still had my own issues to overcome, many of which stemmed from having poor self-esteem and zero confidence as a teenager.

During my formative years I found it difficult to make friends. To go out to places and meet new people proved difficult. On top of that I had no way to express the frustration I was feeling at the time.

That was until I came across Breaking (proper name for Breakdance) and Hip Hop culture at the age of 15. At first I saw it as something cool to do in my spare time – which I had a lot of! Then as the years went by I became attached to it and saw it as a great way to express myself.

Through involvement in Hip Hop culture it became easier to make new friends and embrace the positive lifestyle that came with that. From there, I’ve travelled a lot to attend Breaking events and become friends with people from all over the world.

Photo by Sasha Lee Photography and used with permission

At first dance was a hobby. It wasn’t until early 2015 that I saw myself making my income from it. I left university with an Honours degree in 2014, having no idea about what I wanted to do for work. After I left university, I was awarded a Travelling Fellowship from Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, which allowed me to travel around America for 8 weeks – learning about community engagement, organising outreach projects and how Breaking + Hip Hop culture affects young people from deprived backgrounds.

I learned a lot about myself and gained a better understanding of the importance of continuous learning. The outcome of this Travelling Fellowship was a positive one. Solidifying my lifestyle choice to engage with dance and Hip Hop culture full-time.

All I could think of were the positive attributes of engaging with dance and Hip Hop culture. It gave me confidence and helped me to develop better social skills. In essence it’s made me the person I am today. If I wanted to keep this amazing feeling I get from dance, and Hip Hop culture, I would need to keep it a top priority in my life.

Having this in mind came with its issues. I would have people tell me I need to be more realistic about my career choice. That it’s difficult to make a good income through dance. In ways, they were telling me the truth, because I’ve heard of many people struggling with this. All you heard of were the problems they had. Including the sacrifices they made and the long hours of teaching/performing they needed to do to get by.

Then again, there’s always sacrifices to be made for whatever you do. Especially if you’re going to give 100% to make it work. Plus, there’s always somebody to ask you if it’s worth all the effort. It is – if it’s what makes you feel great. The personal association you have to your work is always a motivating factor.

Photo by Joan Elliot and used with permission

What makes everything even better is having the support of your closest friends and family members too. With their support you can do anything. Luckily I have amazing support from my friends and family. They encourage me to travel as much as I do and live the life I want. It’s how I’ve arrived at the point I’m at right now.

I’m able to educate youth about positive health and wellbeing, through Breaking and Hip Hop culture, and make it my full-time income, as well as making Breaking and Hip Hop culture more accessible through various events and community projects.

From this I personally believe everybody has the capability to live the life they want. It allows you to stay feeling great everyday of your life. Truth be told, it takes a lot of your time and energy to make it work, including long hours and a lot of persistence. However, it feels nothing like work and the rewards you get from it makes it all worthwhile.

We need more people, especially young people, living meaningful lives with their passions; otherwise we have more people complaining about their work. We already have too many people doing that!

It also takes a certain level of belief in yourself. To decide this is what you’re going to do and give 100% conviction to it. There’s always going to be people that challenge what you’re doing. As long as you’re doing what makes you happy and fulfilled, you’re on the right path.

Photo by Stevie Reilly and used with permission

Chaz is a dancer and filmmaker, who also organises international dance events and collaborates with other youth organisations.    You can find Chaz’s report on and follow him on Twitter, @ChazB.

Attending the Youth Violence Commission Launch

“You see, identity has been lost along the way.”  These were some of the first words by Tony Supreme, who delivered a spoken word piece to help kick-start the launch of the Youth Violence Commission, which I had the opportunity to attend on the 12th July at London South Bank University.

Just like Kyle mentioned at last month’s forum on violent crime, identity is one of the factors that has been picked up on in relation to youth violence.  However, there are so many more and the Youth Violence Commission wants to get to the root of that.  “What we wanna try and achieve here is the first of its kind,” said Executive Director Ian McInnes.

“The Youth Violence Commission has been established to work with young people, communities and experts, from around the UK, to explore insights and public opinion, with the aim of better understanding how violence manifests in young lives, its drivers and how we can work together to stop young people from disappearing from our streets too soon.”

Despite not being funded or controlled by government, the Youth Violence Commissioners are six MPs: Chuka Umunna, James Cleverly, Mark Field, Greg Mulholland, Chris Stephens and Vicky Foxcroft, who started the Commission.


Vicky was inspired to start the Commission when she was knocking on doors and someone asked her what she was doing about gangs and youth violence.  She can see that all the acts of youth violence have had an effect on those left behind – “Trauma is being suffered on an industrial scale.”  Vicky believes that it’s an “absolute moral responsibility” for us to look into finding solutions.

Vicky raised many points that I agree with and have stressed in the past, which made me engage even more with the Commission.  She brought up the point that the wider community must be listened to; she asked , “Why don’t we have enough positive images of young people out there?” and expressed that by working together, we can find a solution.

We were able to hear from the rest of the Commissioners in their speeches and a Q&A session, which brought up many interesting insights and comments on an issue that has been spoken about often.

Mark Field MP stressed that if we see violent crime as just a black issue, or even just a youth issue, then we are making a huge mistake, while Chuka Umunna MP thinks that it is an issue of health and well-being, particularly mental health.  One of my favourite points was made by Chris Stephens MP, who passionately said that if young people’s voices aren’t being listened to, then shout louder and make sure we’re heard.

We not only heard from the Commissioners, but we heard from some inspiring and charismatic young people who will be working with the Commission.  The first young speaker we heard from was Ebi Iyere, who grew up in Lambeth and left home at 15 – “Growing up in South London isn’t easy… you see a lot of deaths” she said.

Ebi delivered a few home-truths to us, saying that youth violence being just a gang problem and a male problem is far-fetched.  “Youth violence has been institutionalised,” she says.  She also deeply conveyed that “Young people are hurting out there”, and that if we’re going to talk about them and describe them, we need to remember that they’re children and that they’re human.

While Ebi delivered some home truths, Temi Mwale, CEO and founder of The 4Front Project, well and truly schooled us on the issue of youth violence.  One of the main points of focus in Temi’s speech was the term “gang” – “We don’t understand it, but we’re quick to form a picture of what a gang member looks like in our brain.”

Despite starting her organisation at the age of 16, Temi stopped using the term gang when she was 18.  She told us that when we use it, we don’t mean people harm, but others in the community see it as meaning them harm.  Temi also revealed that using the term gang shows those young people that we don’t understand the complexity of their situation – “We’re quick to label people when we don’t understand the circumstances of their life.”

Temi also flipped the subject of fear on its head.  She said that when young black men open the paper, they’re scared of young black men too, which is something that many of us don’t stop to consider.  “We’re scared of each other,” Temi bluntly told us.

Temi also raised certain factors that are glossed over far too often:  she mentioned our society’s problem of glamourising violence, newspapers dehumanising young people, and the need to address the issues of capitalism to address youth violence.

Youth violence is a complex and very broad issue, that cannot be confined to just one root cause or one solution.  It is going to take a lot of hard work together as a community to stop it, but the launch of the Youth Violence Commission has taken another step towards making that happen.

Being a part of the day was a great experience and I gained a heap of knowledge that I not only intend to take forward in my youth work, but hope to feed back into the Commission.  By working together, we can make a real effort to end youth violence.