Let’s Talk About Goals

It was all about goals at The Kickback on July 24th, as we thought about the goals we had and goals we could aspire to after hearing from positive, inspiring young people.

To start the conversation, I asked what a goal is.  Mhairi made us all laugh with her witty response: “Where you aim in football.”  Stefon then said that it was a target or aspiration, Renee described it as a destination type thing and Daisy said that it was a next step.

I then posed the question: do you set goals?  Humi’s response was, “I set goals, but I divide them up…  There are short-term goals and long-term goals… I think it’s important to distinguish between the two. ”

Stefon believes that it’s important to have a plan, using the quote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” to back up his point.  Jamie told us that he has the end destination and the bus stops to get there, while Daisy said that she has deadlines rather than goals, as she finds it difficult to hold herself accountable.

When I asked the questions of whether it is important to have leeway when working towards your goals, Renee made a really great point by saying, “We shouldn’t feel like failures for not meeting certain standards and work ethics.”

Before hearing from our speakers, I asked if anyone wanted to share their goals.  Stefon wants to make a living from his passion within the next two years – “If you do what makes you happy, the money will come.”  Etan’s goal was one I especially loved: “To prove people wrong in general.”

Our first speaker of the night was Renee, who founded the organisation Croydon Community Leaders (CCL).  Their values are community empowerment, community engagement and community action.  “We wanted to put people doing great things in Croydon on a platform,” said Renee.

CCL supports charities and non-profits, puts on events and organises campaigns, and also helps residents to engage in community matters – “We wanted to give back to the community,” Renee told us.

After asking if any of us had experiences with the police – the experiences shared were all negative – Renee told us about a new outreach programme that CCL were starting to enable members of the community to get involved and support young people, which is about getting trained in stop and search.  As well as training community individuals, they would give police cultural communication training.

During the conversation, Stefon raised the point, “You touched on the relationship between black boys and police, but this is a long-term relationship between black boys and the system… How can we change the mentality of young black boys, as it’s hard for us to change the system?”

Humi also said, “As young people, and also as people, we’re not taught to communicate in the right way.”  This was part of a wider and interesting conversation about the police, stop and search, and communication.

Talk then moved on to education and young black people being kicked out of schools.  Jane dropped some gems on us, including, “I know how hard it is for parents to constantly be fighting.  We know the goals we have for our children, but the system and institution is built to fail us… Academies that are supposed to nourish them are now failing them, because it’s a business.

“If a system wants to find fault, it will find fault, and one of the biggest faults is the colour of our skin.”

Our next speakers were Humi and Daisy, two of the founding members of What You Saying, a poetry night that takes place on the second Tuesday of each month in Croydon.  “Our tag line is raw, honest and inclusive,” said Daisy.  She explained that they give a safe space for artists and writers to share their work, and they also have feature artists to get more of their work out there.

Humi told us that a major reason they set up the night was because they found most poetry nights they went to were really white and middle class, or the complete opposite, and they wanted to get different people in the same space, otherwise there isn’t a way to learn from each other.

They also create opportunities for young people experiencing homelessness, as a way of trying to lift their community – “You only rise by lifting others,” Humi said.  She informed us that about 90% of the young people she worked with who were experiencing homelessness were involved with crime, as a lot of them didn’t know anything else.

Humi told us that she is trying to encourage young people to express themselves in healthy ways, as some of them aren’t taught that by parents.  She also made the point that society should be encouraging more young people to channel what they do into something else in a more creative way.

Etan made us all think by saying, “I’ve been told that I have potential, but… I want to hear that I have the potential and can do something else.”

Humi went on to share her experience of going into youth work, without a degree and any qualifications in youth work.  “When you think about goals, you need to think about it on your own terms,” she stated.

Our final speaker of the night was Si-Ann (who also took the photos for us), a creative director and producer, who founded the creative agency, Evacreate.  “Evacreate is all about evacuating your surroundings to create something new,” Si-Ann explained.

Si-Ann took us on a quick journey of her experience, giving us five tips along the way.  Tip 1 was to use who is around you, as she first decided to find people who would help her make Evacreate happen, which got her interested on the impact on people’s mental health.

When working and studying at university, she wondered how she would be able to develop Evacreate, so Tip 2 was: Take inspiration from everything and learn from everything.  “Everywhere you go, there is opportunity to learn and create something,” Si-Ann said.

Tip 3 was: Do milestones really matter?  It’s important to know your why.  When Si-Ann finished uni, she realised she hadn’t built the brand to where she wanted it to, and although there was so much she wanted to do, there were little things she could do.  This led on to Tip 4: Baby steps are still walking.

When Si-Ann and here friend talked about not doing a shoot for a while, they both realised they had gone through mental health struggles, so they decided to do a shoot on mental health among creatives.  They pitched it to a number of magazines, and it was eventually picked up by Afropunk, which was the one they really wanted it to be featured in.

Tip 5 was: Remember it’s not a sprint and endure the marathon.  “Take your time and don’t fear failure… It’s your own path and you need to take your time with it, and do what’s best for you,” Si-Ann stressed to us.  “If you don’t fear failure, when you accomplish something, you’ll feel all the better for it.”

I’m going to end with a great point made by Humi: “When we’re talking about goals, we didn’t really talk about when you stop focusing on your goal…  You can work yourself up to the top and then have a break down… Goals are important, but your happiness is more important.”

With that being said, I am taking some time out to reflect, heal and take care of my mental health, so The Kickback will return in October.

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

Reflecting on The Complete Freedom of Truth Croydon

On August 20th, I finally achieved my goal of bringing The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) to my home town of Croydon.  This is a project that I love and means more to me than I can describe – you properly have to see my eyes brighten and face light up when I speak about it and all that it’s done for me.

Getting the TCFT Croydon pilot to happen was hard work, despite running only for one day, mainly because I began planning for it in June.  I was ready to give up twice, but fortunately I persevered and was able to watch a beautiful day take place.

A group of us gathered on a Sunday to bring something new to Croydon, develop relationships and explore our truths through art. We broke the ice and got our minds ready with a morning warm up led by Daisy.  We were joined by the Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Toni Letts, and her consort, who got involved too, followed by the Mayor saying a few words.

Morning Warm Up by Robert Golden.

The main part of the day was the workshops, which I’m pleased to say were a success.  Music and photography rang out through Matthews Yard and beyond, poetry and theatre brought life to Project B, while art flowed through Turf Projects.  As I floated between each venue, I observed how enthused and engaged everyone was in their workshops, which calmed me down and made me smile.

Art Workshop by Robert Golden.

We also had a mini discussion, led by the brilliantly dynamic and inspiring Geraldine Sharpe-Newton, who empowered those in attendance and provided us with plenty of food for thought.  I hope that the young participants left the day with encouragement to become change-makers and not remain stagnant in society.

Discussion by Robert Golden.

One of my favourite parts of the pilot was watching the work created throughout the day come together in the final sharing of work at Braithwaite Hall.  Considering the short space of time each group had to create their pieces, I was extremely impressed with the quality and overwhelmed by what had been produced.  There was true talent in the room and I would love to have seen what they could have created in an extended length of time.

Considering my worries and anticipation, the day went really well and better than I could have imagined, although there is plenty of room for improvement.  I know I need to have some better time keeping, have a list of tasks to assign to volunteers and properly layout how the final sharing of work will run.  I also need to promote more and go into other organisations, telling them about TCFT.

Most of all, I need more time to plan and put everything together, which should be a lot easier next time, considering everything I’ve learnt and the various skills I’ve gained.  Going forward, I know that I’ll need some training for certain aspects and a bigger team of people to work with, who will definitely be able to commit their time to carrying out tasks.

Theatre Workshop by Robert Golden.

The main point of the TCFT Croydon pilot was to see if it would work and if there was a want for TCFT in Croydon.  Looking back on the day, I saw that it does work and there is definitely a want for it in Croydon, but more people need to know about TCFT and understand what the project is.  I can see that it has the ability to grow, host more regular projects in Croydon and contribute towards a more united, democratic society.

The Mayor of Croydon’s Hands by Rachel Dunford.


To finish, I want to say a big thank you to my co-facilitator Naomi, who created all of the gorgeous graphics and marketing imagery for the day, and also facilitated the photography workshop.  A big thank you as well goes out to the truly amazing workshop facilitators for the day, who got the best out of our participants: Nikki, Liberty, Chimaine, Daisy, Humi and Cedoux.  The day could not have happened without you.

Big thanks goes out Robert and Skye for taking photos and capturing the day, ensuring that it would not be forgotten.  Big thanks also to my dad for preparing the food, my sister for registering everyone and holding down the information desk, and my mum for all of the help she gave throughout the day.

Thank you so much to Opera Circus for partnering with us on this project, helping with many of the legal aspects, and to Tina from Opera Circus for supporting me throughout the whole process.  I don’t think I could have done this without you mentoring me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of the volunteers who gave up their time on a Sunday to support, all of the participants who got so brilliantly involved in the day and also everyone else who helped me along the way in the organisation process.

Last but not least, a huge thank you to Matthews Yard and Turf Projects for supporting us by providing your beautiful spaces without asking me to pay a penny, and thank you to Project B for the use of your venue yet again.  And finally, a huge thank you to Croydon Council for your supporting and sponsoring us through the use of Braithwate Hall, and to FAB Croydon for sponsoring us through donation.  You were all a part of this day.

Poetry Workshop by Robert Golden.

The Complete Freedom of Truth Landing in Croydon

As you may remember from previous posts, I have participated in the international youth project, The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT), by attending three residencies in the past two years.

I’ve been fortunate enough to immerse myself in creativity and meet the most amazing group of people from around Europe and beyond, in the towns of Srebrenica (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Bournemouth (UK) and Sarteano (Italy).  Each residency was different, but always special and a truly rewarding experience.

Image by Robert Golden and used with permission.

TCFT changed my life in a number ways.  Most significantly, it gave me the final spurt of courage I needed to launch Young People Insight as a physical platform and also influenced the way that it has evolved, particularly in the creative sense.  However, just having an influence or bringing an essence of TCFT to Croydon isn’t enough – I actually want young people to gain the TCFT experience that I did.

This is why I’m excited to be bringing TCFT to Croydon!  

On Sunday 20th August, myself and another Croydon based participant, Naomi, will be facilitating TCFT Croydon, a one day pilot project, giving young people a taste of TCFT.  It will also allow us to see if there is a wider want for TCFT in Croydon, and if it all works out, more and longer length TCFT projects, workshops and residencies will be coming to the borough.

The theme for the day will be Unity, and young people, aged 15-26, will be able to participate in a  creative workshop of their choice in either Matthews Yard, Project B or Turf Projects.  They can choose from Art, Drama, Music, Photography or Poetry, which will give them the chance to let their creative juices flow and develop skills along the way.

An important element of TCFT is creating change and encouraging “a vision of an equal, inclusive and truly democratic society”, which is why a discussion element will also take place.  And to conclude the day, any work created by the young participants will be shared at Braithwaite Hall (Croydon Clock tower) in the evening, which members of the community are invited to attend.

Photo by Robert Golden and used with permission.

This is going to be a fun-filled, inclusive day, which could be the start of something truly great for Croydon and even South London as a whole.  It is also a day of opportunities for young people, as they never know where participating in this project may lead.  I can honestly say that I would not be the same person without TCFT.

If you would like to be part of the first ever TCFT Croydon – don’t worry, you don’t have to be from Croydon – sign up here: http://thecompletefreedomoftruth.com/croydon

Returning to The Complete Freedom of Truth

On August 1st 2016,

I returned to The Complete Freedom of Truth,

This time in UK’s Bournemouth,

Rather than Bosnia,

Reuniting with friends of old,

Ready to meet the new.

Last year was amazing,

In some ways,

This year was even better,

Pushing us further as artists,

Even further as youth leaders.

We engaged in workshops,

Animation, theatre, radio, parkour,

Which is just a small selection,

As there were a lot more;

We contributed to discussions,

Listened intently to presentations,

Talking about Europe and the EU,

Learning more about refugees, the media

And Black Lives Matter too.

Talent found around every corner,

Art created behind every door,

Collaborations were a constant,

Bringing beautiful work to the fore.

We were treated to regular showings,

I even hosted a poetry/spoken word event,

All leading up to the final showcase

That brought TCFT close to an end.

Over 100 young people gathered together,

United by a common cause,

Wanting to create a better future,

A better Europe for us all.

We may be from seven different countries,

We may come from the East and West,

We may be of different ages, races,

Have different sexual orientations,

Different beliefs,

Or what the world calls a disability.

None of that matters though,

Because we know that we are the same,

Individuals, human beings,

With red blood running through our veins.

TCFT is one big family,

Allowing me to show my vulnerability,

I feel comfortable in their presence,

Feeling able to just be me.

Those two weeks in August

Got my creative juices flowing,

Repaired my connection with writing again,

I can’t wait for the next phase in Italy,

I’ll just have to create change in Croydon until then.

Me, Nomes and Sandra

‘I Have A Voice’: Tackling Youth Homelessness

Last year, I was fortunate enough to develop a project with  the youth charity Fixers, resulting in the creation of my short film, ‘What Would You Say’.  Although my Fixers project came to an end, hundreds of young people are continuing to “fix” an issue in their community and I was able to meet up with one of them.

Jahtoya Rodriquez, 25, is developing a fix to tackle youth homelessness, by holding an event entitled ‘I Have A Voice’.  Brought up in the British Virgin Islands, Jahtoya would always say hello to her late uncle,’Jojo’, who had lived on the streets for as long as she’d known him.  It is her late uncle who is the main inspiration for the ‘I Have a Voice’ event.  Although he had an apartment, he preferred sleeping on the streets, like many other homeless people Jahtoya later met while volunteering with the Dream Center in Los Angeles.

Jahtoya also has personal experience with homelessness, as she found herself sofa surfing for a few months while she was living in New York, “as it was quite difficult to find apartments”.  She says, “I even shared a room with a couple which I am thankful for.”  Not having anywhere to live until a week or two after she had moved to London in 2014 resulted in Jahtoya sofa surfing for another period of time.

Image used with permission.
Image used with permission.

‘I Have a Voice’ was established to give youth between the ages of 16-25 who have experienced homelessness, know someone who has experienced homelessness or simply see homeless people on the street each day, an opportunity to share their story in a creative way.  This may be through storytelling, singing, acting, reciting a poem, playing an instrument or even beat boxing.

Performers for the event include Alyssa Harrigan, a singer and songwriter from the British Virgin Islands, actress Anita Okonkwo, blogger Kay Riley, and Ke’Andrea Nicole, a TV and red carpet interview host.  The MP of Lewisham, Vicky Foxcroft, will also be the guest speaker and she’ll be discussing the plans she has to help youth in the Lewisham borough.

As well as performances and presentations, there will be food, music and blessing bags for the first 100 attendees.  It is a free event for the general public to come together to listen to the youth and find ways in which they can make a difference in their local communities.

Jahtoya is currently studying part-time for an MA in Charity Management at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham and it was one of her classmates who invited her to attend a meeting with Fixers, who have partnered with L & Q Housing Trust to help young people within the local area use their experience to help others.  She said: “After attending the meeting and sharing my passion for helping homeless people, I decided to create a platform for my future charity which will help empower homeless youth through self-development workshops, education and job training.”

Image used with permission.
Image used with permission.

After completing this project, Jahtoya says that she will continue doing outreach projects with people that share a similar interest and share different activities on her YouTube channel, ‘Jahtoya Rodriquez’, which will be launching shortly.  However, Jahtoya’s long-term goal is to start her charity for youth between the age of 16-25, providing the opportunities she mentioned above in the British Virgin Islands and international cities like London, New York, Los Angeles etc.

Jahtoya says: “Many times people look at your success, but do not know what [you] went through to be the person you are today, which is why I want to allow youths who have shared similar experiences both directly and indirectly to share their stories, to help encourage and inspire others who are experiencing the same things.”

‘I Have A Voice’ will be taking place on the 16th April from 3-6pm at The Lewington Centre, 9 Eugenia Road, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 2RU.  You can register for the event at: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/i-have-a-voice-an-event-tackling-youth-homelessness-tickets-20931069392 but be quick, as spaces are limited.  There are also three performance slots available, so if you’re interested please contact EyH.London@gmail.com.

I Have a Voice Flyer

Stay updated with the Empowering Youth Homelessness campaign by following @EyhLondon on Twitter or liking Empowering Youth Homelessness on Facebook.



When Lack of Funding leads to The End of an Era

Yesterday I was hit with the news that Live Mag UK would be ending at Christmas, after 15 years spent providing young people with journalistic skills, and the ability to use their voice to speak out about culture, current affairs and issues that were important to them.

Not a whole lot of avenues like this are available to young people, especially as they cater to any individual between the age of 12-25 who wants to get involved in presenting, film-making, photography and of course, writing (as well as other creative avenues).  There is no elitism at Live and there was no one excluded because they didn’t have a higher level of skill.

Like many others, I was upset and frustrated when I heard the news, because here was a very special service for young people biting the dust.  Live provided you with experience without all the toils of having to apply for, and eventually find, work experience.  And most of all, it gave young people a voice on a huge platform that they most likely would have been unable to have.

Why has this happened though?  Just like so many deceased and declining services, Live Mag UK is coming to an end because of that necessary but debilitating thing called money.  There is simply not enough money to fund it anymore and because the government continues to cut funding to youth services, Livity (the company that owns Live) needs to find a way to earn money and boost funds while continuing to help as many young people as possible.

Photo by PublicDomainPictures and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by PublicDomainPictures and used under Creative Commons License.

Why does the government seem to hate young people so much?  I mean, they can’t have any real love for us if they are constantly making cuts to services for young people and implementing laws or making changes that are extremely detrimental to us.  It has been reported that funding for 2,300 children’s centres alone have been cut in England this year, which will mean reduced services and possibly closures for some.  How is this effective or fair?

Too many youth clubs, youth centres and the like have been forced to shut down, mainly due to the lack of available funds, a lot of which comes from the government.  In a lot of cases, these are effectively helping disadvantaged or “troubled” young people, particularly those who are dealing with mental health, disabilities or are caught up in the “street life”.

More money needs to be put into youth services, but youth services also need to start looking into more ways to generate income themselves, in order for them to do all they can to help these young people and make the greatest impact possible.  However, more young people also need to be allowed to really use their voice, allowing them express and explain what it is they need.

Photo by Emergency Dentists USA and used under Creative Commons License.

Too often, what is best for the young people in question is not considered by those in power, who are usually older individuals that do not always have an understanding of the young people they are working with and/or targeting.  Their wants and needs are skirted over or ignored for something else entirely, which can be incredibly annoying and ineffective.

Although other initiatives will be stepping up in its place, the needs and wants for most of the young people involved with Live Mag UK are coming to an end.  The new initiatives will be heading in a different direction, changing the dynamics of something that was so special, unique and beneficial to a whole lot of young people, particularly those from an urban background.

You see, Live Mag UK is more than just a magazine and online platform that enables young people to develop journalism skills.  It is a collective of people that have created a warm and comfortable environment where young people can come together, be themselves, build up a network and most of all, speak their minds.

Looking back over the year, Live Mag UK has done so much for me, especially in being able to write stories relating to the American sports I love, which is an opportunity that is not highly available to me.  It’s heartbreaking to see it coming to an end.


Creative Futures Programme Day 23

Yesterday was the final day of the Creative Futures Programme, as Positive Summer Vibes comes to the LNK unit in Croydon tomorrow from 10am until 6pm.  After six weeks of preparation, learning new skills, gaining nuggets of knowledge and building up a network, our project had come to a close.

However, yesterday was not a time for sad goodbyes or getting sentimental, because there was still much work to be done in order for us to be ready for the event on Saturday.  Of course, promotion was still key, which meant that hip hop artist Rodney P, Andrae and myself were handing out leaflets to the public in Croydon Town Centre.  It was a fun yet gruelling task, which left me with aching feet by the end of day, but the young people seemed to respond quite well.

Positive Summer Vibes Leaflets

There were also some final plans that had to be put firmly in place in order for the day to run successfully and be as enjoyable as possible for the young people in attendance.  Everyone now has their set roles, so they should know exactly what they’re doing tomorrow and be prepared for hard work, but an overall enjoyable day.


Although the Creative Futures programme will have come to an end this Saturday, we hope to put on an event like this again and continue to work with the young people of the community.  We have gained and learnt so much over these past weeks, and we hope that this can become a genuine business venture.


We would still like for you to follow us on Twitter (@FuturesPositive) and like our Facebook page (Positive Summer Vibes), so continue to share the love.  And make sure you come down to the event tomorrow where there will be lots of positive vibes, so don’t miss out.