Bravery Shown at a Special Poetic Insight

There are instances at Young People Insight that truly blow me away and make all the work I put in feel more worthwhile than anything in the world.  This month’s Poetic Insight was one of those.

On November 27th, Poetic Insight came to Urban XChange Bar and Grill for the first time, which I was excited but slightly concerned about.  I was concerned people would go to the wrong venue or get lost.  I was also sick, so I did not want to come out on a cold rainy evening either (I’m just keeping it real), but I am beyond glad I did.

This immediately became one of my favourite ever Poetic Insights, filling me with emotion, pride and wonder.  It made me not only proud to be a young person, but proud of the safe space I have been able to create over the years that incites bravery in young people and encourages them to open up in amazing ways.

The theme of the night was Survival, and returning poet Antonia was first to step onstage, sharing a deep poem about the pain that can come from a romantic relationship and surviving through loving yourself.  Chantae also returned after last month, starting with a poem called Olivia’s Theory, which was in response to a friend, followed by Broken Stopwatch, both brought to life through her beautiful words.

Beverly has been to some of The Kickback sessions, but this was her first time on the Poetic Insight stage.  Despite her nerves, she shared an emotion-fulled poem about pain and vulnerabilities in relationships.

Script Index came to our poetry night for the first time, all the way from West London, to draw us in with his wonderful delivery of True Flow.  Next up was now regular Poetic Insight attendee, but first timer on our stage, Destiny, who shared thought-provoking poems about mental health and an empowering poem about how lit she is.

The following three poets were all extremely brave, raw and openly vulnerable with us on the night, taking to our stage for the first time and wowing all of us.  They were a big part of why this Poetic Insight immediately became one of my favourites.

Emma is the perfect example of why I started Young People Insight.  When I met her on the night, she told me that she wrote poems but was nervous about performing, although she was thinking about it.  She then decided to sign up to perform, but told me she would be going onstage with a friend.  By the time she got onstage, she was willing to stand there on her own and lay herself bare by reading a poem called Mum Break Me The Most.

She was followed by Ingrid, the friend who was supposed to take to the stage with Emma, who also laid herself bare by sharing a deep poem about surviving trauma.  In the poem, she referred to herself as a victim, but I made the point of saying that she is no victim – she is a survivor.

Then it was Adam, who was wrestling with the thought of performing when he got to Poetic Insight as well, telling me that he wanted to perform but was scared.  I encouraged him to think it through, as there is nothing worse than getting onstage when you are half-hearted about it.  In spite of his nerves, he read an amazingly open poem, about consent and sex.

The final poet on stage was the returning Kane Adams (he performed under Adam’s Son last month).  He finished the night not only with some powerful micro poems, but he also provided words of wisdom, which were especially for the “younger” young people in attendance, although I think we all took something from them.  The moments that break away from poetry, while also reaching out to others, are some of my favourites at Poetic Insight.

It was a truly special night, which reminded me of why I set up Young People Insight all over again and why it needs to keep going for the long haul.  I can’t wait to see what more future events will bring.

Poetic Insight will join with The Kickback on December 18th for our final event of the year, when we’ll be ‘Looking Back, Moving Forward’.  We’ll be at Urban XChange Bar & Grill ( 1 Lansdowne Rd, Croydon CR9 2BN) from 6.30-9.30pm, so save the date, as you do not want to miss it.

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.

What’s Coming Up This November?

We’re already very much into November, which is looking like a quieter month for Young People Insight.  It actually feels weird to only have our two traditional events coming up, with nothing else in store, but it’s nice for things to be a little calmer as we prepare to wind down for the year.

First up, we have the return of The Kickback on its usual third Tuesday.  We’re going to be talking Healthy Relationships, with a focus on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and also violence against women and girls.  We’re going to have a special guest from the arts charity, Tender, to lead out on the conversation with us.

Make sure you’ve got November 20th saved in your diary, rather than November 13th, as I made the mistake of saying at our latest event.  We’ll be back at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm, for more great conversations and more snacks.  You can sign up for free here: bit.ly/letstalkhealthyrelationships

Then a week later, Poetic Insight will be back, but in a brand new home.  We’ll be bringing more inspiring poetry and spoken word to you from Urban XChange Bar & Grill, which is still in Croydon Town Centre and even nearer to East Croydon train station.

This month’s theme is Survival, which I think is going to be powerful and very interesting.  If you want to share your poetry or spoken word, email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com or you can simply sign up on the night.  Just be sure to be at Urban XChange Bar & Grill from 7-9pm so you don’t miss out.  Get your free tickets now: bit.ly/poeticinsight-survival

We’re in for another month of powerful events, set to inform and inspire.  Be sure to tell a friend to tell a friend, as we love welcoming new faces – a big smile is always in store.  Looking forward to seeing you soon.

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.

Back on Our Black Ish at Poetic Insight

We were back on our Black Ish at Poetic Insight on October 30th, to mark Black History Month.  This was one of my favourite editions of Poetic Insight last year, and this year was no different.  It was a brilliant way to bring Poetic Insight back after the break.

First onstage was the amazing Zhanai, fresh off her performance at Croydon’s first LIP Fest.  She blew us away with her amazing words in a personal poem, called Rest in Peace, and a new poem called Supernova.

Elisha was back on the Poetic Insight stage with another inspirational monologue for us, speaking to us about Cycles and Doubts.

We welcomed Chantae to Poetic Insight for the first time, who first performed a deep poem called Door Handle, followed by a poem written especially for Black History Month, which had everyone clicking in excitement and agreement.

Reii was also on our stage for the first time.  First, she shared a beautiful poem about Maya Angelou, then she broke it down for us with a powerful poem about being a black, Muslim woman.

I’ve seen Adam’s Son perform at a number of poetry nights in Croydon, but this was the first time he performed at Poetic Insight.  He had us all engaged with his rhythmic and powerful spoken word, including a beautifully personal piece about his daughter and the impact she had on his life.

Poetic Insight regular, Mhairi, laid herself bare with a raw and honest poem about her experience with race and family, which I think touched all of us.

Antonia returned to share two powerful poems, starting with A Black Girl’s Epiphany, which fitted right in with our theme, followed by The Tears of an Outspoken Woman.

I performed the final poem of the night, Don’t Box Me In, which is a spoken word piece challenging the perception of what it means to be black.

Thank you to the beautiful Zhanai, Elisha, Chantae, Reii, Adam’s Son, Mhairi and Antonia for sharing on the night, and thank you to all of the beautiful people who came out to watch and support.  An extra special thank you to Darren from Well Versed Ink for acting as our DJ on the night.  I could not do this without any of you.

It was another special and inspiring event, filled with love and I’m already looking forward to this month.  Poetic Insight returns on November 27th from 7-9pm, when the theme will be Survival.  We’ll also be at a new home, so make sure you come along to the Urban XChange Bar & Grill ( 1 Lansdowne Rd, Croydon CR9 2BN) to avoid missing out.  See you soon.

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.

Trapped

Last week, we collaborated with Croydon Community Against Trafficking (CCAT) for a special event to raise awareness of trafficking and modern slavery.  I wrote and shared a poem, created especially for the event, which I am sharing below in the lead up to Tuesday’s Poetic Insight.  It is called Trapped.

He thought he’d get his hands on all he’d dreamed of,
No longer ashamed of his appearance
He’d look prestige.
Decked out in Air Force, Levi’s and North Face
no one would dare to make him feel small again.
They promised,
promised him money and all the name brands in the world;
Promises never destined to come true,
Their words as empty as cardboard boxes without shoes.
Promises like a warm embrace, enticing and drawing him in,
soon twisting into headlock
keeping him terrified and submissive to their demands,
Cannabis forced to be transported and sold by his small hands.
Moved into a house, far from safe,
Decay and destruction all around –
Instead of flashy clothes on his back, he’s clothed in dirty rags.
But how can he leave, there’s nowhere he calls home
and they vowed to kill him if he ever tried to run.
Maybe one day, he’ll make them enough money to finally get everything he dreamed of…
he thinks.

She thought she was leaving for a job,
Walking through an open door that would supply her with money to support her family –
It was all she ever wanted, never to see them hungry again.
They sold her an opportunity,
sounding good enough but not too good to be true
so she put her trust in them, only to find too good to be true was just what it was.
Falsely sold, she was repaid with brutality,
the open door locked shut behind her
sealing off access to normality and family.
Everyday subjected to violence,
forced to endure abuse she could never have imagined,
Losing count of the faces she comes across day to day
eventually morphing into one and the same.
She wants to escape, but how can she run away?
Her family is being fed – as least that’s what they said –
and they vowed to kill her if she ever tried to run.
Maybe one day, she’ll be set free and finally get the job she desperately wanted…
she thinks.

Shaniqua Benjamin

What’s Coming Up This October?

It’s the first week of October, which means that we’re officially back.  Have you missed us over the past couple of months?  We’ve missed you and are excited to be back with an exciting set of events.

First up is a special collaborative event with Croydon Community Against Trafficking (CCAT) to raise awareness of Trafficking and Modern Slavery, happening just two days before Anti-Slavery Day.

As this is a collaboration, it won’t be a typical YP Insight event.  We’re combining discussion and poetry, with an inter-generational focus, giving individuals from all ages the opportunity to learn from each other.

This is going to be a powerful and informative event, so be sure to save October 16th in your diary.  We’ll be back in Project B from 6.30-8.30pm, and of course we’re bringing the snacks.  Register now so you don’t miss out on the chance to expand your mind and make your voice heard: bit.ly/letstalkabouttrafficking

We are excited to be one of the organisations bringing Croydon’s first ever poetry and spoken word festival to life.  Living in Poetry Festival (LIP Fest) will be taking over Stanley Halls on October 27th and 28th, from 10am to the 27th and 11am on the 28th.

There is something for everyone, of any age, with activities ranging from scratch performances, panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses, and showcases for all ages and abilities.  And if you’re 14-19, you can sign up to free workshops with our partner organisations, Well Versed Ink and Writerz n Scribez, on Saturdays leading up the festival.  Go to lipfestival.com for more information.

Then we’re back on our Black-Ish at Poetic Insight to celebrate Black History Month.  Last year was beautiful and this year is sure to be even better, so you don’t want to miss it.

We’ll be in Project B on October 30th from 7-9pm, with our traditional open mic format particularly for young people aged 16-26.  If you want to share your poetry or spoken word, email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com or you can sign up on the night.  In the meantime, get your free tickets here: bit.ly/poeticinsight-blackish18

It’s going to be a powerful and enjoyable month of events, which I am really looking forward to.  I am also looking forward to seeing your beautiful faces after such a long time, so that will make the events even better.  As usual, you will be greeted by a smile and a hug from me.  Looking forward to seeing you soon.

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.

Pure Fire from Young Talent at Poetic Insight

There was a double dose of Poetic Insight in July, as our regular monthly night took place on July 31st after coming to Thornton Heath Arts Week (THAW) for the first time two weeks prior.

I love poetry, so it was great to have two poetry events to see out Young People Insight’s activities before going on my extended break.  And boy, did we see out our events with a bang.  I fully mean it when I say that if you were not there, you missed out.  It was pure fire.

Returning to the Poetic Insight stage for the second time that month – following his THAW debut – was Elisha with his usual words of wisdom, encouraging us to connect with people.

Like Elisha, Antonia debuted for us at THAW and had us up in our feelings again by sharing a beautiful poem dedicated to her late cousin.  Antonia displayed incredibly bravery, as her cousin only passed away during the weekend and she managed to get through the piece without crying.

Veteran, Aaron, encouraged us all to never give up, utilising his wonderful way with words to inspire us all.  Second time performer, Emma, continued to display bravery and honesty as she gave us a greater insight into who she is with a gorgeously deep poem.

Aaron James took to the Poetic Insight stage for the first time and brought fire with a real, raw messages that made us all think.  Ada was real and raw as well, delivering a strong poem about knife crime.

We were happy to welcome Kris back to our stage, who had us all engaged and clicking away with his bars on the mic.  It was amazing to watch him bring a two-way conversation to life through spoken word.

The night then elevated to an even higher level when Annotate blew us all away, and branded me speechless, with a powerful new poem that told a hard-hitting story.  Mhairi then brought us to tears with a poem dedicated to fellow member of the YP Insight family, Samirah, who also sat crying in the audience – that is friendship goals right there.

Then Woodzy came and brought down the house with his spoken word poem, 90s Baby, which got everyone clicking and shouting out in excitement.  The level of nostalgia was unbelievable, and coupled with his amazing delivery, made it one of my favourite moments ever.

Although I didn’t intend to perform, I shared the final poems of the night – I was encouraged by everyone in the audience, because it was my last event in a while.  First, I  shared a poem about three treasured family members who died in the past two years, as it is my goal to get to Heaven and part of the reason is to see them again.  Then I shared a short poem about my transition from darkness to light.

I want to say a huge thank you to the beauties who performed on the night, and all the beauties who came out to support.  I could not do any of this without any of you and it is truly a pleasure to know you amazing people.

As I mentioned earlier, I am going on an extended break to take time to heal, so Poetic Insight will not be back until October.  This is also going to be the last post until October, but please look back on our past posts and get some great insights into what young people are saying and thinking.

If you would like to stay in contact, meet up on a social level, or get updated on when we’re coming back, email shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or follow @ShanqMarie on Twitter and DM me, as the YP Insight social media will be inactive as well.  See you beautiful people in October.

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.