This blog is all that remains from the former www.londonstreetgangs.com website which was closed after 8 years of providing a 'wiki' of urban street gangs in London.

An unfinished history of modern urban street gangs in London has been used to replace some of the content of the original site, beginning here

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Mother of murdered teenager holds football tournament in his memory

This is Local London

30th August

By Hermione Wright »

The mother of a promising footballer who was stabbed to death two years ago held a football tournament in his name today.


Yvonne Lawson (centre) with teenagers at her workshop

Godwin Lawson, 17, who lived in Enfield, died in March 2010 after he was stabbed in the heart in Stamford Hill by 20-year-old Moise Avorgah.

The teenager, who grew up in Tottenham and had dreams of playing for Manchester United, had come home for the weekend to see friends after moving to Oxford to complete an Oxford United Football scholarship.

His mother Yvonne is determined to spread the word about the dangers of knife crime through her eldest son’s favourite sport.

Eighty players aged between 15 and 19 came together from London and Oxford to compete in a seven-a-side tournament at White Hart Lane Community Sport Centre in Wood Green.


Promising footballer Godwin Lawson


Mrs Lawson led powerful workshops in which she told teenagers about her son’s life, his death, and her ambitions of banishing postcode rivalry and preventing youths from carrying knives.

She said: “Some days I can’t believe he is never coming back and I won’t be able to have a conversation with him, it is just so unreal.

“The message I want to put across is that if the person who had a knife decided to leave their knife at home, Godwin would still be here. Because he made that decision to go out with a knife with the intention to use it, and he did – he has turned our lives upside down.”

Avorgah, of St Ann's Road in Tottenham, was sentenced in February last year to a minimum of 19 years in jail for the teenager’s murder.

He maintained his innocence throughout the trial and the exact motive for the killing is unknown.


Yvonne Lawson gathered with friends and family after the tournament

Mrs Lawson spoke honestly to the boys, who were silent when she told her story.

She said: “His funeral was a very strange day and it is still a very sad day, because as a parent, when something like this happens, you can never move on from this.

“There is always a constant reminder that we have lost a son because it is the most unnatural thing to happen.

"When you have a child, you have plans for them, you have high expectations for them and the last thing any parent expects to happen is to bury your child.”

Mrs Lawson, who has three other children, asked the boys to make a pledge not to carry a knife on the street in a bid to prevent any other young people from losing their lives through knife crime.

She added: “We go through good days and bad days; some days the tunnel is very dark, some days I just lie in bed and I really don’t want to get up, some days you just want to die with them to know where they are.

“And as a mother, you feel like it is your responsibility to be there with them, but we have to look on the bright side because we have other children and we have to keep going.”

The tournament, which is backed by the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation and Oxford United, is the first in the teenager's name, but Mrs Lawson hopes to hold one each year.

Toby Akintimehin, 17, who was was friends with the teenager and played football against him, is confident the workshops will have a positive impact on the young players.

He said: “When people die, everyone just says he was a good guy, but he was actually was. He was one of those guys that could encourage people. If people were feeling low, he would make them laugh and get them to play football.

“I just know I am not going to carry a knife but if everyone just put their mind to it, it might actually work. We have got to start somewhere.”

Friday, 24 August 2012

WALTHAM FOREST: 'Stop the violence', pleads mum at peace march for knife victims

Waltham Forest Guardian
Joe Curtis »

‘PLEASE stop the violence’ was the message delivered at a peace march by the mother of a man stabbed to death four years ago.

The peace rally through Walthamstow today

Hundreds of young people turned out this afternoon (Friday) to mourn the deaths of CJ Hendricks, who was stabbed outside Walthamstow bus station four years ago at just 18 years old, Michael Wright, who was killed in 2009, and Tommy Overton, who was murdered just five days ago in Leyton.

Family and friends of the victims walked, chanting “RIP CJ, RIP Tommy”, from Abbot Park in High Road, Leyton, through Hoe Street until they reached Walthamstow town square, where Melanie Hendricks made her emotional plea at about 2.40pm.

She said: “It has to stop, this violence must end. We want all this to stop and we need everyone to help do this.”

CJ’s father, Charles, added: “Here we are again. When will all this stop? Only you can decide. Each year it seems to grow and grow and we have more people to remember. It’s sad.”

A 17-year-old boy was cleared of CJ’s murder and manslaughter in 2009 after he claimed he acted in self-defence.

Mrs Hendricks told the Guardian: “It is things like Tommy Overton’s death which is why I’ve been fighting since CJ’s murder. We need to encourage kids away from violence – they need things to occupy them.”

Tommy Overton was stabbed in Beaumont Road in the early hours of Sunday, August 19. Police believe a fight spilled out into the street from a party in Colchester Road.

A 16-year-old boy has been formally charged with his murder and is being held in custody until a date is set for his court case on August 29.

His family raised funds for his funeral at the march, but did not speak with the Guardian.

But friends of both CJ and Tommy rapped and performed to remember both of them.

One speaker, who identified himself only as Jerome, said: “People have to come together and help each other because life is too short. These deaths are tragic but we’ve got to show love to each other or everyone gets hurt.”

'A pastor saved me from gang life, now I want to help others from crime,' says Ideas for London competition winner

Evening Standard

'Positive step': Karl Lokko at the mini hotel on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall (Pic: Alex Lentati)

‘My peers are still being affected, still going to prison. This has to stop’ - Karl Lokko

Louise Jury

24 August 2012

A former gang member who rejected crime with help from a pioneering pastor wants to create rehabilitation centres for others.
After winning the Evening Standard’s Ideas for London competition, Karl Lokko this week held meetings with police, psychotherapists and youth crime experts.

Mr Lokko, 22, of Brixton, became embroiled in a culture of drugs, weapons and violence when a teenager.

But his drift towards joining his contemporaries in prison was halted by Pastor Mimi Asher, a single mother, who took him and other youths into her home on the Myatts Fields estate.

“She engaged with us, she counselled us, basically she gave us hope,” he said. Instead of lecturing or reprimanding, she offered support from clothes washing to cinema trips. “What she did was not condemn us but love us.”

She kept them away from their old lives — and other gang members — until they had forged new lives.

Mr Lokko now works in the community with organisations such as the Kids Company. He wants to create a therapeutic community which would offer others a haven from the temptations and pressures of gang culture.

He said talks with Lambeth council had faltered. But he had better luck in entering the Ideas for London competition which gives one winner a month the chance to discuss their idea for improving the capital with experts.

A dinner is held in the Room for London, the ship-shaped mini-hotel on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, before the winner gets the chance of a night’s stay.

Mr Lokko said it was “smashing” to have met senior representatives from the Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour, the Centre for Social Justice and the Metropolitan Police who offered backing for his idea and mentoring.

“It was a very positive step,” he said, adding: “My peers are still being affected, still going to prison. This has to stop. And if you look at the costs of people in prison, I’m looking out for taxpayers’ interest in trying to find a solution.”

The Ideas for London competition, run with Artangel, is still open for entries.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Imagine Garden - Newham

Newham Recorder
August 22, 2012 Wednesday

There have been 67 people killed in Newham either by a gun, knife or a sharp instrument since the year 2000. (Metropolitan Police Service figures).

If you have been directly or indirectly affected by any of these deaths, this is your chance to make a difference and perhaps save some lives.

The Imagine Garden is a peace garden dedicated to the memory of gun crime victim John Lennon and to Newham's victims of gun and knife crime since the year 2000.

The garden is for everybody including schools and groups. The garden idea is supported by Ms Yoko Ono Lennon, the friends of Plashet Park committee and many others including the charity Through Unity.

Time is running out. The Newham Council masterplan for Plashet Park stage 2 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund Parks for People Scheme is due to be submitted at the end of August.

Please join the petition, you will need to post a plain piece of A4 paper with name and address with the heading "I, the undersigned, petition the council to include the Imagine Garden into the Plashet Park masterplan stage 2 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund Parks for People Scheme".

You can sign the petition and state whether you live, work or study in Newham. You must state your employer or place of study in Newham if you do not reside there.

Post the petition sheet as soon as possible to: The Head of Committees & Partnerships Democratics Services, London Borough of Newham, 3rd Floor East Wing, Newham Dockside, 1000 Dockside Road, London E16 2QU.

Please visit www.theimaginegarden.co.uk for more information.

Mr Jason Pearson East Ham

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Thornton Heath drama group given grant for play about gun and knife crime

Croydon Advertiser
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A GROUP of keen drama students, tucked away in a rehearsal room in Thornton Heath, could hold a key to changing attitudes to gun and knife crime.

They are part of an ambitious project launched by the African Youth Development Association (AYDA) based in Day Lewis House, in Bensham Lane.



Jumanae Bailey and Lauren Brooks-Mills act out a row between a teacher and a pupil 

With the support of a £2,500 grant from Croydon Council, AYDA has taken on drama teacher Sheila Atieno, to use her skills to help those taking part to examine their attitudes to society and life.

In the longer term Ms Atieno intends to build on the acting skills of the dozen or so youngsters involved at present to produce a play on the dangers of getting involved with guns and knives.

The ambition is to have this performed at schools and youth groups to bring the message home to a much wider audience.

Ms Atieno, who is also writing the scripts for the group, said: "We want to help young people to understand the wider issues involved with the crimes through the play and hopefully change their attitudes."

That process has already started with the existing small group working on a variety of sketches looking at bullying and building respect.

Ms Atieno said: "Through improvisation and scripts I have written, we are working on both the good and the bad ways of dealing with situations which might arise between young people, and between young people and adults.

"It involves building respect and explaining 'you don't speak to people like that'."

Ms Atieno also believes that taking part in the classes is also helping develop the individual characters of the youngsters taking part.

She said: "It is all about building confidence – that is what drama does.

"It helps develop their social skills and become more confident about talking about problems."

Lauren Brooks-Mills, one of the youngsters taking part in the course, said: "We are learning about how to talk to people of all ages and about how behave appropriately."

At the end of school holidays, it is intended to run the classes after school and possibly at weekends and AYDA is looking for more youngsters to join up.

Anyone interested should ring 0208 239 0009 or e-mail admin@aydacentre.org

New call for witnesses over Stephen Lawrence murder corruption allegations


Tuesday 21st August 2012
Stephen Lawrence

LAWYERS reviewing allegations of corruption in the original police investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence have repeated calls for witnesses to come forward.

A team led by Mark Ellison QC has started work looking into the accusations and is expected to report in July next year.

Mr Ellison is working with fellow barrister Alison Morgan. The pair successfully prosecuted Gary Dobson and David Norris earlier this year for the racist murder of Mr Lawrence in 1993.

They are setting out to examine whether there is evidence that provides reasonable grounds to suspect any officer acted corruptly during the initial investigation, and whether there are any further lines of investigation linked to alleged corruption.

The team will also look at whether the Macpherson Inquiry - the probe that concluded the Metropolitan Police was "institutionally racist" after the original failure to solve Mr Lawrence's murder - was given all the relevant material connected to possible corruption.

The review team can be contacted via email at SLAM@6kbw.com or SLMEQC@qebhw.co.uk; or by post at: The Stephen Lawrence Review, PO Box 70744, London, EC4P 4DT.

Mr Lawrence was stabbed to death by a gang of five or six attackers in Eltham at the age of 18.

The original investigation into his death was dogged by allegations of corruption and racism in the police force.

Only two of his killers have been convicted. Dobson and Norris were found guilty by a jury at the Old Bailey at the start of this year, after a cold case review team found tiny traces of forensic evidence linking them to the murder.


Monday, 20 August 2012

Freedom from the Womb Prisoner to the Streets (Promo Vid)



TO READ EXCERPTS CLICK HERE (LIKE PAGE TO KEEP UPDATED)

FOLLOW ROBYN ON TWITTER @ROBYNTRAVIS

RELEASE IN SEPTEMBER 2012

Freedom from the Womb Prisoner to the Streets (Chapter One)


PRISONER TO THE STREETS

CHAPTER 1

THE CHASE

WHAT the fuck have I gotten myself into? 
Again.
This wasn’t the first time in my sixteen years that this had crossed my mind as the boi dem chased us. I was having to ask myself that question on a weekly basis. If it wasn’t one hype it was another. Armed robberies, drug runnings, street robberies and all kinds of beef. I wasn’t really into the drugs 

and the robberies, but where beef was concerned you could bet your life on me.
How do I get myself out of this?
A few of the guys my age and older had been in and out of prison lately. I wasn’t plannning on joining them. But it sounded like we were surrounded. Police sirens from every direction, the reflection of the blue lights everywhere. There was no time to worry about anything. It was run first, think later.
Q ran first. Without thinking I followed. The boi dem were only a long arm’s length away when I breezed.
The chase was on.
It began when we were opposite McDonalds, on a back street off of Kingsland High Road, when the boi dem first clocked us. Like they’d been clocking us all summer. Like they always do in Holly Street, and Hackney in general. They had been circling the area for weeks. As if something was going down.
Something was going down, but nothing major. It was around midnight and we were just around the corner from Holly Street heading to Danielle’s. I was on my phone, not really paying attention to what Q was up to as he kneeled down next to a parked car. Like I said, robbery wasn’t really my thing and, even though I was chatting away on the phone, I knew that he was up to sutt’n. Either he was going to jack the car or the stereo. But I didn’t really pay him no mind. I just continued talking on the phone, minding my own business, until he was done with whatever he was doing.
I don’t know where they came from but all of a sudden they were there. A police car had crept up without its headlights on. It pulled up right beside us. The sirens screamed.
Q had already breezed by the time the boi dem jumped out. I was right behind him trying to catch up. The boi dem were also trying to catch up. All I could hear was their footsteps. It sounded like there were two or three of them on my back.
Q dusted down an alleyway that led us into Kerridge, an estate on the border with Islington. That didn’t trouble us. Hackney boys had no respect for Islington boys. It wasn’t like they were going to argue about whose endz it was. They simply weren’t on our level. The only surrounding area that we had respect for was Tottenham. Most of us Hackney boys were full of ourselves. We didn’t have much ratings for Leyton, Walthamstow or Stratford. Even though the African boys in E15 could fight, we were the heart of East London, and the hardest too.
But the boi dem who were chasing us didn’t care about our rep. They didn’t respect any of us. All they wanted to do was dash us in the bully van before their shift was over. The way they were running after us was like their livelihoods dependend on it. I chased after Q hoping he knew what he was doing. The further he ran the more I lost faith in him. By now my lungs were burning like somene was sparking up a spliff in my chest. Every gasp of breath was a painful reminder that there was much more at stake for me than TDA. I was fully strapped. And that would cost me more than a shit and a shave at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.
More time I had my gun on me because I was afraid to get caught slippin’.
Again.
I had mad beef dem times, so I carried my strap to beef with anyone and everyone who wanted it. Although this wasn’t beef, I was slippin’ into doing time for a fully loaded strap.
So I kept on running.
By now I was fed up with the chase. I mean, I don’t even run from my enemies. I couldn’t understand how the boi dem had me shook. They weren’t even strapped. And, to be honest, I had more respect for the Islington boys than I had for them. The stubborn side of me wanted to get ignorant - stop running, turn around and face them. The sensible part reasoned that the boi dem didn’t even know I was strapped, and what’s the use in making my problems bigger if I could get rid of the burner before the chase got longer.
Q buss’d another corner on the estate, past the football cage and the communal gardens. As soon as I got round that bend I dashed the gun into a bush. Fully loaded. Still running, I wondered if the boi dem had seen what I had thrown into the darkness. Man didn’t have time to watch dat. What concerned me now was the £5 draw tucked in my socks. But that was a minor, still.
What the FUCK have I gotten myself into?
That question still ringing in my head.
The boi dem were on to us differently. Determinedly. Still refusing to give up the chase. Me and Q breezed around a next corner. All that was keeping me running now was the need to sleep in my own bed tonight. At sixteen I had already spent way too many nights sitting on a blue rubber mattress in a cell. Who knows how many times it’s been pissed on. A nice warm bed and a spliff at home was my only motivation.
That’s how cocky we were. Getting caught by the boi dem’s a no-no. You can’t come back to the manor and big up your chest about getting shift by the boi dem. All it means is that you got caught. Bad bwoys ain’t supposed to get caught. Especially black boys.
Me and Q were easily up there amongst the fastest in Hackney our age, so we didnt have to worry about each other on a chase. We run from police for fun on a regular. With smiles on our faces. But this chase was no joke ting, because I was a big weed smoker dem times. I was still boasy of my chances in a sprint with the boi dem, but I wasn’t sure about going the distance. I had to find a way of getting away before we ran out of road into a dead end.
Ah shit. Spoke too soon. Q could have turned left or right. He turned right, which was wrong. I followed him regardless, hoping he had a plan. Before we ran into the brick wall.
The boi dem were closing in on us. I didn’t want to get arrested again or go to prison but it looked like we were on our way to Feltham if we didn’t make it over the wall - and fast. Q didn’t hesitate until he had climbed to the top. It was only when I managed to reach there myself that I realised why. What we had climbed was nothing compared to the drop on the other side. It was like we were sitting on the roof of a three or even four-storey house, looking down at the train tracks at the bottom. We looked at each other. I was thinking, Shit, we’re gonna need a parachute for this one. Q was probably thinking the same thing. But the sound of heavy boots, shouting and the crackle of walkie talkies not far behind got our minds back in focus.
We both looked at each other, and then down. I was thinking, “Olders first.” But he looked like he was thinking, “Nah, bro, youngers first.”
I don’t know who said it, all I remember is hearing “JUMP!” and before I knew it we were in mid-air and falling fast.

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RELEASE IN SEPTEMBER 2012


London Homicide Data

Earlier in 2012 two Met Police Freedom of Information requests were published regarding homicide victims in London (covering the full calendar years of 2006 through to 2011). 

The information contained within the FOI's gave details on geography, victim age, victim gender, date, methods or instruments used and whether or not the case had been solved.

Through triangulation of available homicide data with the Murder Map website, local and national news reports and Met Police press releases it has been possible to attach further details to these incidences, including motives and ethnic appearance of victims.


Age of Victims

The data available had records of 866 homicides between 2006 and 2011.

Between 2006 and 2011 the majority of homicide victims in London were aged 20-29, accounting for 29.9% or 259 victims. This was followed by those aged 30-39 with 19.2% or 166 victims, and those aged 10-19 with 15.0% or 130 victims.

Between 2006 and 2011 there was a reduction in homicide of -29.7% from 172 down to 121. These changes varied considerably by age group,

  • Child victims reduced -62.5% (from 8 in 2006 to 3 in 2011)
  • Age 10-19 victims -5.6%  (from 18 in 2006 to 17 in 2011)
  • Age 20-29 victims -26.8%  (from 56 in 2006 to 41 in 2011)
  • Age 30-39 victims -24.2%  (from 33 in 2006 to 25 in 2011)
  • Age 40-49 victims -39.1%  (from 23 in 2006 to 14 in 2011)
  • Age 50-59 victims -58.8%  (from 17 in 2006 to 7 in 2011)
  • Age 60+ victims -17.6%  (from 17 in 2006 to 14 in 2011)
The main change of note is within the 10-19 aged victims category which has remained relatively stable over time with the exception of notable peaks in 2007 and 2008.


Gender of Victims

The majority of London homicide victims are male accounting for 76% between 2006 and 2011. Since 2006 there has been a -31.4% reduction in the volume of male homicide victims in London, from 137 down to 94. However, the change in volume of female homicide victims has been more modest, falling just -7.4% during the same period, from 27 down to 25.


Ethnicity/Ethnic Appearance of Victims

These statistics will perhaps be the most sought after for observers, however, must be used with caution when considering their subjectiveness. The ethnic appearance of victims has been interpreted through multiple sources including images, news reports and nationalities.

Those who on the face of them are White are counted as White (this would encompass White British, White Irish, a host of European countries i.e. Polish, Russian, Lithuanian and so on). Those who on the face of them appeared to be Black were listed as Black, however, this will inevitably include those who are mixed White and Black, or mixed Asian and Black etc.

Black can include those who are Black British, Black Caribbean, Black African, Black and other ethnic appearance mixed. It would also include those whose appearance is Black but not necessarily one of the aforementioned categories - for example someone who is Portuguese and Black.

Those who are counted as Asian includes those of Bengali, Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan descent.

There was no simple way to assign an ethnic appearance (apologies for using such governmental type categorisation) to a number of victims, therefore, other nationalities and ethnic appearance that could not as easily be assigned a category were counted as other. Where insufficient details were available they were counted as unknown.

Other includes Turkish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Brazilian, Ecuadorian, Northern African (i.e. Moroccan) and Middle Eastern (i.e. Saudi Arabian or Iranian).

This is far from a sound analysis so please be mindful of the caveats if re-producing.

It shows that those with a White appearance accounted for the largest proportion of homicide victims between 2006 and 2011 (42.6%), followed by Black (30.0%) and Asian (13.3%).

There were notable changes over time when considering ethnic appearance between 2006 and 2011:
  • White declined -43.3% (from 80 down to 47)
  • Asian declined -33.3% (from 27 down to 18)
  • Black remained stable with 43 victims in both 2006 and 2011 (peaking at 50 in 2008)
  • "Other" increased +14.3% (from 7 up to 8, but peaking in 2007-2009 with avg of 15)

Weapons Used

Knives were used as the main weapon in 42% of homicides between 2006 and 2011. In 24% of homicides no weapon was used and in 15% a firearm was used.


Weapon Use and Ethnicity
  • Those who were Asian were more likely to have been killed with a knife (43.5%) or no weapons used (23.5%).
  • Those who were Black were more likely to have been killed with a knife (49.2%) or firearm (34.2%).
  • Those who were White were more likely to have been killed with a knife (39.8%) or no weapons used (37.4%).
As a percentage of total homicides:
  • For those killed by Arson 60% of victims were Asian
  • For those killed by Blunt Object 46% of victims were White
  • For those killed by Firearm 68% of victim were Black (21% White)
  • For those killed by Knife 40% of victims were White (35% Black)
  • Where no weapon was used 66% of victims were White (13% Asian)

Motive/Categorisation of Methods

Below are "motives" for homicides as a percentage of the total. Some incidents may occur in multiple categories, for example a drugs robbery may count in Drug-Related and in Robbery.

Many of the homicides counted did not offer a clear motive. In most cases the victim and suspect were known to one another.
  • Gangs/Organised Crime 32%
  • Domestic Violence 15%
  • Alcohol-Related 12%
  • Drug-Related 7%
  • Robbery 6%
  • Mental Illness 6%
  • Child/Infanticide 5%
  • Hate Crime 1%

Highest Average Rates Per Borough Per 100,000 2006-2011
  • Lambeth 4.7
  • Newham 4.0
  • Hackney 3.4
  • Southwark 3.0
  • Islington 2.8
  • Haringey 2.7
  • Greenwich 2.6
  • Tower Hamlets 2.4
  • Lewisham, Waltham Forest 2.3
  • Brent 2.2
  • Barking & Dagenham, Croydon, Ealing 1.9
  • Enfield, Hammersmith & Fulham 1.8
  • City of Westminster 1.7
  • Camden, Wandsworth 1.6
  • Hillingdon 1.4
  • Bexley 1.2
  • Barnet, Bromley, Merton 1.1
  • Havering, Hounslow 1.0
  • Harrow, Kensington & Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames and Sutton less than 1.0

Friday, 17 August 2012

Woman of inspiration gives Levi, 15, the chance to change

Evening Standard

Teenager tells Maxine Frith how a groundbreaking family project rescued him from a grim future



Passionate: Donna Sinclair has helped youths such as Levi Wright of Camberwell (pictured) through the Options 4 Change scheme

Maxine Frith

17 August 2012

Levi Wright’s education looked as if it was already over before most people had started secondary school. The 15-year-old from Camberwell has barely been in school since the age of 11 when, with a troubled home life, he was taken into care and moved between eight foster homes in 10 months alone, from London to Birmingham.

His grandmother Beverley Baxter, 62, was beginning to despair; he was already getting into trouble with the police, mostly for petty theft, but the crimes were beginning to escalate, and he was caught with someone who had a knife. In Camberwell, where he now lives with his grandmother, Levi’s future looked grim but depressingly common.

Then Donna Sinclair and her project Options 4 Change stepped in, and suddenly things seem a lot brighter.

After years outside the education system he has just been accepted into Lambeth College, and is looking forward to his introduction day next week. “I’m going to be studying maths and English and law — I want to be a lawyer,” he said confidently. “I want to do GCSEs and A-levels and go to university.”

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a youth who until recently was in danger of becoming another statistic on police and court files.

Mrs Baxter said: “He’s a bright boy but he had a really difficult time when he was younger. Because he moved around so much in foster care he could never stay in one school. Then when he came back to live with me he went to school, but he’d already missed so much and after a few weeks they said he had a problem with his teacher and he was sent to a pupil referral unit.

“They promised me he’d be learning maths and English but they weren’t teaching him anything. Then they said he was learning catering — it was just cooking. He wasn’t going because he wasn’t learning anything, and some days he would just sit in the house, staring into space, looking so sad.

“Options 4 Change and Donna have got him back into school and that’s made me so happy. Without them I don’t know where we’d be by now.”

Options 4 Change started in 2005 and has developed a reputation for being prepared to work with some of the most difficult-to-reach young people on the margins of society. The charity has now been awarded £19,964 by the Evening Standard’s Dispossessed campaign to fund a new Turnaround Project, which involves an intervention course for 15 young men aged 13 to 19.

The intensive course will focus on youths who have been referred by Lambeth’s Coldharbour Safer Neighbourhoods team and are at risk of offending or falling into gang culture.

The project aims to work with the whole family: the teenagers will be given education and career advice, help with preparing CVs and personal development classes, while outreach workers will liaise with relatives, visit their homes and offer advice on a range of issues, from social to financial. The 16-week course will finish with a 48-hour residential trip which parents will be invited to attend. Local police have already drawn up a long list of teenagers they believe could be helped by the scheme.

As she bustles around the Options 4 Change offices in Streatham, Ms Sinclair is passionate about her work and endlessly patient with the young men already involved in the project, who are deeply mistrustful of anyone in authority.

She said: “We’re not saying there is a magic wand or a quick-fix solution or an instant happy ending to these boys. It can be very hard work. Sometimes it really is a massive achievement just to get them to walk through the doors of this office and sit and listen to us for 10 minutes. Some of these people have never had anyone help them before, never had someone be on their side. You have to win their trust before you can do anything.

“We consider it a big success if we can get them back into school, doing GCSEs or an apprenticeship, because these are people who before have had absolutely no expectations of the future, of getting a job, or even if they’re going to be alive. Some don’t go to school because they’re worried they’re going to get attacked just getting on the bus. We had one guy a few months ago who was chased and stabbed in the street. He’s OK now, but that’s the kind of life we’re dealing with.”

The project focuses on getting teen-agers like Levi back into training and education. They are taught IT skills, letter-writing and interview techniques, while Ms Sinclair advocates vigorously on their behalf with social services, schools and police to get them back on track and into work. She was inspired to set up the charity after managing a homelessness hostel and seeing how many boys and young men would turn up each day with nowhere to live, no support, and no means of getting back into education after being excluded from school.

Ms Sinclair, who lives in the area, says she “doesn’t use the word gangs”, partly because many of the teenagers involved in the scheme may not be part of a formal gang. However, many of those she helps already have a long list of criminal convictions for theft, assault and drug dealing.

They also feel deeply excluded by society. Levi said: “I get stopped and searched sometimes three times a day by the police even when I’m not doing anything wrong. You get hassled all the time. It’s really annoying. They treat you like rubbish.” Another Options 4 Change participant, Anthony Lewis, 19, from Lambeth, lights up when he talks to — and about — Ms Sinclair.

“She’s great — she listens and she doesn’t make judgments about you,” he said. “I like coming here. I didn’t have anything to do before. I just left school and that was it. Now I want to get an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator.”

As with so many of the charities being supported by the Dispossessed Fund, the underlying issue for many of the boys is self-esteem and empowerment. “We want them to feel like they’re worth the effort,” said Ms Sinclair.

“It can be tough going but we’re getting there.” And as Levi Wright prepares for his first full-time schooling in four years, the impact the project can have is clearly evident.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Youth centres get together at camp

Enfield Advertiser

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

YOUNG people driven apart by the intense postcode rivalry that divides Edmonton are having their prejudices challenged this week at a summer camp in Epping Forest.

The four-day camp at Gilwell Park is a chance for 120 teenagers from across Enfield to set aside the postcode and gang rivalries that have sparked violence in the borough and focus instead on “fun, adventure and learning”.

The mini-summer camp was the brainchild of young people from the Craig Park and Croyland youth centres in Edmonton, based in the rival postcodes of N18 and N9 respectively, who set up the Unity Youth project to help young people in their area overcome the intense gang associations that stop some people travelling between boroughs.

The 13 to 19-year-olds at this week’s camp come from ten different youth projects across Enfield.

And an Enfield Council spokesman insisted that the four-day camp is about promoting community harmony between some of the young people who hail from rival areas.

Ayfer Orhan, cabinet member for children and youth, said: “This summer event brings many young people together, learning new skills and trying new challenging activities.

“They are taking part in team building and communication exercises, team sports and adventurous activities.”

She added that young people attending the camp would gain recognised national accreditations as youth leaders or as participants.

One of the camp leaders, Ersin Ramiz, who manages Ponders End Youth Centre, said: “The success of this camp is to get young people to expand their social skills beyond their immediate friends and learn how to interact with new people and how to exchange ideas.

“Working in groups, young people are able to find new interests and support each other.”

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Review: ‘Riot from Wrong’ is a ‘must see’ documentary


East London Lines
Written by Koos Couvee Aug 11, 2012


The filmmakers. Pic: Fully Focused

With the Games capturing the imagination of millions across the country and the medals for Team GB pouring in, it is hard to imagine that it was only a year ago that England witnessed the biggest social unrest for a generation: the August 2011 riots.

On this day last year, the disturbances that began in Tottenham had spread to Croydon, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, Boris Johnson had returned from his holiday in Canada, and the tabloids were paving the way for swift and harsh sentences to be meted out to the ‘feral thugs’ responsible for the violent disorder.

The streets of Clapham were occupied by middle class gentrifier folk armed with brooms, determined to clean up the streets, but perhaps unwilling to pose more fundamental questions about the reasons as to why it all kicked off.

David Cameron was quick to dismiss the disturbances as “mindless criminality, pure and simple” – another indictment of a “broken Britain”. The government’s response focused on restoring law and order on the streets and sending rioters to jail, and cabinet ministers broadly avoided asking questions about what caused the riots.

One year on, Britain has not witnessed an independent inquiry (instead, the rather unfamiliar Riots Communities and Victims Panel was created), has seen a number of surface-scratching TV documentaries and, despite a more serious effort by the Guardian to try to understand what motivated so many young people to fight the police and loot high street shops, are we as a nation any wiser about the underlying social issues that caused the riots? Is Olympic Britain a different place?

‘Riot from Wrong’, a documentary film made by the youth media collective Fully Focused, seeks to document the August uprisings from within the communities in which they occurred and, crucially, does so from the perspective of young people. The idea for the film, produced by 19 young Londoners, came four days into the riots when a group of youngsters and two youth workers, who were frustrated with the lies peddled in the media about the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, picked up their cameras and started filming. The end product was on show at the British Film Institute on the South Bank yesterday.

The documentary is set in three parts. First, the viewer is taken back to Ferry Lane in Tottenham on August 4 of last year, where an eye witness gives an account of the last seconds of the life of Mark Duggan, shot dead by Trident police officers. Interviews with the Duggan family follow, and the simplicity of the questions raised belie their pain: Why was the family not notified about Duggan’s death? Why did the police and the IPCC peddle the lie that Duggan had shot at police first? Why is there, to this day, no evidence to suggest that the gun found on the scene actually belonged to the father-of-four? The next moment we see exclusive footage – some of it filmed on mobile phones – of Tottenham High Road where, two days after Duggan’s death, his family and friends have arrived at the police station demanding answers. After hours of waiting, a young girl gets beaten up by police and the fuse is lit. A riot ensues.

Whilst clearly out to provide a counterbalance to the condemnation and outright dehumanisation of the rioters in mainstream media coverage, ‘Riot from Wrong’ is carefully balanced – particularly with regards to the arson of local shops and homes. The film in no way seeks to justify the burning and looting and allows for the perspective of local residents who have lost everything.

The riots’ immediate aftermath is painful: the damage to the communities, the demonisation of youth in the media and the disproportionate sentencing of a group of people who were by and large first-time offenders.

The second part of the film seeks to understand the anger at the police, frustration with society and alienation from their communities that so many young people feel. Through interviews the film shows how a lot of working class youngsters are victims of stereotyping in the media, racial profiling and police harassment. We learn about stop and search, deaths in police custody (disproportionally black men) and questions are raised about the proclaimed independence of the IPCC – a source of grievance for many who have lost loved ones at the hands of the police.

And it is not just young people who are being interviewed. We hear from Tottenham community activist Stafford Scott, the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, Hackney-based youth worker Janette Collins and Michael Mansfield QC. The dots between many elements – unemployment, government cuts to youth services, the raising of university fees, the scrapping of EMA, the MP’s expenses scandal, consumerism, the bail out of the banks – are carefully joined. Michael Mansfield goes back as far as Thatcherism – which Tony Blair of course was even better at – and bemoans the “lack of psychological space in which people are fully recognised” in today’s society.

The third and final part of the film explores some answers. Toynbee points to the need for a more equal society. Youth workers speak of jobs, proper funding for education, youth services and housing. Finally, the film emphasises the importance of art and expression in fostering a new generation of healthy young people, featuring performances from youth groups including SE1 United, the X7eaven Academy and Centrepoint Parliament.

The brooms in Clapham were no solution, and the halo of the Olympic flame will fade very soon. But in many ways, ‘Riot from Wrong’ is an answer in itself. The slickness of its production and the quality of this film’s journalism can rival any mainstream media production. The film is real, and as a historical assessment of contemporary Britain it is better than anything I have seen on TV all year. And whilst it is damning in its verdict of British society, it is equally positive in its outlook for the future.

‘Riot from Wrong’ is a celebration of young talent and an example of what journalism should be like: rooted in the community, and sceptical of the state. This is a documentary everyone should see.

For details of screenings visit the Event Brite page. Website: http://www.fullyfocusedproductions.com/

Friday, 10 August 2012

Koyaki funding crisis. After-school tuition club, which helps improve the educational chances of African and Caribbean children, faces closure

Islington Tribune



Desmond Riley

Published: 10 August, 2012
by PETER GRUNER

AN after-school tuition club which helps improve the educational chances of children from the African and Caribbean community in Islington is under threat due to a funding crisis.

It is just one of numerous community organisations which are suffering due to the Coalition government’s massive cuts in Islington Council’s cash.
Others include a Somali Community Centre which can no longer help its elderly members, an arts centre that is threatened with homelessness as it can no longer afford to pay its rent and a befriending service which is having to cut the hours volunteers spend with special needs children.

Over the next few weeks the Tribune will be highlighting these organisations who are struggling to continue their good work in the face of drastic cuts.

Threat to Koyaki - Search is on for alternative base to provide after-school tuition

THE popular Kokayi Supplementary School in Finsbury Park, which has been going for 30 years, provides essential after-school and weekend tuition for young people who might otherwise fail in the education system.

But Kokayi can no longer afford the annual rent for its premises in Woodfall Road. Islington Council, which owns the building, has given notice that Kokayi must seek alternative offices, possibly sharing with another organisation.

Leading community worker Desmond Riley, who runs the Link Up Project in Holloway and whose children attended the school, said he was extremely concerned.

He added: “Thousands of black youngsters would have failed the school system if it wasn’t for Kokayi. The children learn everything on the exam curriculum but they also get help with their homework.”

Kokayi was started in 1982 by concerned parents worried about the “culture gap” between young people from the black community and some teachers.
“A lot of children were failing and we didn’t know why,” said Mr Riley.

With mentoring support from a handful of teachers, Kokayi has helped raise the hopes and aspirations of hundreds of black children, with many being able to go to university.

Mr Riley believes there are still deep-rooted problems preventing many black children succeeding in our schools and there may still even be elements of “institutionalised racism”.

He said: “If black children are treated as potential troublemakers or failures right from the start then that’s the way they will feel.
“My own kids went to Kokayi. They all did very well. My daughter Charmaine went to university. She’s now got a job in marketing.”

Islington’s Labour education chief Councillor Richard Watts said Kokayi had achieved some remarkable results over the years and it was important that it survived.
“They have fallen on hard times recently but we are keen on helping them,” he added. “I am asking officers to find out what they need and how we can help. We need to ensure we get good value for our council tax-payers but there are various options we want to explore.”

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Tottenham riots: Barber victim, 90, donates £10,000 to youth charities


From left, Maleka Carter, Aaron Biber, Dandelion Project's Fiona Namale and Kay Horne. Picture: Kaytea Budd-Brophy

by Flora Drury Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Tottenham barber who became one of the most famous faces of last summer’s riot victims has donated £10,000 to local youth projects.

After Aaron Biber’s little shop, just off Tottenham Green, was wrecked by looters he was inundated with donations to help him get back on his feet.

Spurs defender Peter Crouch visited for a haircut and more than £30,000 was eventually collected for the 90-year-old.

He has decided to share the remains of those donations – about £10,000 – between three youth charities.

His own experience of youth clubs growing up in east London inspired him to help out.

The beneficiaries are People’s World Youth Club, which sees youngsters make Tottenham Carnival costumes, the Highway Dinner Club at Bruce Grove, run for disadvantaged young people, and the Dandelion Young Citizen’s Journalism Project, which teaches writing and photography skills.

Mr Biber’s generosity comes despite business being very slow. “They all come and say hello to me but the place is dead,” he said. “One week I took £14, and the following week I took £40. I only had one customer this morning, he was about 80.”

Despite this, there is no chance of Mr Biber putting his feet up and enjoying his new role as a philanthropist.

“What do I want to retire for? To stop at home on my own?” he asked, incredulous.

London riots one year on: 'I hope film shows what goes on, why the kids do these things', says brother of man shot in head

Evening Standard




Louise Jury, Chief Arts Correspondent

08 August 2012

The brother of a man killed in the London riots hopes a new film will help explain why young people took to the streets last summer.

Theo Gonzales, 23, a musician who has served a jail sentence for selling drugs, advised the makers of Offender on creating a vivid picture of life in the capital’s poorest estates and inside the youth justice system.

He said it particularly mattered to him that there was a greater understanding of the roots of last summer’s troubles.

His brother, Trevor Ellis, 26, a father of four, was shot in the head as he sat in a car in Croydon.

The revenge thriller, released in cinemas today, claims to be the first film specifically to address the London riots — which were recreated for the film in Petticoat Lane.

It stars Joe Cole, from Skins and The Hour, as a man whose girlfriend and unborn child are killed during an armed robbery in the riots.

Mr Gonzales said: “Lots of adults don’t understand why kids are doing these things. But I’m from an estate in Brixton Hill and I have lots of friends who were arrested in the riots.

“The movie shows that people don’t want to live this life. Not everyone has a gang mentality, they’re people who got caught up in it. Everyone can learn from looking at the world from a youth point of view. I hope everyone gets to see what really goes on.”

He said the Olympics had prompted lots of talk about ambition but it was difficult for people from backgrounds like his to share in that success.

“I used to play professional tennis but I was shot and stabbed and that took my mind completely off tennis. I’m trying to make my life positive and have my second album, Pay Attention 2, coming out. But in my area, it’s difficult to break the cycle of a child growing up and going to jail.”

His brother had a lot of faith in his musical career, said Mr Gonzales. “When he died, I lost all hope of doing anything with my music. But advising people on the film helped me get back into the swing of things.”

Today the family intend to visit the spot in Croydon where Mr Ellis was shot and will visit his grave tomorrow, the anniversary of his death.

The Met said there had been arrests in connection with the shooting but no charges and is offering a £20,000 reward for information.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Peace concert highlights alternatives to guns and violence

Wandsworth Guardian
By Alexandra Rucki »

A peace concert was held on Friday to highlight alternatives to guns and violence.


Peace concert highlights alternatives to guns and violence

Hundreds of youngsters turned up to the seventh annual peace concert held in the Wandsworth Town Hall Civic Suite, West Hill in Wandsworth.

It was organised by charity Storm Empowerment, after founder Marie Hanson's own son was stabbed. Knife arches had been erected at the entrance and everyone entering was scanned to ensure they were not carrying weapons.

A number of high profile speakers attended the event, including James Bond actor Colin Salmon, up-and-coming MC Lady Leshur and a performance from Cashtastic.


Peace concert highlights alternatives to guns and violence

There were also a number of stalls set up help young people find employment and volunteering opportunities.

Chris Preddie, cousin of Damilola Taylor's killers who helps steer young people away from crime, entertained the crowds.

Borough Commander Chief Superintendent David Chinchen also spoke to those attending, while viewers had the chance to take to the stage themselves with an open mic opportunity.

Corinna St Aimee, 16, a student said: "I've been to a few peace concerts in the past and I wanted to volunteer and experience what it is like. I think it is great to show there is an alternative to a life of crime."

Kari Batula, 19, choreographer of dance group Afrika, said: "It was great, wonderful, fantastic. It is giving young people something to do and be proud of, making sure they are being remembered for something."


Peace concert highlights alternatives to guns and violence

The mayor of Wandsworth, Councillor Adrian Knowles, spoke in a bid to encourage young people into apprenticeships.

He said: "This is a great incentive in trying to steer people away from crime. Always say no to violence."

Visit wandsworthguardian.co.uk to view clips of the show

Riots Anniversary: Documentary takes a closer look at the causes

East London Lines
Written by Emma Jane Burgess Aug 7, 2012


The filmmakers. Pic: Fully Focused

London will emerge from the hysteria of the Olympics this week into the midst of reflection, one year on from last year’s riots.

One group of young people didn’t wait a year to reflect. Just four days into the riots the youth steering group of Fully Focused Community got together with their cameras. Taking a deeper look at society they created the documentary ‘Riot from Wrong’ and on August 9, a year to the day from the start of filming, it will screen at the BFI.

The documentaries director and founder of the youth focused production house, Teddy Nygh, took time out from acting in dystopian films such as Adulthood to direct the in-depth documentary.

Hailing from all corners of London, including the east, the Fully Focused youngsters became concerned that what they were hearing about Mark Duggan – whose shooting by police is often cited as the cause of the rioting – ran contrary to what they were hearing in the media. Frustrated too by the portrayal of the rioters and their communities, they took the decision to begin filming.

A experienced film maker, Nygh knew that making a film with no funding and without any planning would be a difficult road and said it “wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s a decision we had to make.”

Armed only with their cameras the group went in search of a solution. “No one was asking ‘why?’ Why do people think this is ok and justifiable?” said Nygh. “We wanted to go out and have a deeper conversation about what was going on and not to allow British society to sweep their issues under the carpet.”

What they’ve made is a film that takes an unprecedented, detailed look at the causes of the riots.

Having initially produced 45 hours of footage, the final cut features some of the 60 interviews they conducted. There are conversations with the brother and aunt of Mark Duggan and insights into the motivations of rioters.

Also included are comments from victims and community activists Stafford Scott and Jason Nwansi, journalist Polly Toynbee and David Lammy MP and previously unseen footage of police attempting to resuscitate Mr Duggan after he was shot.


A still from the documentary. Pic: Fully Focused

Those who have seen the film are positive: “One thing I learned from Riot from Wrong is that 14 young people can get closer to the truth than 90 per cent of working journalists,” says Guardian journalist, Dan Hancox.

A review by the Institute of Race Relations said: “This is a film that must be celebrated because it challenges stereotypes of young people and restores their humanity.”

The positive reception has yet to translate to widespread distribution, although Nygh has big ambitions for the film, having entered it for a number of film festivals. It is also about to embark on an educational tour of the UK including screenings in youth offending services and prisons.

When asked who he’d most like to show the film to, he said: “I’m tempted to say some of the higher ranking politicians, but I’m not sure it’d make any difference.”

Ideally, the ‘educational tour’ would extend to organisations who work with young people and to those in the Home Office, Parliament and City Hall: “The goal is for the film to be seen to as many people as possible.”

In making the film, Nygh learnt that many people allow the media to shape their view of the world, to a larger degree than he thought. Those in the audience who’ve arrived with preconceived ideas of the riots, have left the cinema with a different view of the events.

This was demonstrated most clearly when it came to the representation of Mark Duggan, portrayed in the media as a ‘gangster’ after his shooting by police.

Nygh said: “When I spoke to Mark Duggan’s aunt, she said that he died at 29, and he’d nearly made it to this 30th birthday without a criminal record. He was from the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham and nearly made it to thirty without a criminal record – that says something about him.”

The Broadwater Farm Estate, home to some of London’s worst rioting in 1985, remains one of the capital’s poorest areas despite numerous regeneration initiatives.

The filmmakers haven’t allow their peers an easy ride – the film forces young people and rioters to think about the real causes of the disorder.

It’s not without irony that Fully Focused is also feeling the pressure of cuts to youth and social services identified by some in the film as a driver for the unrest.

But the process of making the film has instilled Nygh and Fully Focused with the motivation to continue their work. The young people involved in making the film are all still part of Fully Focused, some part-time whilst they work or attend university. A new batch of youngsters has been recruited into the team.

Nygh says that making Riot from Wrong has been an amazing experience for everyone involved: “It’s a testament to what people can do when they work together with a shared belief.”

The film is showing at BFI on 9 August and the Roundhouse on 23 August. EastLondonLines will be reviewing the documentary later in the week.
For more information about the film, visit: www.riotfromwrong.com.

Riots inspire free events for young people

Ealing Gazette
Aug 7 2012 By Poppy Bradbury


A YEAR on from the Ealing riots, community figureheads have got together to put on a varied programme of free summer events for young people.

Conscientious adults in Greenford have been determined to engage with bored youngsters, some of whom were caught up in last Augusts disorder.

Members of Ravenor Park Residents Association and officers from Greenford Broadway Safer Neighbourhoods Team raised £2,500 through a music concert in April.

A further £3,500 from Ealing Councils youth offending team, Grand Union Village developer Taylor Wimpey and the estate's community development trust will pay for three weeks of free entertainment.

Activities aimed at eight to 16-year-olds run from August 13 to 31 at the Grand Union Village community centre in Higham Mews, Northolt, including boat trips, sports and games, arts and dance, photography and filming, DJ sessions and environmental activities.

Jackie Sear, chief executive of social action charity EASE, managing the project, said: "We're trying to meet local needs and one of those is a lack of activities for children and young adults in the area, particularly in the summer.

"Anti-social behaviour has been a concern and we wanted to tackle this in a positive way.

"We have made sure that there is at least something of interest for everyone each day."

Entertainment will be provided by local groups including Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust, West London Floating Classroom, Cuban Boxing Academy and Harlequins Rugby Club.

Archie Ross, chairman of Ravenor Park Residents Association, said: "It's a great scheme and it gives young people something productive to do during the summer, instead of staying out on the streets."

To sign up, email gnpfederation@hotmail.co.uk or text your name and address to 07773 341 832

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Stonebridge Park wall showcases art depicting iconic moments in Olympic history

Kilburn Times

Max Walters, Reporter Sunday, August 5, 2012

Project was commissioned by designer and owner of Argenta House

The Olympic Murals which can be seen next to Stonebridge Park train station

A 24 hour visual treat has been unveiled in Stonebridge showcasing three iconic moments in Olympic history.

Three giant images adorn the side of silver making factory Argenta House, in Argenta Way, Stonebridge Park, and can now be marvelled at by passers by and train passengers.

The project is commissioned by local silver wear designer and owner of Argenta House, Ari D Norman and commemorates three Olympiads at which racial tension was at its height.

Speaking to the Times, Mr Norman, who has the freedom of the City of London, explained: “We believe in the true original sprit of the Olympics of fair competition amongst all races and all nations, and unfortunately the issue of race and equality becomes very clouded in the politics of the Olympics.”



The artwork, which was created by design group Ol’ Man T, ran by Mr Norman’s son Lee, is lit up after nightfall meaning it is visible 24 hours a day and features Jesse Owens who, in the Berlin games of 1936, discredited the Nazi believe that they had superiority over other races by claiming a sprint Gold.

Also featured is Tommie Smith’s black power salute of the Mexico 1968 games and a symbolic memorial to the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed in Munich, 1972.

Mr Norman added: “Placing it directly opposite Stonebridge Park station, we hope that racial and political conscience could be raised in the minds of the thousands of people commuting at this location weekly.”

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The world apart that gangs live in

Evening Standard



Inner-city life: gang kids such as those portrayed in last year’s film Attack the Block are products of a horrifying reality alien to most of us

Shaun Bailey


02 August 2012

Among The Hoods by Harriet Sergeant (Faber, £14.99) BUY IT NOW

This is a very different take on inner-city gangs. It isn’t written by a “gang expert” but by an outsider with first-hand experience, itself an oxymoron but that’s what shapes a story that is powerfully driven by the author’s compelling narrative.

The surprise is not that Sergeant, a white middle-class lady who has previously turned her formidable talent for research and writing on to such heavyweight subjects as the history of Shanghai and South Africa’s apartheid, should focus on the very current gang issue, but that she does it in such a personal manner — she befriends them and doesn’t give up when it all gets tough. She gets in so deep with these boys she is able to authentically reveal why they and others like them behave as they do. I’ve spent much time with boys like these, but still found Sergeant’s story choking. What she reveals is the horrifying reality kids like these face. And this is not exclusive to the black community; kids in Glasgow and Manchester also suffer similar situations.

Before you start crossing the road at every young black boy you meet, I must stress that boys at this level of criminality are in the minority (the leader Tuggy Tug is found guilty of more than 100 robberies) but their effect is far reaching, and often their influence within their own families and communities is devastating.

Take Mash, one of Sergeant’s gang members. A talented footballer with unmeasured potential but with no love, guidance or discipline, he ends up following his uncle, the only male role model he’s ever known, into serious crime.

Tuggy Tug’s story makes for particularly compelling reading. He is the same age as the author’s son, both treading the precarious path from boy to manhood, and she makes comparisons throughout between the dismayingly different worlds they inhabit. Even Swagger, Sergeant’s guide, himself a former security van robber, now equally committed to changing the course of the boys’ lives, struggles to escape his own circumstances, thus proving just how hard it is to reform yourself when this life is all you’ve known. As your granny may have told you, prevention is better than cure.

And this is the challenge policy-makers face; young people who end up in gangs, involved with serious crime, are not merely normal kids fallen on bad times. They quite literally inhabit a different world and this is what Sergeant reveals. Her writing challenges us not to judge, to read between the lines; they are little boys who have not known love or care. She even teaches one how to floss his teeth; at this point he is nearly an adult. They respond with unexpected readiness to Sergeant’s love and efforts for them, their trust in her is absolute, despite living in a world where trust is often fraught with danger and nearly always results in disappointment.

This story does not end as you would anticipate. It reveals with no mistake where those who have been entrusted with responsibility have fallen massively short, and demonstrates culture is stronger than policy. Among the Hoods challenges many of our liberal ideals on what modern society and family look like. If you are a baby mama, born of a baby mama, what chance does your child stand? We need to be honest as a nation about what our children need instead of tiptoeing around with political correctness; it only serves to hamstring our policymakers.

Sergeant dispels the biggest myth around these “bad boys”: they are often up to bad stuff but they are not bad from the outset. Gangs are made, not born, and her account of how gang members long to get out of this life but find it nearly impossible to escape makes for tough reading. Sergeant demonstrates that it is possible to get beyond the fears and limitations of these boys’ lives and show them real love and care. Reading this book will confront you with some of the realities these boys face. If you only read one book on gangs, let this be it.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Seminar to Promote Multi-Agency Working to Tackle Gang Violence in Hackney

EVENT FROM CITY AND HACKNEY MIND

Dear colleagues

City and Hackney Mind in partnership with the Metropolitan Police, East London NHS Foundation Trust, Shian Housing and other agencies is organising a Seminar which will bring together all sectors involved in tackling gang violence in Hackney including :-

The Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Probation Service, Victim Support Hackney Council, Health and Social Services, Housing Associations and Tenants Groups, the Voluntary and Community Sector, Black and Minority Ethnic Groups, Faith Communities, Local Schools, Youth and Leisure Services.

The seminar will include a Plenary Session and workshops that will produce Specific Recommendations for Action. The objectives of seminar are as
follows:-

1.  To promote multi-disciplinary working and co-ordinated approach to tackling gang violence in Hackney.
2.  To identifying gaps in services
3.  To share experiences across sectors and identify and share good practice
4.  To develop innovative early intervention initiatives to reduce young peoples’ susceptibility to gang association and prevent involvement in gangs
5.  To promote community safety and improve the well being of people living in Hackney
6.  To empower local communities and families to address the issue of gangs in their communities.
The seminar will be held on the 25th October 2012, 9.30am-2pm. If you are interested in participating in the seminar please return the attached for by email to Hana Villar at City and Hackney Mind on hana.villar@cityandhackneymind.org.uk by 31st August 2012.

With kind regards

Krishna

Krishna Fernandes Maharaj
Chief Executive
City & Hackney Mind
8-10
Tudor Road
London
E9 7SN
Tel:
0208 525 2306
Fax:
0208 985 5871
Email:
krishna.maharaj@cityandhackneymind.org.uk
Attachment:
Gangs in Hackney Seminar flyer.docx

Young Hackney people urged to get on board to make their voice heard in the community

Hackney Gazette

Emma Bartholomew Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Young people from Hackney’s estates are being urged to take part in a programme to make a difference to the community.

Established two years ago, the Youth Engagement Plus Programme (YEP) allows young people to make their voice heard.

Committee members meet on a regular basis to arrange activities and events in the community, and are also represent the views of their peers through tenant and resident association meetings, neighbourhood youth forums and within the Hackney Youth Parliament.

The programme is a partnership between Hackney Homes, Genesis Housing Association, Sanctuary Housing and youth organisation Rising Tide.

For more information on joining in call 0208 356 7845 or visit www.rising-tide.co.uk/yep