The Unspoken Life.

October 17, 2013 8:30 pm

gangs

 

I don’t usually read The Evening Standard, but yesterday as I made my way to Charing Cross to have my face squished against someone’s armpit and embark on the awkward British social situation of the train, the front page of the paper caught my eye.

“THE GANGS OF LONDON”

I was interested.

The article, written by David Cohen, was totally gripping yet utterly shocking at the same time. ‘The Facts’ highlighted in the centre of the page scream something needs to be done. It detailed how the University College London (UCL) has done research revealing some horrendous facts.

One in four young people have witnessed someone being killed and 44% of young people have seen someone being shot or stabbed in the last year. That’s enough to realise we have an issue, but it continued… one in five of those in the study had themselves been shot or stabbed and since the epidemic of gang violence starting in 2007, 123 teenagers have been murdered, with 7 since January.

Numbers are alarming, but what really gets me is personal stories, not just a statistic but a life within that statistic.

Ricky, a twenty something year old boy, told his story being one of the 10,000 young people living in extreme adversity. David details the conversations he had with Ricky and a friend of his. One of which made me stop and re-read…

“I went to my first funeral when I was 13. That time it was a shock: you feel stirred up, you want to know who stabbed your friend, you post to his tribute page on Facebook. But after my third friend was done, I stopped going to funerals. You get to a point when you harden up and don’t feel hurt no more”

I welled.

When did we get to a point when murder is a norm, when children have to face friends being stabbed, when going to a funeral doesn’t matter because there will be another one next month?

This isn’t a dig at the police – research shows that stabbings have actually reduced by 28% in the last year. But, that’s still four hundred and fourteen people that are still the victim of serious attacks. 414 lives, 414 individual lives.

That’s a lot.

This is more an expression of frustration, a frustration with not knowing when it became ok to stab someone, a frustration with the lack of value placed on a life and a realisation that something needs to change.

You can talk and discuss and debate all day about the stats, facts and figures, but as this gang member said “Boris talks a lot about gangs. But there’s no substance. Like all politicians, he hasn’t a clue how we live in the hood”.

He’s right. We don’t have a clue.

For things to change, we need to not just recognise these figures are shocking but act upon it.

Practically, how does that look? I’ll be honest with you, I’m not entirely sure. I think it starts with relationships. We need to bridge the gap between ‘them’ and ‘us’. We need to acknowledge them as individuals not as members of a gang. We need to believe in them, give them opportunity and show them there are other ways to live – ways that can give them a hope and a future. We need to take away the ‘them’. This is a challenge for me, but an even bigger challenge for those with power to act at a higher level, those who can set an example that the country can see.

David chose to believe in Ricky, to listen to him and to accept him. He built up a trust with him and showed him another way to live that didn’t involve expecting to go to prison. Ricky let David into his world and showed him where and how he lived. In return, David gave the opportunity for an apprenticeship.

It’s a choice.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but it only takes one man like David Cohen to chose to give one life another opportunity, another chance to live. Maybe it’s the little steps that are going to change things. Maybe it’s not something that needs to see change at a political level (yet!); maybe, it’s something that needs to start at a grass roots level. Maybe, if we all chose to take time to consider a life that needs help, that would become the norm and not another number adding to a statistic.

How do you think we can actively change things? Can we actively change things? Has it gone too far already?

 

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