Hope for the Unemployed Voices

I slowly rolled out of my bed this morning and stood up to stretch out my arms. As the sun was shining its warm golden light over my bedroom, one thought came to my mind; in fact this thought has been on my mind for the past 6 months like a broken harp playing a broken record. The thought that I am referring to is that I need to find a job soon or I will certainly go bonkers.

Sadly after I had freshened up, I found out that in the period; March-May 2012, 1.02 million young people aged 16-24 were unemployed and the number of young people aged 18-24 claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) was 463,200 in June 2012. As an ethnic minority living in one of the poorest boroughs in East London, this was shocking news for me. Especially since I come from a culture where if a man is not working, he automatically losses his status and role in the family. As the eldest brother in my family, I have always worked since the age of 15 and I have always tried to be a positive role model for my younger siblings. In my family I had always played a leading role in being a good son that looked after his mother and younger siblings. However since my contract ended from my job over 6 months ago and after many unsuccessful job applications, I have often wondered, how can I support my parents and younger siblings, if I can’t find a job?

This may come as a shock, but despite these depressing statistics the truth is there is hope for us, the unemployed voices, even if at times it may not seem so. The past 6 months I have learned that in order to not lose focus in finding a job, one must;

  • Face it that there are days when you want to give up and never wake up from your bed. But if you can pull yourself out of your bed and go for a brief walk, you will feel better. The brief walk and fresh air will give you a chance to reflect on why it’s important for you to not give up. By doing this I was able to make optimism, expectancy, and enthusiasm a part of my daily experience.
  • Tap into your support unit, whether it’s your family or close friends. Believe me when I say to you that there is nothing more powerful or therapeutic than talking to your support unit, especially on the gloomy days when you might feel like giving up.
  • Take control and realise that it’s a numbers game. The more job applications you make, the higher probability there is that you will find a job. Keep applying!
  • Plan and strategise your daily job applications and activities. This way you’ll never lose focus of your end goal. There’s a famous quote that states that, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. By doing this I was able to sign up to many recruitment agencies and build a strong network base to inform me of job opportunities.

It’s only a matter of time until I find a job that I am looking for and I know that I may not be able to control external factors. But I can certainly control my attitude and have hope.

A Balanced Lifestyle

How many of us can say that we have a balanced lifestyle? Well for me, I thought I did.

This time last time last year I was working 35 hours a week in a job that I thought I had enjoyed. But subconsciously I hated it and sure I led myself to believe that I enjoyed it. But in reality I was only fooling myself, especially since I had become over occupied with other commitments of my professional and personal life. It wasn’t until I found myself admitted into hospital for three weeks that I had the chance to reflect and realise that I did indeed have a very unhealthy lifestyle. This consisted of less than 5 hours of sleep a night, an unhealthy diet and unhealthy habit of smoking shisha on a regular basis. As a result my body couldn’t take this battering anymore and I became so ill that the type of pain that I experienced I couldn’t comprehend with words, even if I tried.

While I was in hospital I was fortunate to meet a wise patient, who shared the same ward. After short introductions we become very close friends, as if we had known each other since childhood. We would spend hours on hours talking about life, family, religion and our hopes for the future. During our many conversations, I remember he would always remind me how precious our health was and how easily we neglected to look after ourselves because we become preoccupied with work and other commitments that seemed more important at the time.

As the weeks passed my health started to improve and I was eventually discharged from the hospital. But unfortunately for my friend, his health deteriorated and took a turn for the worse as the weeks went on. Once I was discharged from hospital I would visit him on a regular basis. On my last visit to see him at the ward, I found out that he was in the intensive care unit and couple of days later he passed away. It was a complete shock for me to have gained and lost a friend in such a short period of time.

I wanted to share this personal story, as a reminder of how short life is and how sometimes we forget to see how precious our health is until it’s too late. To honour my friend’s memory I try everyday to have a balanced lifestyle in order for my life to be fulfilling, whether it is within my personal or professional aspirations.

As you read this article, ask yourself do you have a balanced lifestyle?

Life is a School

As far as I remember I have always struggled with education, but that’s not to say that I was a dumb or a lazy student. It just that my earliest memories of education consisted of corporal punishments and competitions to be at the top of the class with the best grades, which never really motivated me to do well in school. I went to school in East Africa, where corporal punishment was the norm. I was led to believe that if I didn’t get the right answers to a question, my back side would be whooped by my teachers and trust me the type of whooping I got in my class, you wouldn’t dream of getting a question wrong!

When I moved to London, this perception of education was replaced by the thought that if I didn’t get into the best secondary school, college or University, I would ultimately fail in securing a successful career.

Luckily, I was fortunate enough to learn at that stage that education is not actually determined by how hard you were punished by your teachers or by which school you went to. It is determined by what you do with your education to shape your future and the life’s of your loved ones. This became most evident to me on my trip to my home town in East Africa. While I was there I completely absorbed my culture and got in touch with my roots. The experience was overwhelming; it made me very appreciative of the benefits that we take for granted here in the UK, such as free education and free health care. I saw poverty that I could never have imagined and this experience made me sensitive to the human condition and more compassionate to give back to those with fewer opportunities. From that point, I knew then that succeeding in life was mandatory, if I wanted to make a positive difference and live a fulfilling life. While I was there I remember seeing a quote on a bus that still resonates with me today. The quote said “Life is a School”, which made me realise that education is a life long journey that never ends when your formal education comes to an end.

The Power of Words in Nasutow

Break The Generation Gap

I am not surprised to find out that words could be considered to be like living organisms, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing the world around us in many ways, directly and indirectly through others. Words have incredible power to continuously propel us through life. It can either motivate us to achieve great things or break us, as individuals or as a society.

As Maya Angelou once said “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning”.

This morning an idea came to mind while I was speaking to a Polish lady called Dana, in my workshop. Although our conversation was not a traditional two way conversation, I was lucky enough to have a Polish friend translate for me. In the mist of our conversation, I was inspired by Dana’s incredible experience and passion for life and at that moment I thought how interesting it would be to capture a single word from all the seniors and all the participants. Who represented 5 different countries which included United Kingdom, Finland, Poland, Spain, and Czech of Republic.

With enthusiasm and excitement I started my quest to collect words from everyone! I successfully managed to ask the majority of the participants to give me a word that they thought truly captured their experience so far. To my astonishment, I was surprised to notice an occurring similarity between the young participants and the seniors (which could be referred to as breaking the generation gap). The similarity that I am referring to is the amount of time each person paused to think about their chosen word. Majority of the people that I spoke to literally paused for about 10-20 seconds and in some cases the conversations led to humorous misunderstandings with the help of Google translator. Watching and listening to how everyone responded to my questions, I became even more intrigued to observe and find out the words that each person selected to represent and capture their experience thus far. This was particularly interesting because majority of the people that I spoke to did not speak English as a first language, which meant some of the conversations I had were translated through body language.

Some the words that I collected from the participants that expressed their experience in Poland (with the training) were:

Joy, Strange, Enriching, Refreshing, Fun, Excitement, English, Brilliant, Imagine, Cool, Juicy, Friendship, Surprise, Beautiful.

With the seniors the words that captured their experience thus far were:

Amazing, successful, Improvisation, Play, Exercise, Photography, Friendship, Happiness, Inspiration.

With these collections of words from the seniors and the participants, I decided to put all the single words together to form a text that tells its own story. As illustrated below!

Imagine beautiful enriching friendship!

Imagine strange brilliant excitement!

Beautiful joy, imagine refreshing cool juicy fun.

Amazing English, successful friendship, exercise happiness, exercise inspiration.

Strange improvisation, strange play, strange photography = happiness.

Referring back to Maya Angelou’s quote “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning”. I experienced this at first hand, as I noticed how words became powerful and how they form deeper meanings. I particularly enjoyed collecting the words because I had the opportunity to interact with people from different countries who spoke different languages from my own. Reflecting back on this experience, it could be said that I was trying to break the language barriers and generation gaps. In many ways I think I accomplished some aspects of this, while at the same time I gained a new profound appreciation for words.

How to use Body Language in Nasutow

Speaking English (which is considered to be the universal language) does not necessary mean you will be understood by everyone you meet and speak to. So what do you do if you find yourself in a foreign country with 23 people from 5 different countries, with English not being their first language? In the middle of nowhere, in a countryside, in Poland this was my predicament.

Recently I had been invited to Poland to participate on breaking the generation gap training, because last year in the summer my team (You Press) and I had won 1st place for the International Citizen Media Award held in Germany for the Internet category! The award highlighted the commitment of the international, European or national producers in reporting on local, regional and global socially relevant themes. As part of the award I was invited to this training to learn and develop new skills focused on breaking the generation gap between young people and seniors in our respective countries (through the use of social media training). This is where I met 23 participants from 5 different countries, which included United Kingdom, Finland, Poland, Spain, and Czech of Republic.

According to a research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, 93 percent of communication is determined by body language and 7 percent of communication is determined by verbal communication. This is really interesting, especially since I come from London, where I mostly speak English apart from my native language of Somali and Swahili.

At the beginning of the training I found it a bit of a challenge trying to speak and understand 5 different languages for the first time. I think this was partially due to the fact that I live in one of the most multicultural cities in Europe, where everyone speaks English. But here I was, for the first time in a middle of nowhere, in a countryside called Nasutow in Poland which in many ways resembled a location for a horror movie.

I soon found out if all fails, especially Google translator, language barriers can be broken with body language. Interesting enough the 5 essential steps that I’ve learned thus far, which I believe would be really helpful if you ever find yourself in a similar situation are;

1) Be willing to communicate and show interest. This puts the person at ease to communicate with you and makes them feel that there is nothing to be afraid of because you are trying your best to understand and communicate with them. Also remember to be friendly, nice and kind to the other person as they may already be self-conscious and uncomfortable by the fact there is a difficulty in their understanding.

2) Be patient and speak slowly. This allows the person to know and understand that you are interested in the conversation. By speaking slowly it helps the person to process the information in their head before they can understand what you have said.

3) Be adventurous and creative to use body language. By this I mean be willing to back-up words with body gestures, as it will help to express what you wish to say.

4) If communication gets harder because of the language barrier, use an interpreter or a translator who can explain and relay the message between you and the other person.

5) Don’t give up and keep trying. In some cases it may take a little bit longer to understand the other person and it may also take a bit more effort to get your message understood by the other person. But if you don’t give up and you keep trying, until you understand one another, it will be worth the effort. One thing I found that helps the situation is to have a sense of humour, as it lightens up the ordeal and makes the whole experience enjoyable and fun.

It’s Wednesday, the third day of the training, as I write this article and these are some of the useful steps that I have learned thus far! As the training ends on Sunday I am intrigued to find out what else could be learned from this experience, especially in relation to the intergenerational aspect of the training with the Polish seniors.

Class Prejudices – the creator of apartheid schools

Class prejudices the real reason for London’s segregated schools

Last week’s reports that the ethnic composition of London’s state secondary’s have swelled to 60% in some boroughs, contained the usual xenophobic undertones of floodgates being opened spiel our tabloid press routinely peddles. Ethnics make up around 40% of the capital and yet in inner London take up over 60% of state secondary school places. This is in part because recent immigrants are more likely to be of childbearing age. Most reports would have us believe that poor Oliver and Arabella’s places have been hijacked by their swarthy skinned compatriots rather than because of white flight.

Unsurprisingly none of the reports mentioned the bleeding obvious- that just before secondary school most white and middle class Londoners escape the city into the burbs and shires- or if they can afford to, opt for private.

The issues here are myriad and complex, but largely about class and choice. What we are seeing in London’s state secondary schools are the consequences of an education system afflicted by free market forces.

Choice; that ever ted argument favours the few and creates imbalance, creaming off the best and discarding the rest. Choice thrives on the gap between perception and reality, a gap that is riddled by our own deep-seated prejudices and snobberies. Often our perceptions do not accurately connect with reality and on closer inspection and (crucially) introspection is based on stereotypes and lazy tropes. Perception can be incredibly damaging, ghettoizing and damning schools into self-fulfilled prophecies.

David Levin, the South African head of top independent school City of London, uses London schools sleep walking into apartheid as his motivation for offering a bursary scheme to bright but poor minority children. The need for such a scheme only serves to highlight a prevailing bourgeoisie belief that a good education and its (supposed) resulting social mobility are almost impossible in the London state sector. The purchase of their children’s education may bare fruits- this year privately educated students (who make up 7% of total student population) walked away with 53% of A and A* grades at A level, but at what societal cost- more August riots?

That’s the problem with perception.

The scheme does nothing to close the gap between our two tiered education system- the real problem, but rather serves to exacerbate it because race and class are sometimes but not always mutually exclusive. London secondary’s colour issue is symptomatic of a wider and more insidious class issue. This bursary underscores that.

The sad truth is, London our great city is no melting pot, but a salad bowl of contrasting and conflicting peoples; an endless cycle of movement, migration and gentrification; each displacing the other. This is evident everywhere from the fauxhemian hipster hangouts of Shoreditch and Hoxton, to the Bengali communities down the road, the Caribbean’s, Vietnamese and Turks in Dalston and Mare Street, the West Africans in Seven Sisters and their affluent yummy mummy neighbours in Crouch end- all side by side, sharing a space but never really sharing in the place.

We the selfish children of Thatcher our schools are but a microcosm of the society we live in, and have wilfully created.

Written by Frances E. Abebreseh

Jon Snow on the Truth About Journalism, Youth Representation and Migration

Like 1 million other young people in Britain today I woke up this morning feeling heavy hearted, apprehensive and unacknowledged by the many employers whom I had sent lengthy applications to several months ago. This had become my regular state of mind. Since my job ended in March this year, I had, like so many others, attempted to apply for jobs that I liked, jobs that I was overqualified for, jobs that paid the wage I was on five years ago and jobs that were simply available. I was astonished to learn early into my job hunting mission that many employers do not even recognise receipt of applications these days. Meaning that for suckers like me, I hold my breath for jobs that I really want without evidence that my application has even been seen by the prospective employer! These are certainly difficult times and this morning I wished I could roll back into bed and wake up on the right side. Just as I considered resetting my alarm, I was reminded that this was no regular day of mine. I was preparing for an interview with someone whom I hoped could shed some light on these uneasy times for future generations.

I would meet Jon Snow, an accomplished and widely-respected news reporter of Channel 4 news in five hours time. My excitement of meeting Jon Snow was three-fold. One, he is a well known journalist who has enjoyed a hugely successful career in broadcasting. Two, unlike most reporters he gets away with being openly opinionated. And three, I hear he is a great supporter of young people.

I’m always curious to discover how public figures such as Jon Snow connect with every day common folk like me. Generally I feel young people are becoming less important to our society. We have little consumer power; we’re under represented in politics and if that wasn’t bad enough many of us still have to live with our parents! I wondered how Jon Snow would regard someone like me who on the surface is an ethnic minority living in one of London’s poorest boroughs.

I was encouraged at first glimpse by seeing this 7ft tall figure embrace his old friend Vaughan Jones (whom I had got the interview through) with broad open arms when we met. Phew. Jon Snow was clearly in a light hearted mood. I felt I could be confident that he wouldn’t grill me in the way I’d seen him effortlessly do to so many of his guests on TV. And later having spent the next hour or so with him, I realised that he is in fact, as he described himself, like a young person inside. My team mate Farah Mohammoud kicks off our interview with Jon Snow.

FM: Jon, what did you gain from your experience teaching in Uganda with VSO?

JS: I was 18 and I had never been out of England. I wanted to impress my father who regarded me as a very stupid boy, due to my poor A-Levels. I applied and I got it. I was totally radicalised by it – it completely changes your perception of the world in which you live and your relationship with human kind.

FM: Was this the catalyst that propelled your career into journalism?

JS: Absolutely yes – I wanted to be a journalist and I wanted to make a better world – so you could say going to Uganda affected me profoundly. I am probably a politically motivated journalist, I want to change the world, I want to make it a better place – I want to expose corruption, evil and praise good things.

FM: This makes me think of the many young people today who are desperately looking for similar opportunities or life experiences to give them a sense of purpose and direction. Maybe if there were such opportunities for young people to explore their capabilities; more young people would actively work to change the world like you. Sadly with the recession, high tuition fees and major public spending cuts already implemented, the future does not look promising for young people.

Farah delves deeper and questions Jon Snow on the role of the media with regards to youth representation.

FM: What are your thoughts on the portrayal of young people in the media?

JS: Portrayal of young people depends on what media you are talking about. In Tabloids clearly young people have a tough deal. I think the electronic media to some extent ignore young people. I don’t think they consult them, take for example debates about education and schooling. On the other hand there are various constraints to talking to young people. For us you have to have the permission of the parents up to the age of 16. So it’s very difficult to speak to young people of 14-16. By the time we have the parents’ permission, the day is gone.

This is one of the challenges posed by recent technological developments especially within online social media. Not only are journalists expected to respond to broadcasts quickly but the increased demand on their sources and representatives to be instinctively reactive can result in compromised quality reporting.

JS: The image of young people isn’t good and it’s not a conspiracy to portray young people in any light. Many of the journalists divorce themselves from their children and they don’t look through the children’s perspective.

In our 24 month investigative quest to understand how young people have became so unmercifully demonised by the UK press, this statement from Jon Snow was as close to the truth that we had ever been. The journalists’ separation from their own kin must allow them to see other children, these ‘Hoodies’, ‘ASBOs’ and ‘Chavs’ not even as their own human kind, labels such as ‘Feral Children’ would suggest that. And some wonder why young people would riot after being discriminated for their age. Are young people the victims of Ageism?

Farah moves on to discussing the experience of young Somalis in particularly. This is especially important to the two of us, Farah being a young Somali who is living in multicultural London.

FM: What are your thoughts on the portrayal of young Somalis?

JS: I don’t think people differentiate between young Somalis and old Somalis. The general portray of Somalis is poor – they are the latest in a sense the largest wave of immigration that Britain has experienced and there’s a very little attempt to understand where they are coming from, what their particular problems are and what gave rise to this exodus. You ask me how young Somalis are portrayed; I don’t mean to detach young Somalis from Somalis in general or from Somali crisis. But generally speaking in a recession people are always looking for people to blame and Somalis are handy people to blame.

FM: What can be done about the misconceptions about Somalis or young people in general?

JS: I am very glad to have been approached by a number of Somali community leaders who have tried to lead me to understand what’s going on and I’ve benefited from this. So I am very aware of the outreach coming from the Somali community itself. The best thing I would suggest that you do is to begin to educate young people about why Somalis are here and what gave raise to their parent’s flight & to your parent’s flight.

Living in Newham, one of Europe’s most multicultural areas, we are painfully aware of exactly how uneducated the general public are on migrations to the UK. At worst a consequence of this misunderstanding leads to violence, racism and xenophobia and at best it can result in ineffective public services.

I woke up this morning unsure of what the day may bring. I go to bed tonight satisfied by our experience of meeting Jon Snow. He demonstrated to us that despite his years of experience and his privileged background that he was just as open to listening and learning from us as he was to talking and sharing the truths that he had discovered along his journey. Furthermore I am contented that Jon Snow reaffirmed the need to educate the British public on the experiences of young people in general and also from migrant communities.

I might not be working in the exact industry and role that I desire but the events of today makes me feel that our voluntary work with Praxis and our commitment to developing You Press is more than worth waking up for.

Interview by Farah Mohammoud and Lé N Ho © Praxis and You Press

Riots: A wake up call for the black community

I shuddered as I watched the freakish looting on London’s streets. Fear has spread to almost every corner of this nation as rioters attacked the focal points of our communities: our high roads and commercial centres where people socialise and do business.

As a young Black British woman I am enraged to see a considerable number of black and mixed race youth involved in this mass, violent shop-up.

The Turkish community had the capacity to fend off rioters because they had positive community values, but the Black British community had little hope of self-defence, as a disproportionate amount of men (in proportion to the majority population and as a racial group alone) were perpetrators or already behind bars.

I would like to say, this is an unfortunate comeuppance for a community where there is virtually no male authority. These young men and women have experienced disorder in their homes and are not pressurised from within the community to do better than their parents, to leave the cycle of dependency on welfare provision and enjoy a professional career. The street culture many young black and mixed race kids appropriate, advocates short-term glory respect on the street, which ultimately boils down to an intimidating street presence; scraps over drug domains; internecine violence and aborts the prospect of long term success in life.

Some community leaders have hailed liberal pro-child policy as a cause of disorder amongst the rioters.

My parents generation, born in the 1960s need to understand they cannot roll the clock back to an imaginary never-never-land where corporal punishment was a remedy to all bad behaviour.  The past, in this regard, is far more disturbing. Many men from the Windrush Generation (the first wave of Caribbean migrants to Britain 1948-1960s) left their wives, partners and children in the Caribbean behind, to enjoy new-found ‘freedom’ and exotic status in the UK; they found girlfriends, remarried, spawned new offspring with various women and unfortunately helped establish a pattern of familial brokenness to their grandchildren by walking away.

The answer from a lot of black clergy has been to pander to my parents generation we need to be able to discipline our kids i.e. we need to be free to punish them physically. I am from that generation and I bet you your bottom dollar the rioting young children have been smacked. Smacking was used indiscriminately by the Windrush Generation parents on their children (my parents’ generation) who often used it to avoid healthy discussion of awkward issues.

A certain level of education or training is needed to be integrated into the Knowledge Economy. Certainly there are issues of tacit racism in schools and swift recourse to exclusion. But difficulties do not entirely excuse parental responsibility to push one’s children. Indeed African-Americans faced more explicit discrimination in the United States, yet they fought back and overcame certain hurdles by fighting low expectations. Black parents have to recognise we are living in a country where there are considerable opportunities, especially in comparison to the Caribbean or Africa where primary and secondary education are not free. If black parents want their input to be valued they need to incorporate broader parenting styles, faithfully attend parent-teacher meetings, which are poorly attended in inner city schools; become school governors, and local councillors and actively encourage their children to enter the professions.

On another note, youth initiatives in the black community are sidelined. Churches in the black community have invaluable access to young black NEETs (not in education, employment or training), however many have misplaced priorities. Black Majority Churches have a tendency to spend extortionate amounts on rent for halls, stadiums and flights for international preachers for religious conventions that can last up to seven days, when events and initiatives for young people are strapped for cash and youth pastors are left to make do.

An extensive auto-critique of certain phenomena associated with the black community is needed; this is why so many black people screamed ‘racist’ at David Starkey’s remarks. If there is no introspective self-analysis, outside forces will step in and examine our community which will inevitably hurt more and are likely to be specious. With regards to Starkey’s critique of what some call ‘Jafaican’: there has been a weird change in young people’s vernacular. My grandparents generation from the Caribbean spoke better English than most street-speakers. Although they had an accent, they used Standard English and were taught that patois was only for home use. Unfortunately many young people cannot differentiate between the two.

To move forward community leaders could gain insight from the experience of young people from the black community who are educated or well trained. For example, I attended a ‘good state school’ yet I was bullied by the black girls in ‘the black group’ for being bookish and not hanging out with them; this happened amongst black girls in every year group in a multiracial school. Some of my bullies became single mothers and didn’t attend university; they are not fulfilling their potential.

In other words, my message to the Black community is to wake up and act like a community. We must address our lack of progress in recent years in order to avoid the loss of another generation to crime and hopelessness.

Written by Zaneta Denny

From a Soft Whisper to a Giant Roar: London Youth have been Speaking.

Less than a week before the London riots, teenager Chavez Campbell predicted the riots stating, there will be riots. There will be riots. Before that, Jody McIntyre’s Bars for Change, a short video that featured numerous grime artists challenging the power of the police aired on channel four. Durrty Goodz in the first episode made the statement in regards to previous police killings such as Smiley Culture, until we see justice, there will be no peace.

Less than a month before the riots, an event in Brixton which asked the question Who polices the police? ended with dozens of people, most of them young, filing complaints against the police for misconduct.

Live Magazine ran an article in its summer issue discussing the racial profiling and its use by police in stop and search procedures. For those who were listening to these subtle yet presents cries, the riots should not come as much of a surprise.

The recent riots in London have gained worldwide attention and brought to light some of London’s economic and racial issues. Many have voiced concerns over the effects of the riots. However, much like the Brixton Uprising and the previous Tottenham Riots, economics are a major factor. There is a correlation between the riots and recent cuts that affected numerous youth centers and the rise in tuition fees.

It seems that rather than the government addressing the issues at hand, they are far more dedicated to punishing the rioters. David Cameroon highlighted this by stating  “If you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to face the punishment”.

Severe punishment and increased police presence will increase tension between youth and police, once more creating the circumstances that helped spark the riots. The government should instead be looking at its very active role in the riots.

There seems to be a gap in the government between what they do and how the people react. Student protests throughout the year have demonstrated that the people, specifically young people are unhappy with its government. The assumptions that young people have not been speaking are untrue. There were numerous signs that London youth want a voice in their city. That is essentially what caused the riots.

Why does the UK government insist on ignoring its past? Smiley Culture, 1981 Brixton police profiling, lack of positive economic venues for youth, these are ghosts from the past living in the present. As proven in theLondon riots, they cannot to creep into the future.

United States gang expert William Bratton was hired to address the causes of the riots and increased gang activity. This money and energy should instead be used to invest into the youth, education and jobs. Why not talk to people like Chavez Campbell, real young Londoners who clearly seem to have a better grasp of the situation.

In addition to listening to the youth and funding youth centers, there needs to be a greater investment in youth oriented programs that encourage physical activity and positive mentorship. Living The Dream is a youth run dance company, which gained recognition for several things, one being a flashdance performed at Kings Crosson New Years eve. YBS is another organization that works with young people hosting events, success oriented sessions. They also have mentorship programs for younger people.

These are just some of the few examples of organizations that are investing in young Londoners. The riots in London proved the urgency in doing so.

Written by Caroline Karanja

What’s Really Going On?

No doubt a lot of the people involved in the looting and rioting were motivated by opportunism, some of them were only kids; literally bored thirteen year olds jumping on a bandwagon which tempted them with the promise of shiny new things. They saw that something big was happening and didn’t want to miss out. While it is no excuse for their reckless behaviour, it’s important to put this whole situation into context.

The violence in Tottenham on Saturday may have been motivated by anger for a mysterious murder but out in the rest of London, this reaction ignited a different emotion. To say that people in their twenties, younger and some a lot older, were solely motivated by the thought of a new DVD player is over-simplifying to the point where the whole issue gets swept under the carpet on the basis that they were just opportunistic hoodlums out to get what they could. So huge crowds of people just felt like risking jail-time, getting into violent altercations with the police not to mention each other and becoming Public Enemy Number One because they saw the window and took it? They are the villains and we are all the innocent victims? Up to a point. No matter their own precarious situations, both financially and in other aspects, these people had no right to damage other people’s livelihoods, burning shops and putting people’s lives at risk. The fact that many of them barely understand the aspirations of these independent businesses; the fact that they have probably felt ignored and marginalised their whole lives; the fact that they can not see themselves getting the high-flying jobs which could eventually get them out of the crappy area they have gotten so used to that they won’t even discover another zone in London, none of that makes what they did right but it goes some way in explaining it.

The rioters, many of whom are teenagers, probably felt that they owed nothing to a society in which they had never really felt included anyway and which, in the aftermath of the economic crisis, seems increasingly unable to support them. Look at what they chose to steal and from where; the clothes, the trainers, the televisions I know that if I were in the same position, the last shops I would think of placing on my wish-list would be Argos or JD Sports for the simple reason that they are stores pretty accessible in my everyday life. Instead of dismissing these choices as merely selfish and materialistic, we should look at them as telling signs of a kind of struggle that many of us cannot even begin to comprehend. Able to access high streets up and down the country, luxury labels such as Louis Vuitton or Prada were left relatively unscathed whilst brands more familiar to the majority were ransacked with the fervour of a group of people who couldn’t believe their luck.

The opportunistic aspect of the rioting should not be taken as an answer with a full stop either. I live in an area of Central London that would be described as anything but ghetto, turn a couple of corners and it may be another story but you definitely wouldn’t imagine the scenes that were playing out on the news on a normal evening around here. Yet on the night of Monday 8th August, a small crowd of people were moving with purpose on the street outside my house. They knew better than to touch anything on their own doorstep, instead directing themselves to the posh shops a couple of streets up. They smashed some windows; businesses selling luxury diaries, a well-known bakery chain. This wasn’t about filling their wardrobes, it was a strike against the people who live so close, go to the same corner shop, walk the same streets day-in, day-out, and yet have a completely different, apparently unobtainable lifestyle to theirs. It was a reaction that spoke of isolation and resentment.

The wealthy and the disadvantaged live in close proximity in this area but whilst the former are able to make the most of the restaurants and glossy shops, leisurely lunches and shopping trips in boutiques are not available to all the locals. As someone who fits directly into neither category I can understand the looters view of the targeted shops as part of a world that they are constantly reminded of but never granted access to. Having said that, I have never felt such an intensity of resentment to want to physically damage those shops. It may be a world that I am not part of now but I have always felt that the option of dipping into it in the future is there for me. In my opinion, this is what tips the balance between mild alienation and the unleashing of anger: so many people see themselves to have very limited options.

We are living through an economically dark moment and for some this signifies the worsening of an already bad situation. If someone resigns themselves to the belief that they will never get out of a particular predicament, they will have no motivation to work for something more. Anger, repression, opportunism, reckless ignorance, whatever you want to call it, there is more to the rioting than simply a taste for anarchy. This may soon become old news but the sentiments will remain. The shopkeepers and local residents who bore the brunt were innocent victims of an eruption that found a dangerous outlet in the events of that week.

While there is no doubting the fact that unity, supporting each other in the rebuilding of communities, is crucial, we must also take care to avoid just dismissing the rioters, forgetting about them and abandoning them in a position so bleak that they saw this outburst of violence as an opportunity to reach better things.

It seems the government’s answer to the riots has been to come down hard and make an example of those involved, sifting through CCTV evidence to make sure that they punish as many of those involved as possible – and it is right that they do so. People need to know that there are consequences to such violence and destruction. What we should not be focusing on, however, is locking up every single kid caught and throwing out the key. This kind of reaction will only create a vicious cycle in which people will carry on living on the margins, ignored by the rest of us and resentful about the environment in which they continue to live. We need to be given hope, a belief that we all have the opportunity to make something more of our lives whether we are broke or well-off, whether we went to uni or not. We need to know that there is more than one path to success and actually change the meaning of that word so as not to be so focused on the materialistic aspect of life. We need to be motivated; community centres providing dance classes, lessons in martial arts, drama, these would provide incentives to keep kids off the streets and give them a focus that they would think twice about risking losing. It is a tall order but when there is such a serious social problem, it needs to be tackled, not locked away.

Written by Aisha Brown Colpani