Grime, Knife Crime and Stormzy’s LBC clapback

Politics

I am proud to have written this piece originally for the Youth Violence Commission which can be found here.

“All the suit wearing guys in cities can’t stand us. They don’t understand us.” – P Money

Top down approaches make young people feel they are the problem when they are often the solution. The commission will give us back our voices. I know I am not alone (especially if you are a Londoner) in thinking that every time we open the paper or read the news there is a mention of a stabbing or fatality. What I find even more depressing is that often the victim is younger than me.

Youth violence is an issue that affects communities across the U.K. The systemic failings of government policy, cuts and lack of funding to community services have contributed. It is naïve to label violence and knife crime synonymously with gang-violence. It is an issue of multiple complexities and we must change the narrative.

Deprivation and poverty can lead to a lack of aspiration. Alternatives to the lifestyle that goes hand in hand with youth violence should be presented. Success stories and role models exist, from family members and youth workers to footballers and musicians. The media portrayal of young people needs to change, the discrimination against figures such as grime MC’s and rappers fuels resentment.

A caller on LBC accused Stormzy and grime music of being one of the main reasons behind the knife crime epidemic in the UK. In a classic move, Stormzy called out LBC on the first track of his new album Gang Signs and Prayer, ‘First Things First’ saying: “ LBC’s tryna’ black ball me and tryna’ blame your boy for knife crime, I don’t use a shank, I got money in the bank man, I’d rather do a drive by”.

Big Mike was invited onto LBC to respond to the initial remarks in an interview with Shelagh Fogarty. He explained that Grime is an expression of circumstances. MC’s are social commentators reporting on their reality. As Stormzy put it, “for someone to say that grime music is the reason for the country’s knife crime epidemic – that is wild.”

Anyone who listens to Grime knows that MC’s cover the realest of topics that bear relevance to their communities. The nuances of discussing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, bereavement, violence, deprivation and angst through Grime is not lost on its fans. Grime is powered by determination; this determination is what is needed to end youth violence and the needless loss of life.

Harnessing the message and energy of grime music is at the crux of combatting youth violence. By understanding the key messaging of police brutality, institutionalised racism and a resignation to life in a system that is not balanced in their favour; we can seek to engage and make meaningful change. All these lessons can be learnt from this genre.

Grime is pure, unadulterated, raw truth at 140bpm. It reflects anti-establishment and anti-corruption. Grime encapsulates and articulates life for many people across the U.K. Grime’s success and growth in popularity in the last couple of years has only reinforced its cultural importance as a social and political movement. It is the voice of the unrepresented in society, those that are frustrated with their situation and who are motivated to better themselves.

Profiling people based on their taste in music is discriminatory and laughable and Stormzy was right to defend the genre and his journey. The Commission is here to ensure that policy is created at a grassroots levels involving communities. I am keen to give Grime and its MC’s the platform they deserve and the Youth Violence Commission offers this opportunity. Their insights are a necessity to this process and it’s important to eradicate all preconceived notions that authorities have of the culture.

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Stop Youth Violence

Politics

“Keeping people safe is the first duty of government”

Youth violence is more important than political differences. I am pleased to be working with Vicky Foxcroft MP who has set up a cross-party commission of 6 MP’s, which will give this debate the recognition it deserves. The aim is to understand how violence manifests itself and what factors influence young people. Youth consultation is imperative to form effective solutions and policy recommendations. At the moment I am doing what I can to help the Youth Violence Commission by adding my thoughts on causes and solutions.

In 2016 10 young people were killed:

  • Moamen Settar 18
  • Lance Scott Walker 18
  • Ziggy Worrell-Owusu 19
  • Andre Aderemi 19
  • Leoandro Osemeke 16
  • Andrew Oteng-Owusu 19
  • Folajimi Michael Orebiyi 17
  • Matthew Kutandure 18
  • Myron Issac Yarde 17
  • Munashi Charles Kutyaurippo 16

Youth violence is an issue that plagues many families and communities. I have been devastated by the death toll of young people. Each death is a tragedy, which with the right understanding can be avoided.

Root causes include traumas in childhood, the lack of support for parenting, the influence of peer groups and social and cultural norms. As do poverty, deprivation and mental health. The existing interventions and previous tactics used to address youth violence have been inconsistent. It is necessary to use expertise provided by those who tirelessly work to address these issues.

There needs to be improved access to mental health care particularly CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health services). We know that early intervention can prevent later violent behaviour. Employment workshops, apprenticeships, life skills programmes in schools and communities are all possible solutions. Schools are an opportunity to identify early pressures on young people particularly for gang involvement.

To provide these vital local solutions, funding and cuts need to be addressed. The Commission will take recommendations to Westminster to secure the funding to maintain and improve these services.

In practice the Commission should be a hub of ideas collated from as many people as possible. The experiences of victims and their families should be heard and considered. As well as from gang members, the public and a range of experts.

There is a lot of trauma within our communities and it is only by working together that we can begin to heal and stop the needless violence.

Together we can break the cycle.

If you would like to be involved or have your say please register your interest via www.youthviolencecommission.org  or you can tweet me/fill in the contact form on my site.

Black History Month – Stop Hate

Politics, U get me?

In honour of Black History Month I’d like to bring this poem by Benjamin Zephaniah once more.

At a time where Britain is in a post-Brexit turmoil and divisions becoming exceedingly apparent it has become essential now more than ever for us to show compassion and promote equality.

I am proud of organisations such as Sisters Uncut and UK Black Lives Matter for their truly unwavering determination to achieve these things.

Those who smear the UK BLM campaigns as unnecessary because “it’s not like America, we have it good here” need to reassess. Discrimination of any kind is a crime.

Last week was National Hate Crime Awareness Week. Reported hate crimes have risen since the result of the EU referendum and I too have been a victim of this. I spoke to Channel 4 and went on the Victoria Derbyshire show (http://bbc.in/29aFQQJ) after the incidents and was shocked to see the hateful comments left by many within the comments section on Facebook and on Twitter. There is a culture of victim-blaming culminating that never ceases to amaze me.

Hate is vengeful, blinding and deep-seated. The xenophobic rhetoric of not only the campaign but the media too, has fuelled hate, fear and division within our society. The result revealed divisions regionally around the U.K and has fuelled resentment for immigrants and Brexiteers alike.

It is time stop the hate and 100% challenge any instances of racism and discrimination that you encounter. By working together there is a chance to rebuild our communities once more.

I think it is apt to repost this prolific poem written and performed by Benjamin Zephaniah regarding the death of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 and the determination of his family to seek justice.

Benjamin Zephaniah has donated a handwritten version of the poem below “What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us”. The poem was written in 1999 and will be displayed in the Treasures of the British Library gallery from Tuesday 17th October (yesterday).

Zephaniah’s poem is the first new item to be displayed in the gallery’s contemporary collections since 2015. More information on this piece will be revealed on Sky Arts “Treasures of the British Library” check it out!

What Stephen Lawrence has taught us – Benjamin Zephaniah

Please find the poem below. Or watch it performed here.

We know who the killers are,
We have watched them strut before us
As proud as sick Mussolinis,
We have watched them strut before us
Compassionless and arrogant,
They paraded before us,
Like angels of death
Protected by the law.
It is now an open secret
Black people do not have
Chips on their shoulders,
They just have injustice on their backs
And justice on their minds,
And now we know that the road to liberty
is as long as the road from slavery.
The death of Stephen Lawrence
Has taught us to love each other
And never to take the tedious task
Of waiting for a bus for granted.
Watching his parents watching the cover-up
Begs the question
What are the trading standards here?
Why are we paying for a police force
That will not work for us?
The death of Stephen Lawrence
Has taught us
That we cannot let the illusion of freedom
Endow us with a false sense of security as we walk the streets,
The whole world can now watch
The academics and the super cops
Struggling to find the definition of institutionalised racism
As we continue to die in custody
As we continue emptying our pockets on the pavements,
And we continue to ask ourselves
Why is it so official
That black people are so often killed
Without killers?
We are not talking about war or revenge
We are not talking about hypothetics or possibilities,
We are talking about where we are now
We are talking about how we live now
In this state
Under this flag, (God Save the Queen),
And god save all those black children who want to grow up
And god save all the brothers and sisters
Who like raving,
Because the death of Stephen Lawrence
Has taught us that racism is easy when
You have friends in high places.
And friends in high places
Have no use whatsoever
When they are not your friends.
Dear Mr Condon,
Pop out of Teletubby land,
And visit reality,
Come to an honest place
And get some advice from your neighbours,
Be enlightened by our community,
Neglect your well-paid ignorance
Because
We know who the killers are

Shalom

Politics, U get me?

I’m here to give an honest opinion on anything that interests me. This can vary from my favourite book, a grime night that I’ve been to and want to big up or a huge rant about austerity and the government.

A lot has happened this year that has pissed me off.  Almost all of it to do with politicians.

A lot has gassed me this year. Almost all of it to do with Grime and Grime artists.

So from Brexit to BBK I will be here, preeing and documenting.