New Year’s Eve 2017 recorded a staggering number of stabbings across the country. London alone saw four young men murdered in unrelated incidents and one young man left with fatal injuries. These were men as young as 17 and 18. Figures revealed that 2017 was already the worst year for deaths of children and teenagers in England and Wales since 2009. These fatal stabbings in London took the death toll in the capital up to 80.
This is a major problem effecting the whole country and whatever we seem to be doing to tackle these issues is just not working.
This is the culture of our youth. Popularised through social media, music, film and video games. Young people are being exposed to negative imagery and lifestyles, which are glamorised through these outlets with no alternative. Murderers and their victims are getting younger, kids are being desensitised to extreme violence to a point where seriously hurting someone or killing them is considered cool.
I was totally drawn in by this culture to the point where I believed that shooting after people was something to laugh and make music about.
At one stage I was a part of the problem and was one of the driving forces fuelling the culture in Birmingham. It wasn’t always like this but if you go back to the late 80’s early 90’s there was definitely a culture shift. We went from being brothers and sisters to ‘Thugs and bitches’. Many of the men in our fathers’ generation went from smoking weed to smoking crack, which left most of my generation in fatherless homes. Allowing the US gangster image to become our role model. I watched the film ‘Menace II Society’ when I was about 12–13, maybe even younger. I wanted to be like the character O Dog. He was a mean character who cared for nothing. He killed people for the smallest of reasons but his actions were made to look appealing to young minds.
I wasn’t like this when I was 12–13 of course but by the time I was 19, I was fully in O Dog mode. I was selling drugs, robbing drug dealers, carrying guns and doing all sorts. I was totally drawn in by this culture to the point where I believed that shooting after people was something to laugh and make music about. The music I used to release on YouTube and the internet would gain over a half a million views. I then became a role model and enticed thousands of young people around the West Midlands to live just how I was living. This is how a culture of gang banging grew in Birmingham.
I feel like it’s my responsibility to play a role in tackling this crisis as I played a major role in glamorising this mindset and leading a generation of youth in Birmingham to this lifestyle. But this work needs to be done by us all. I was always taught that if you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem. It is not enough to just spectate and comment from a distance just because the problem doesn’t affect you or your children directly. We need to make this lifestyle look as stupid and uncool as it really is. This issue needs to be tackled holistically, looking at the underlining causes and not just the symptoms.
Knife crime, gun crime and youth violence on a whole are just symptoms of a much deeper problem. It is my belief that the real problem lies in the negative mindset and the culture of our youth. This is a mind-set that has reversed the roles of good and evil. Where taking a life can bring you status and respect. Where success can only be gained from robbing, selling drugs or other forms of criminal activity. A mind-set that tells us we should ride (go out and kill) or die for streets/ postcodes we do not own instead of growing and developing ourselves so we are able to support our families and communities.
Poverty, a lack of opportunity and a lack of resources in these communities play a big role. Youth clubs are closing at a rapid rate and kids are left to hang around on the streets with nothing constructive to take up their time. There is also a lack of positive role models. These are communities where the people who seem to be successful and making money are those selling drugs by the kilo and giving guns to minors to protect their business. My own role models when I was younger did the same thing.
This is a mindset and culture that is promoted through all popular media outlets and online platforms. Young people are getting this negative imagery everywhere they turn and look. So, we need to make the counter for it even more accessible.
I’ve been working in the third sector for nearly five years now and I have seen that not even the organisations that are working to tackle the same issues are united. I would go so far to say that on some level even they have a gang mentality. If they can’t work on a united front then how are the young people they work with supposed to live and work with the same ethos.
Creating a shift in belief systems that will change our youth culture for the better of mankind.
Positive lifestyles need to be promoted like they were a new fashion. The young people need to see and hear it everywhere they turn. Through the media, through social media, through the arts in the community and through the educational system. The Government needs to put more investment in to making these lifestyles look more appealing and at the same time put more investment in to the young men and women who want to come away from the streets but feel they have no alternative. The main stream media and online platforms such as YouTube should invest more in to reshaping public perception not just for political gain but for a better way of life.
Alongside Dylan Duffus and documentary maker Penny Woolcock who we first worked together on the documentary, ‘One Mile Away’ we are developing a YouTube channel that will produce content to challenge the negative imagery many young people watch online. Content that will help reshape a culture of violence and chaos.
We will use the same music artists and street celebrities that are already in the public eye to challenge this negative mindset and give an alternative message. Using the same genres of music such as Rap and Grime to draw in the young minds. But this music will have a more positive message or a unglamorous perspective of this lifestyle choice. With interviews and debates featuring street celebrities we aim to provoke thought on current issues and use the channel as a means to campaign for social change. The more this type of content is developed and promoted through the mainstream media and online platforms the more likely it will be that this type of content will become popularised. Allowing the message to spread far and wide and be implanted into the subconscious minds of our youth. Creating a shift in belief systems that will change our youth culture for the better of mankind.