Universal Channel's 100% Character Uncovered series is shining a light on people who inspire others through their extraordinary character. Introducing political commentator, Kenny Imafidon.
My childhood was spent in Peckham (South East London) in a single-parent household, where my mother singlehandedly raised my younger brother and I. During my childhood, I faced many of the challenges that millions of young British people growing up in deprived communities do. I grew up witnessing poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and crime, to name just a few.
By the time I was a teenager I constantly felt disenfranchised, misunderstood and socially excluded. I felt that I never had a part to play in the wider society and that I was imprisoned by my situation. I felt helpless to motivate and assist those around me, even though I suspected that deep within me (and given the opportunity), I had the ability to. I was, in a word, frustrated. Politicians seemed to be constantly making decisions about young people and my community with blatant disregard for our opinions, needs or realities. I became increasingly cynical watching this type of politics take place. I became sick of seeing people struggling to get by and never receiving the support and care they needed; sick of seeing people being 'hoodwinked' and deprived of opportunity because of their 'class', race, religion or gender. I desperately wanted 'regular' people to be able to influence and shape the world around them. My dissatisfaction with the world eventually led me to get involved in politics and this was the start of my journey.
Upon leaving school, I was fortunate to have achieved 12 GCSEs, whilst many of my peers left with none. I was one of the few in my circle to go on to attend college. Whilst there I studied A-level philosophy, politics, economics and history. During this time I was also given the opportunity to work with politicians at a local, regional and national level. This was an incredibly rewarding experience as I was able to develop a hands-on understanding of politics by shadowing and working in the offices of people such as Harriet Harman MP and Valerie Shawcross. By my second year in college I was already speaking at high-profile political events, engaging with high-profile politicians such as Home Secretary Theresa May MP, and I was actively campaigning on youth issues.
I was a few months away from my final year college exams and had just turned 18 years old when I was arrested and charged on joint enterprise for a murder I did not commit and 6 other charges. It set me back to square one. My entire world had collapsed around me and the fact that I could face a minimum sentence of 30-years was simply too much to absorb.
During my time on remand in Feltham Young Offenders, I became the first person to sit and pass my A-Level exams inside the prison. I also spent a considerable amount of my time on remand sat in my cell, often for 23 hours a day. I thought, I analysed, I prayed; I dreamed of what I might do given the opportunity to go home. I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do if I was acquitted but I knew that I definitely wanted to go to university, even though I knew tuition fees had tripled whilst I was inside. I also grew a burning passion to get involved in politics and challenge injustice and be more vocal about the problems in our society. What kept me sane and hopeful was that my faith that God would get me through this. Throughout my experience I had the support from my family and friends and most importantly my faith. One thing that will always stay with me was my mother's words: "Where there is life, there is hope." It was these few words that kept me going when I was in prison. It reminded me that as long as I am alive, so should my dreams.
Eventually, I was acquitted halfway during trial on the direction of the judge at the Old Bailey. However, two of my co-defendants were found guilty and received life sentences with a minimum of 30 and 26 years.
Since leaving prison and starting a new chapter, I have been able to meet people such as HRH Prince Charles, our prime minister David Cameron and have worked closely with the likes of Professor John Pitts and the whole Kenny Report 3 team.
My main inspiration in my life is my mother. She has been there for me through thick and thin. She has sacrificed her own dreams to ensure that my brother and I have the best lives possible. She has been my biggest fan and supporter. She believed in me long before I believed in myself. What keeps me going, alongside the fact that I want to inspire others and make my mum proud, is my fundamental belief that every day we wake up is a blessing and another fantastic opportunity to do something new and good in the world.
Now, aged 22, I am a political commentator, a social entrepreneur and a campaigner on socio-economic issues affecting young people in the UK. I have published the award-winning "Kenny Reports", these publications raise awareness about the issues affecting young people and marginalised communities across the UK. These reports have received widespread media attention and some of their recommendations have been referenced in parliamentary debates.
I am the co-founder of a youth-led consultancy firm ClearView Research. I have been an advocate for the young people of Britain in countries such as Spain, Lithuania, Israel, Germany and Austria. I am a trustee of SWIM (Strength With In Me) Foundation, a charity combatting domestic violence, and a Bite the Ballot ambassador. I was also recently awarded the number one position of Rare Rising Stars 2014, where I was acknowledged for being the most outstanding black student in the UK.
I pray I will be blessed with the continued opportunity to motivate and inspire young people. That my story will be a testimony to what is possible, for everyone, despite obstacles and challenges, through determination and self-belief.