Wall Of Silence: The Youth Violence Debate Explodes

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LiveMagUK's Sam Reynolds and Yara Shaikh were right in the center of the multi-platform debate on youth violence and stop & search

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The City Hall’s Mayor’s Chamber was the setting for the long-awaited panel debate on youth violence, held by One Big Community (1BC)  Live and the Mayor’s Peer Outreach Team. With the sun gleaming through, the room was hot, and with startling and shocking statistics revealed during the debate, it only got more heated.

1BC is a youth-run project founded by 14-year-old Jeremiah Emmanuel, who made the movement after losing a close friend to youth violence in February last year. Bringing together a coalition of young people, 1BC seek solutions to stop violence on the streets of London.

In November, they carried out the One Big Debate, giving young people a platform to discuss underlining issues surrounding youth violence. They generated questions based on topics including the media, policing and the role of institutions. Last week, 1BC gathered a carefully selected group of adult industry professionals who represented these topics and, in front of 300 young people, aimed to ‘break the wall of silence’.

One of the panellists, youth worker Tom Isaac, took part in a exciting stop-and-search themed rap battle between himself, as a police officer, and a young person. The event was hosted by Hussain’s House star Hussain Manwar, which adding a much-needed light-hearted touch to the debate. It featured top performances by spoken word artist Chozen and recent winner of The Voice UK, Jermain Jackman, that balanced the deeper nature of the debate.

One of the prior statistics collected by 1BC kicked off the debate with gusto: 94% of young people said ‘NO, youth violence is NOT associated with gangs’. A staggering amount of young people in the room then revealed they had been wrongly stopped and searched, but few had reported it. Few people know their rights – watch Live Mag UK’s break down of your stop and search rights below.

It was indeed widely suggested during the debate that young people had little awareness of their rights. Jennifer Blake, of youth support service ELSC, advised them to log their complaints via youth support providers, while David Cohen, Campaigns Editor of The Evening Standard, was somewhat speechless when told that the Standard could teach so many people about their rights, in one day.

Tim Campbell, CEO of Bright Ideas Trust, demanded young people do something about it themselves. If they can tweet about Beyonce’s baby, then tweet about the changes they want. Polly Courtney, author of Feral Youth, then agreed with Live Mag UK’s Yara Shaikh, in that the mainstream media fails in showing young people in a positive light.

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The topic of education divided the room the most. Shaun Bailey, Youth Adviser to the Minister for Education, urged the room to be patient with their stop-and-search complaints, stating that no one can help them if they can’t help themselves. He then argued that there is not enough time to teach young people about their rights alongside formal education, to which much of the room disagreed in uproar. He stressed about the importance of their parents and their communities, and that teaching rights shouldn’t just be kept in school.

As the debate ended, it wasn’t clear whether a realistic and effective solution had been found to prevent long-term youth violence. What was clear, however, is that the “wall of silence” has somewhat broken, which means One Big Community are one step closer to finding the solution young people need.

@sambrey

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