This week is definitely a different week. Neither did we expect what would happened to Tottenham on Saturday nor the events that unfolded into London, burning. (What happened on my road here) No one expected that one person who lit the first fire to turn it into a wild bush fire spreading like a disease. Nor did I expect to write about of this on a non political, food type blog but this week, we are faced with a problem we can no longer ignore.
Early this morning, I was asked by Robyn Bresnahan, a journalist and broadcaster on BBC World News to host a radio show in my flat. I agreed and found myself opening the doors of my home to a loud, cocky and boisterous Darrell James, he didn’t like the dog jumping at his Armani jeans. He kind of scared the hell out of me when I opened the door after yesterday’s attacks on our street. He was black and he was wearing a cap and he was coming into my house.
Darrell fired off as soon as he entered, his thoughts on whats wrong with our society, why he thought these riots were happening and who was to blame and I listened for a while with the greatest of interest. He was fuelled with many opinions of why society, government and life has done so wrong for him and many young people in Britain.
We sat around a table, with 4 other contributors, Real and Sterling both youth workers, Monifa and my next door neighbour Sohail. We had an open discussion about what happened yesterday, what we thought, who we blamed and what there is to do about it. The discussion could have gone on for hours.
After the show, I continued to talk to Darrell because he made me very intrigued. Darrell partially explained how no one would ever listen to someone like him – ex convict, ex drug dealer and no good do-er. Darrell is now a consultant, a voice of youth and gang culture and often contributes to the BBC or other agencies. What changed you? I asked. My body just couldn’t cope with it anymore, he said. I was sent to prison at 29 and things like that change you. You think to yourself, what have you got? Nothing. Where are you going with this? Nowhere.
Darrell is now a 38 year old man and I can see the gentleness behind all the yell. Its the loud, opinionated, slightly aggressive thing that can scare or be misinterpreted. He got me to see beyond the guy in the hoodie (he wasn’t wearing one, but he might as well be). He pointed out how blind I was to what is going on in our society, not by bashing me but by pointing out to me that all this riot has always been there, just swept under the rug and now its come to the surface – we are shell shocked but its always been there. The harsh brash reality has finally hit us all.
I refused to be belittled for not knowing what actually goes on in estates, frankly, I just didn’t and don’t want to know. I grew up in them and I am entirely happy to have gotten out and he wasn’t going to make me feel guilty for my new middle class and blind realisation of estate culture – the one raging to be heard. But he made me realise something, that I didn’t care and now its biting me in the face.
Its people like you who they will listen to, people like you, not people like me. Help the kids, get the youth centres up again. Tell the government, your local MP to help the young people.
Well, yeah, thats a letter to parliament. Thats easy. As an average tax payer, its not as easy as that is it? But what would they do anyway? This stems in so many directions and layers are embedded. We live in an interweb of generations and generations of a class system, prejudice, drugs, alcohol, lack of education, government cuts and the list goes on and on. Writing a letter is a simple start that anyone can do to contribute in numbers but doesn’t it just start from the beginning? From birth? Is it too late?
Sterling, also a loud, opinionated and angry youth worker is from a maturer generation. He used the metaphor of Lord Of The Flies. If you let children loose, they become savages in any society and in any era of time. Something has to change.
There is a huge problem and these last few days have totally changed the city, the country and probably the world. What can we do but throw our hands, sigh with a huge weight on our shoulders and not knowing where to start? We are altogether now, united but are we going to forget? Sweep it under the rug again with our broom?
First we should listen. This is what we all agreed.
Monik & Real
Thank you to Robyn Bresnahan and Mark at BBC World News and for Sterling, Real, Monik and Darrell for turning my blind into such an insight.