“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
Coretta Scott King (wife of Martin Luther King Jr)
From time to time, images of deprivation, crime, disenfranchisement and school exclusions in our communities have been thrust into millions of homes in the UK followed by buzz words such as, “lack of role models”, “single-parent household”, “no father figure”, “lack of discipline”, “mental health issues” and so on and so forth. What needs to be made clear is that these statements coupled with the negative images can lead to harmful stereotyping; especially towards the young who live, work and study in these communities. Hardly a month goes by before we hear of another young life succumbing to knife violence, hardly a month goes by before we’re hearing of yet another family mourning the loss of their child, and more often than not, it’s a son, and unfortunately, this is not only a reality but it hardly allows for some of our media to focus on the more positive angles of the community. The narrative needs to change and this is what BLAC aims to do.
We cannot even begin to contemplate engaging with our youths without knowing their back-stories because without the need to know is the need to not care, without the ability to care, we’re in danger of stereotyping in the same way some aspects of the media have been accused of. In fact, we cannot begin to engage not just with the youths but also with places or with others without knowing the story and by not knowing and instead making assumptions, denies people of their dignity and only succeeds in revealing how much separates us than actually unites us and it can also rob people of the ability to acknowledge humanity in what should be equal measures. Marcus Mosiah Garvey once said,
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Accepted also is the fact that in the wrong hands, stories have the ability to undermine, malign, dispossess and disempower with one fail swoop of the tongue or a stroke of the pen depending on the weapon of choice but by the same token, stories can create growth, give empowerment and humanise. As much as stories can break people’s dignities, they can also replace, repair, realign and restore that broken dignity.
“The school-to-prison pipeline is an epidemic that is plaguing schools across the nation. Far too often, students are kept in isolation, given fix term exclusions or permanently excluded this can even go as far as a child being arrested for minor offences that leave visits to the headteacher’s office a thing of the past. Statistics reflect that these policies disproportionately target students of colour and those with a history of abuse, neglect, poverty or learning disabilities.”
(Cheryl Phoenix, The Black Child Agenda).
London’s knife epidemic is showing no signs of ending anytime soon, with the capital reeling from fatal knife attacks since the early hours of 2019.
When we at BLAC speak to current and ex-gang members, their world is totally different from ours and we need to understand this in order to effectively intervene because the journeys of some of these young people embroiled in knife crime and gangs are all quite similar; excluded from school, no significant role model in their life, move from place to place, involved in petty crime very early on, come from a household known to social services, mental health problems within the family structure and more. At BLAC, we’re aware of the pattern. Police have a role to play, but every profession and agency also have a role to play in the hope of intervening in the right places.
Figures also show 25% of victims were black – the highest proportion since data was first collected in 1997. The rise in these deaths seen in recent years has been most pronounced in male victims and those in younger age groups and in part, reflects the increase in serious violence in London and other cities where young adults have been disproportionately affected.
In the year to March 2018 there were 285 murders in England and Wales where the method of killing was by a knife or sharp instrument, and according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), this was an increase of 73 compared with 2016/17, and the highest number since records began at the end of the Second World War. The previous high was in 2008, when there were 268 victims.
While many communities are working to promote health, safety and wellbeing, many continue to be plagued with persistently high rates of trauma. With rates of trauma and its symptoms more prevalent in certain parts of the country, trauma can be a barrier to achieving community health and wellbeing. There is a growing understanding that trauma manifests not only at the individual level, but also at the community level, through exposure to both interpersonal violence and structural violence, which prevents people and communities from meeting their basic needs. Community trauma manifests, for example, as a breakdown of social networks, relationships, and positive norms across the community.
Our aim at BLAC in its entirety is to counter misrepresentative observations by highlighting the positives and we do this by providing the strategic thinking, community insight and creative excellence which produces exceptional relationships between brands and people. This event aims to sow the seeds of unity, friendship, understanding and enrichment amongst our varied communities. The truth is, we have role models in abundance in every one of our communities and BLAC aims to help change the narrative by shining the spotlight on those wonderful individuals and businesses striving to make our community a fabulous place to be proud of.
BLAC is an awards ceremony in the United Kingdom which will be celebrating excellence and paying tribute to grassroots African-Caribbean success stories across all walks of life and was borne out of a simple vision; to create an occasion that would honour the very best achievements from the community, creating one of our most important proceedings of its kind ever to be staged. A pioneering, unique and prestigious event which has been over 19 months in the planning which will be emphasising achievements and highlighting inspirational role models in the fields of business, sport, media, mentoring, entertainment, activism, philanthropy, and popular arts and culture, offering an array of talented entrepreneurs and individuals. This is a perfect opportunity to say a massive “Thank You” to those who make our community such a wonderful place to live, work and study.
We need to stress and make it abundantly clear that we at BLAC are under no illusion whatsoever that an awards ceremony can put an end to knife crime, we wish it would; our aim is to create and foster an environment which will encourage and invite those who are from dysfunctional backgrounds to this prestigious event where they can be afforded the opportunity to mix not only with many of their role models, but to also meet leaders of industries and dignitaries and to see, feel and hear how others (their role models) have strived successfully to make better choices with their lives through sheer hard work, dedication and perseverance – others who have walked the same paths as themselves who have also made bad choices but more importantly, found the right choice. It’s all about early intervention and the BLAC Awards is another angle which can be utilised in so many ways.
The magnificent occassion will build a legacy for the African-Caribbean communities and through the achievements of our winners, inspire the millions who strive to be the best they can and we’re honoured to have the interest of so many important figures wishing to support this worthwhile occasion.
The Violent Crime Prevention Board (VCPB), Principal, Dr. Neville Lawrence OBE (father of murdered Steven Lawrence), Chair, Dr. Angela Herbert MBE and members of the Board are proud contributors to the BLAC Awards.
The VCPB aims to build and promote character, leadership, conflict resolution and resilience in the community, connecting with leaders, faith-groups, police and key service providers; this is exemplified in their motto: ‘Vision to Champion Progress.’ It is this approach of empowering individuals and communities, ‘lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness’ and facilitating solutions that make the VCPB a relevant important voice in modern crime prevention.