Stratford knife crime discussion talks barriers bursting big dreams of young Londoners

Knife crime, gangs and inequality were discussed over breakfast at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Pic

Knife crime, gangs and inequality were discussed over breakfast at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Picture: Alex Shaw - Credit: Alex Shaw

Knife and gun crime, institutional barriers and a lack of positive role models whittle away the big dreams of young Londoners living in gang violence hotspots, interviews suggest.

Young black people fear being trapped in their social setting, facing the same problems as their parents, according to a ‘breakfast discussion’ held this morning in Newham.

Charity representatives, child support workers and concerned parents attended the meeting in Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, which aimed to change the conversation around gang violence “to more of solutions rather than blame”.

Summarising interviews with a dozen black teenagers from across the capital, research author Kay Scorah said: “They know that society is less likely to forgive one mistake on the part of a young black male than a litany of corruption on the part of someone already in the establishment.

“They fear ending up in jail, hospital or the grave because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or said the wrong thing.”

One year on from the Grenfell Tower fire, amid the Windrush scandal and rising knife crime, interviewees feared “becoming refugees in the country they have always thought of as home,” she added.

Theresa May’s response to the inferno responsible for 71 deaths at the tower block in North Kensington, where the prime minister only met survivors after heavy criticism, was seen to represent official indifference towards black youngsters.

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“They never come down here,” read testimony from one interviewee, which was projected on a nearby television screen. “If they do they don’t even look at us.”

The event, chaired by Philip Osei-Hwere, managing director of marketing firm EMH Global, featured a live poetry performance by comedian and musician Mr Gee, who called for more youth centres to provide safe environments for disadvantaged youngsters.

“If you congregate in Westfield, you’ve got to spend money in Westfield,” he said, adding: “Basically, everywhere where young people are socially engineered to concentrate — money is a factor.”

This, he said, pushed many young people and their friends onto the street, where drug dealers had a “greater chance of accessing you”.

Greater support for single parents, minority families with children at university and police officers who better understand local communities was needed, presenters agreed.