PRESS RELEASE: Former gang member Sephton Henry, North London educator Gerry Robinson and community worker Suraya Miah came together to deliver their insights on knife crime in a Smiley Talk on 14th April. Aimed at addressing barriers to creating strong institutions and peace, the talk is available to watch online for free here.
Following an in-depth discussion analysing the causes of knife crime, the three panelists came to a consensus on how to tackle knife crime: young people should be considered victims rather than criminals and should be supported not suppressed if we are to combat the root causes of the problem.
Headteacher at Haringey Learning Partnership Gerry Robinson explained: “Rather than criminalising young people and investing in more criminalization, we need to invest in positive experiences, in love and nurture, and in building relationships.”
Echoing these sentiments, former gang member and community worker at the charity, Gangsline, Sephton Henry said: “In the UK we live in a loveless society. We build businesses before loving our own kids. And it’s not because we don’t love them but we’re too busy trying to make a living, that they end up getting neglected.”
Having lost years of his freedom due to involvement in gangs, Sephton has a firsthand experience of the problem. “I’ve spent nearly 11 years in prison. I’ve been shot out. I’ve been stabbed in my leg and then stabbed in my head,” he recounted.
“I now work for a company called Gangsline where we go into schools and prisons up and down the country. I also am the founder of Unity. I’ve traveled to America to visit some of the prisons over there. So I’ve really got an insight into this problem, being involved in it as a perpetrator, and then also as a victim.”
Also contributing to the discussion was Suraya Miah, the lead organiser at Take Back the Power, a youth group tackling structural discrimination faced by young people in UK communities.
“What makes people give up guns and revert back to normal life, is just to give opportunities to young people,” she explained. “If you actually give options to people to make legitimate money and qualifications and work their way up the employment ladder, they have something to look forward to and if not offered those opportunities, then how can you expect them to do so.”
Strengthening communities from within
Three major themes emerged from the event, which included dismissing the misconception that young people involved in knife crime have a criminal mentality. In fact, they are just vulnerable young people with experiences of trauma or caught in a poverty trap. Finally, the panelists suggested that reversing the impacts of deprivation requires investing in support networks in local communities.
As an example of what can be done to tackle knife crime, Suraya told viewers about The Power Circle, an anonymous listening service that allows victims of knife crime to unload trauma. Participants benefit from discussing topics and sharing stories amongst their peers rather than professionals who might be detached from their lived experiences.
The Smiley Talk came to a close on the proposition that governments should invest more in similar social services and provisions for strengthening communities in order to prevent young people from getting drawn into knife crime.
For more information about upcoming Smiley Talks, visit Smiley Movement’s website.
Established in 2007, Gangsline is an organisation offering an outreach and mentoring service to young men and women involved in gang culture. They assist deprived sections of communities to tackle deeply entrenched social, educational, spiritual and family issues. Their ethos and achievements centre around a “proactive, spiritual and non-enforcement led” approach to gangs and violence impacting society.
About Take Back the Power
Take Back the Power is a group of young people from North London aged 15 to 20 investigating solutions to youth violence. The group was established by The Winch, an organisation based in Camden that works to create equal opportunities for all children. Members of Take Back the Power benefit from training and employment offered by The Winch in order to tackle injustices in their communities, including violence as well as issues such as racism in education.
About Haringey Learning Partnership
Created in order to streamline services for students in the London borough of Haringey, Haringey Learning Partnership supervises students requiring various kinds of specialist support. These include students at risk of exclusion, as well as ones struggling with mental health issues, social skills, emotional difficulties and more.
About Smiley™ and Smiley Movement
Smiley Movement (CIC) is a nonprofit, sponsored by the original Smiley™ Company, a Top100 License Brand and copyright owner of the original smiley face icon. With a mission of driving positive change, Smiley Movement empowers people and organisations doing good, connecting them to new resources and supporters via their online network, and through their Smiley Talks, inspiring other potential leaders and social innovators to create a better world for us all.