Supporting young Black men

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David Cameron said in the Sunday Guardian 31st January 2016 that young Black men in Britain are more likely to be in prison than be studying at University.  However the same can be said about white youth in Manchester, Derby or Liverpool.

It would seem that too much attention is being paid to Black youth, perhaps to divert attention from wider more relevant issues.  Some media articles state that young Black youth don’t have enough role models, have poor education, face an absence of healthy balanced parenting, poor/inadequate housing, poverty, drugs, peer pressure and poor social ties and connections as reasons why they face these problems.

These are all interlinked, for instance the refugee crisis, where a young person’s life may be ruined by lack of opportunity, discrimination, death of a parent(s), poverty, racism, terrible conditions within their own home countries, which make it impossible to survive, let alone live in.

It’s really a basic principle of opportunity, if the opportunity is presented and not taken up by young black men, the comment by the PM would have some basis.  These conditions as we all know, don’t only apply to people from ethnic minorities. Some youth from ethnic minorities coming into the UK, have become modern-day slaves, hidden and unaccounted for in a thriving industry, around the world.

How youth fair, will also depend on the environment that they’re brought up in, how they’re brought up, whether they’re from poorer parts of the world or richer to some extent, though even rich countries tend to have large pockets of poor areas, the USA, France and Britain.  The absence of services and facilities, whether they get a decent basic education, job opportunities and so on or not are also known to be causal reasons.

There will always be racism and discrimination to a certain degree, so it’s also about teaching the youth to find healthy outlets for their talent.  Some of these healthy outlets include the spoken word, poetry such as performance poetry, theatre, sport, music, drama, seminars, training opportunities, the arts, youth self-help projects/schemes, or organisations for the youth by the youth and so on.

These are the obvious examples.  Writing has been used for thousands of years as an instrument for voicing dissatisfaction. It has been said that “The pen is mightier than the sword”.  This provides ample opportunities to let off steam for pent-up emotions, such as anger, grief, depression and frustration.

They help empower young people, give them a voice.  It creates a united front where they can turn to each other for help and build strong bonds and ties.  These resources can help teach them that they are not powerless, but powerful and where they learn through life’s school, leadership skills and what can’t be taught in any school, doggedness, courage, perseverance, ambition and determination.

This helps them become determiners of their own destinies. They may reduce the need for last resort tactics, such as having to turn to social services for help, for things like mental health and challenging behavioural problems.

Chinua Achebe in his interview with Helon Habila (in the Sable, a literary magazine for new writing), noted that our youth have to be able to tell their own stories, by looking back to those who came before, in spite of barriers and frontiers.  If they haven’t seen people who look like them, telling them as it is, then this creates problems.

Black people a lot of the time don’t tend to help each other unlike other racial groups in this country.  Cleverness isn’t just about getting a degree, PhD or a Masters, a degree, it includes applying one’s knowledge to new challenges, experiences and situations.  This is one reason that when faced by challenges and difficulties, we find many Black people turning to churches instead of joining forces and facing their problems head on and dealing with them there and then.

However there are of course other reasons why people turn to religion.  It’s disgraceful that whilst Africans have a very rich and abundant history and culture, traditional religions, yet we have abandoned many of these, for other foreign traditions, religions and cultures, which hold no direct relevance to our present day experiences, to our own realities and cultural norms.

Its more about tapping into cultures, and traditions which we can learn from and take aspects of, rather than radical abandonment of what we have.  As they say, “if you don’t know where you’re coming from, then you can’t know where you’re going”, aptly reaffirmed by Chinua Achebe in his interview.

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