Inspiring Changes featuring reformed gang members

“You have inspired me so much to keep up my fight and struggle and never give up doing what I’m doing…”

As Metropolitan Police carried out more than 500 arrests as part of their newly launched Trident Gang Crime Command, a community grass roots project in East London welcomed more than 500 mostly young people through its doors during an activity packed day at the Osmani Centre on Wednesday 15 February.

The Aasha Gang Mediation Project has been working to reduce the impact of gang violence on communities through mediating between rival gangs and through developing transformational programmes for young people that empowers them to make changes.  Last Wednesday, the Project organised a full day of activities for young people to take part in during the half term holidays.  The day was interactive, enjoyable and inspirational with more than 12 activities taking place throughout the site.

The main highlight of the day was a conference themed ‘Inspiring Changes – Gangs, riots and racism’.  It brought together individuals that had previously been members of gangs from Los Angeles, London and Birmingham to come and share their stories of how they made the changes that enabled them to adopt a positive lifestyle.

At the conference, participants heard from the likes of Twilight Bey who discussed the need for young people to take the ‘road to political maturity’ in order to understand the reality they live in and to be able to make the changes that are needed.  Twilight is a leading gang and social intervention specialist who worked to broker a famous truce between the Bloods and the Crips in Los Angeles in 1992.  Also at the conference was Raymond Douglas who leads Anti Youth Violence.  He presented a powerful workshop on the negative effects of music, movies and video games on young people’s minds. Robyn Travis, Abu Mu’min and Rana Miah all spoke at the conference about their experiences of growing up in the gang life and shared the struggles they went through and what helped them to change.  A former UK rap artist who used to go by the name ‘B Dubble’ lead a workshop at the event where he described the life changing transformation that he underwent from a lifestyle of drugs, money and greed to becoming committed to supporting young people into positive activities.

Sharif Cousins and his colleagues were in attendance at the event where he spoke about the war between the Burger Bar Boys and the Johnsons Crew and how they had left that behind and were now committed to empowering young people to make changes.  He mentioned that it “was a great event.  It was so moving, inspirational and motivational…”  Harun Miah described the gang attack that left him hospitalised needing 100 stiches and the incredible stance that he and his friends took at the time which lead to the formation of the Aasha Gang Mediation Project – rejecting violence and revenge for the greater good of the community and to set an example for younger generations.

Danny Obrien of Miles Not Knives was on site supporting the anti-knife crime message.  He said, “Really enjoyed my evening on Wednesday and was made very welcomed and your staff looked after me. Positive and well organized event…”

Earlier in the day, an interactive boxing session took place enabling young people to take part in light hearted sparring and pad work.  This was another example of a packed session and was completely volunteer led.

The new MUGA football pitch at the Osmani Centre was greeted by young players from across London at the first Osmani Cup, eight teams battled it out to be crowned champions.  The new surface was graced with some high tempo and quality 5 a side football from the under 16 teams who were invited to be part of the celebrations on the day.  Elite Youth took on YCHP in a tense and tight final which saw the match taken to penalties after finishing 1-1 at full time.  The Penalties were just as entertaining as both sides were clinical, however, YCHP keeper kept his nervous to save Elite Youth’s fifth penalty to send YCHP into jubilation.

Players and spectators  were also treated to pictures with the Community Shield and world record holder freestyler Dan Magness performing his tricks.

Fifa 12 and Call of Duty competitions were played out in different rooms at the centre.  The games were competitive and enjoyable for all.  In the end, two individuals came out as winners and they were awarded their prizes at the conference later in the evening.  Abu Sayeed, 18, said, “I entered the Fifa 12 competition, the atmosphere was good.  I played some good players and I’m glad I won!”

A BBQ was set up in the roof garden of the new centre from where volunteers prepared and served more than 400 burgers to all who came through the door.

To complete the day, a boxing tournament was organised with live fights between boxers from the Borough and beyond.  Participants were able to finish off the day with live ‘edutainment’.

Muhammad Rabbani, Manager of the Aasha Project, said “Empowering communities to solve their own problems through grass roots engagement is a far better strategy than trying to arrest our way out of any problem.  Projects like Aasha are well placed to reach the young people and motivate them towards change.  What we need to do is support community initiatives and empower them.  Young people want to take the step, we just need to reach out to them and earn their trust.”

Aasha would like to extend its thanks to the dozens of community volunteers who were part of the organising of the event and run many of the activities on the day.  We would also like to thank all of our presenters and facilitators that came together to support the efforts in tackling gang violence and crime.

To view images, please click here.

Please check page 77 to see Aasha featured in a new report published by Baroness Newlove for DCLG.

“Baroness Newlove was appointed as the Government’s Champion for Active, Safer Communities in October 2010. Since then she has worked with communities across the country to find out what grassroots activists want and need, this is her third report. It is a manual for communities that brings together new ideas that have been proven to work, case studies from different areas and it highlights resources which can provide support to communities that want to do more…”

play studio