'A starting solution to youth violence begins with an open mind...'

On 12 September, The London Community Foundation hosted an event called the ‘Violence Virus: The philanthropic response’.

Two young people in attendance on the night were Kumba and Mariam, two ‘Associate Bees’ who are part of the Milk & Honey project which is led by one of the panel members, Ebinehita Iyere. Both aspiring journalists, they have written a piece on their experience of the event.

The London Community Foundation held an event called the Violence Virus which saw different organisations come together to showcase their work, engage in a panel and discuss solutions to the current knife crime epidemic in London. On the day, we were introduced to charities, mental health experts and youth speakers, they all had come together for one purpose, ending youth violence for good. 

Statistics show that there was a total of 1,299 stabbings in London and 283 arrests had been made many of which were teenagers carrying a knife. These statistics clearly show a need for change to tackle this complex issue.

One of the panellists; Dr Charlie Howard, a clinical psychologist. Her view on tackling youth violence was to "deal with this in a different way and start looking into the root causes."

She believed that it was important for people to actively engage with the youths in their area to give them a sense of belonging. One of the quotes that stood out to me the most was: 

We have to build broken foundations from the ground up, this is the key to building a positive relationship with young people and potentially steering them away from rebelling against society.
Dr Charlie Howard

As young people, it felt good to hear Dr Charlie encourage older people to build a relationship with us, as all we want is someone to talk to. 

Furthermore, I was pleased to hear Dr Charlie Howard mention the importance of being able to provide instant funding to youth charities. She believed this could be a start to finding solutions to the lack of funding given to youth practitioners. 

Another speaker on the night was Ebinehita Iyere, Project Lead for Milk & Honey from Juvenis. Due to her many years of working alongside young people like us, she was able to share an authentic view on knife crime from a personal, academic and professional perspective. She questioned why people were not using empathy to look into the emotional state of young people before judging them.

She believed the term "serious youth violence" should be replaced with "loss and bereavement" as that is what is happening, young people are losing as well as burying the bereaved. She offers realistic solutions to youth crime, which was humbling to witness; as young people we know and feel that Ebinehita understands our reality daily. 

One thing that stood out to me was her three reasons about why youth violence is on the rise, these were; structural inequality, not enough practitioners with the right skill set, a lack of a trauma informed approach and not enough people listening to young people views.

She ended with: 

The after care for me, will stop the next person dying, all a young person wants is someone to talk to before and after things have gone wrong.
Ebinehita Iyere

Lastly, David Cohen, a campaign journalist at the Evening Standard, stated that the media are working to improve the way they report on stories that involve youth violence in London. He expressed the difficulty of this especially because the newsroom is not a true reflection of society today. As a young, Black journalist living in London, I questioned David about why there were not enough people who looked like me in the industry and what organisations like the Evening Standard were doing to improve this. It was delightful to hear that David strongly agreed with me and could see the lack of diversity across the media.

Overall, the event was a success and it was good to see a different side to the work that Ebinehita does within the community. On behalf of young people, we would like to thank The London Community Foundation, The Milk & Honey Project and Juvenis for supporting projects that aim to reduce youth violence, plus giving us their upmost support by having us at the Violence Virus event. 

We believe a starting solution to youth violence begins with an open-mind which consists of; being empathetic and understanding that young people are more than they appear. As collectives we have our struggles and as individuals we have our struggles but with your continued support, as a society, we will be open to change.