Community Outreach

I grew up in a deprived part of London which had a significant amount of crime and violence. As a young teenager I attended a youth group at an evangelical Christian church and we would sometimes take part in street evangelism. At the time I found it embarrassing to approach strangers and start talking to them about God but the skills that I acquired proved to be valuable in the future. At the age of 16 I got a job working at McDonald's and whilst there I met a young man who told me that he had been arrested for committing robberies. He felt that stealing was the only way for him to get the things that he wanted and I could see that prison wasn't a deterrent for him. I used the skills that I had learned whilst evangelising to counsel the young man and advise him against committing more crimes. He was a Muslim so I wasn't trying to convert him to Christianity, I was just trying to show him a better way of living. Thankfully, my words seemed to sink in and he promised to change his ways. After graduating from law school in 2002, I decided to use my skills and knowledge to help inner city youth to achieve their goals. I started a non profit organisation which provides free advice and information to young people from inner city backgrounds.  

The Mayor of London is aware that people from black and ethnic minority communities have the odds stacked against them so he is launching a number of initiatives through the European Social Fund which will hopefully provide more employment opportunities for black people. Yesterday afternoon I attended an information session at City Hall which was discussing an upcoming project to create more employment opportunities for people in the creative sector. There will be a £2,000,000 budget which should be used to get a minimum of 330 participants into employment, education or training. 50% of the participants must be from ethnic minority groups because the project is designed to create more diversity in the creative industry. The project is due to start next year and will run for three years. I look forward to hearing about the results of the project. In the meantime, more needs to be done to prevent young black people from getting involved in criminal activities. At yesterday's information session I learned that over 100 youth clubs in London had closed due to lack of funding so I'm concerned about the impact this will have on young people from deprived communities.

Yesterday evening I watched a BBC Panorama documentary called 'Conned by my Church' about a London based church called SPAC Nation and I became deeply saddened by what I saw. I first heard about SPAC Nation in May 2018 after I had been communicating with a drill rapper who was grieving the death of his friend and fellow group member. People on Social Media were trying to persuade the young man to make a revenge record so I reached out to him on Snapchat and suggested that he make a tribute record for his friend. He told me that he thought it was a good idea and he agreed to meet up with me to learn more about my non profit organisation. I spoke to one of the Pastors at my church about the situation and he introduced me to some young Christian rappers to see if they would be interested in speaking to the young man. They suggested that I tell the young man to go to SPAC Nation because they felt that church would be better equipped to meet his needs. They advised me to watch a BBC documentary which had been done about a gospel drill group called Hope Dealers who attended SPAC Nation. I was quite impressed by the way that the men in the documentary had turned their lives around but I didn't agree with the church's preaching on prosperity so I decided not to refer the drill rapper to the church. 

Sadly, the drill rapper who I was trying to help was killed before I got the chance to meet him. He lived 5 minutes away from me so I went to a memorial that had been set up outside his home which was near to where he had been killed. Whilst there, I met his uncle who invited me up into the apartment to meet the young man's mother. I spoke to the young man's mother and sister and told them about my connection with the young man. I believed that he had wanted to turn his life around because after I reached out to him on Snapchat I viewed some of his posts and he was promoting peace and forgiveness. He came from a Muslim background so he would regularly talk about God on his posts.

Notwithstanding the current SPAC Nation controversy, parents should not be dissuaded from taking their children to church groups. Yesterday morning I met an African lady who lives in a deprived part of South London with her five year old son and two year old daughter. She asked me for advice on how she could keep her son from joining a gang. I told her that it would be a good idea to take her son to Sunday School so he can make friends with children who have strong morals. It's very difficult for young people to ignore peer pressure so it's important to make sure that her son associates with children who have been taught good values. She also needs to monitor the music that her son listens to so she can ensure that he isn't idolising artists who glorify and glamourise criminal behaviour. Having a male role model in the home helps but it doesn't stop young people from getting involved in criminal activities because most young people are more influenced by their peers than their parents. There are many great churches out there but it may take some trial and error before people find a church that suits them. It's important that parents teach their children to read The Bible for themselves so they can discern when a preacher is teaching something that isn't Biblical.