Siddique Kamara, a rapper in London’s drill music group – Moscow 17, became the capitals 85th murder on the 2nd of August 2017. Siddique, cleared of murder earlier this year, was found stabbed to death on Warham Street, Camberwell, at 19:20. Amongst the bellows of a community screaming for their lost sons and mourning the fates of their children; the media argued that drill music is fuelling gang culture and is a catalyst for knife crime. Harriet Harmen, Camberwell’s MP, supported the plea; holding Drill music accountable for inciting violence. She proceeded to liken the music to child pornography and urged social media platforms to remove the content. However, while the nation holds the art form accountable and probe Siddique’s history with the law, his words ring loud from the grave: “Keep hearing I’m the next big thing, just got to stay alive and out of Jail”, “My part of the hood is tragic right now… I walk with Allah daily I’m blessed”.
In June 2018, in the early evening, I was assaulted by 4 young black men on Embankment Bridge. While the harassment persisted I was forsaken by huge crowds of tourists and businessmen, who’s speed at escaping the scene, created a forcefield that decayed the wall of righteousness I’d forged between myself and the young men; assembling a new scene, 5 Black Boys Making Trouble. After picking apart the culprits for plight of these youths, I began to look at myself within the spectators perception. I believed that my convictions and my ambition had enforced my moral self-righteousness, and had removed me from the afflictions of growing up male, working class and a ethnic minority. My armour had fizzled to reveal a tender and inflamed heart as I began to register how my decisions, though different to these guys, have been informed by the same origin; And an investigation into how these sources dictate my behaviour begun.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, ex-chief inspector of schools in England, argued that absentee Dads are to blame for rise in gang killings, he said “This is about Dads not caring, Dads neglecting children and providing terrible role models to young men who then go astray”. In 2007 the telegraph published an article noting that 6 in10 black Caribbean youngsters live in single parent households, invariably with their mothers and 3 times the proportion in the white population. They went onto to say that the inactive role is key in the over-representation of black men in the criminal just system. The spokesperson for the Commission of racial equality explained that “without a father to turn to for help or advice, they’re joining gangs who provide them with an instant support network”. Through my investigation in this particular subject, it was evident that gang leaders target young people who come from single parent homes when recruiting. My own father though present physically, wasn’t present emotionally and I believe I was deprived of this male role model. Though I didn’t seek to be in gangs, this had a direct impact on my relationships with other men and my behaviour in those scenarios. Growing up my sexuality made me fear other men, so my need for companion and brotherhood, mutated in sexuality. My understanding and relationship to sex was unhealthy because I believed that the physical meant emotional, and as a result companions with men became romantic or sexual, with friendship not being a option. In my effort to find safety and stability, long and stale relationships persisted and poisoned my endeavours static and drew dark resentment that shaded my personality.
In the first five months of this year, the Met recorded that the highest concentration of murders occurred in rapidly gentrifying areas, where deprivation levels are decreasing and house prices are rising. Development of high-end apartments in Hackney has lifted the borough’s average house more than 68% in recent years, according to Land Registry data. Colette Allen, director of Hackney Quest, believes that the exclusion that youths are experiencing in this development is to blame for them turning to gangs and crime, saying “They’re all living in a rich, divers city, but it still feel very separate to them. It’s not their development; it’s somebody else’s. They think they won’t be able to live in the area they were brought up in because they’re not going to be able to see £600,000 on an apartment” This disaffection plays into the hands of local gangs and with the prospect of money and status, children as young as 12 are singled out for grooming. The experience of my community being built around me and not for me has often rendered me isolated and agitated. This strand of seclusion has often led me into a catatonic social media slumber that pickles my thoughts angry. My ambition and aspirations become something that taunts me from my window rather than the treasures unknown that dreaming allows. This feeling has often limited my belief in where I can be, feeling like I’m lost in a bosom that raised me and desperate to find a piece of me in my surroundings. Couch potato.
Media representation of Ethnic Minorities in Britain. While investigating a topic that I believe is integral to the construct of young people of colour in ‘social reality’, I was inundated with articles and pages from the U.S and just one university paper from Cardiff University. This further reinforces my notion that Britain refuses to acknowledge its issues with race and the complexity of institutional racism. The aim of the research was to understand how news media represents ethnic minorities; to consider whether there is evidence of negative stereotyping in the media. In my excavation I found it interesting that coverage of negative stories involving ethnic minorities in Britain were exhibited more-so in tabloid publications, than in the broadsheets. The investigation probed the language used and angles used between both the tabloid and broadsheet, further comparing commentary used by tabloids for white and ethnic minority stories in regards to crime. In a series of interviews, journalists and editors agreed that any attempt of a more positive representation for people of colour should be embarked on by themselves and any impression the media makes on their character should be counterbalanced by role models in their own community. The report concluded that ethnic minorities were clearly associated with negative news values; That knife crime and murder were represented as irrational, senseless acts of violence, or petty rows, with sparse commentary on the systemic or structural factors which may provide possibility for crime. However this doesn’t halt at the news, but also echoes through Art, a single negative narrative is fed to Britain that reflects onto my own character, poses me as a threat when I’m innocently embarking on my daily errands or making me target for stop and search. Providing a voice that shouts me into a stereotype and an underrepresentation that blurs me invisible.
Unfortunate as it is, my encounter forced me to empathise with the boys and the bullet that I thought I’d dodged had just hit me in a different place. I do believe that at some point we do have to be held accountable for the demise of the ethnic minority character, however this character has been manifested through our environment and not through our genetics. There are many topics that I believe have effected our experience and our decisions, but interesting to see how these common catalysts have manifested in my life in comparison. Moving forward I can only endeavour to undo what is the norm, in effort to build better my relationships and to rectify a representation that has been tainted by British society. Siddique Karmara’s life was a life lost and not an opportunity to demonise an art form that reflects society, an effort to not accept responsibility. It’s your choice whether you listen to his perspective or fabricate your own. I am not exempt from this constant dehumanisation and barbaric narrative that is enforced upon me, or excused from the hurt a lack of a father figure has inflicted or the betrayal by a community that closed it door to me. But we must endeavour to turn this setback into our comeback together.
Words by Daniel Bailey