Vicky Torrance worked with Community Links on our Street Life: the Conversation project during the winter. In this guest post she explains why she, and the charity she works with, got involved.
It’s the six o’clock news, a young person has been fatally stabbed. The pictures of their distraught family briefly flicker across our screen. “How awful” we think, as a shudder passes down our spine at the thought of something like that happening to someone we love. The story moves on. Do we ever stop and think what happens to that family when the news cameras move on?
The loss of a family member through homicide has profound, devastating and far reaching effects on the whole family unit. Studies have shown that bereavement by homicide is often followed by loss of employment, the breakdown of relationships and mental health problems. Families bereaved through homicide often describe the enormous sense of isolation they feel as they struggle to come to terms with the emotional and psychological impact of their loss. That is why the work of charity’s like Through Unity is so important. Through Unity provides support for the whole family unit in various ways; from befriending to opportunities to get together with other families bereaved through homicide at our family days. Through Unity will be there for families in the early stages of bereavement and through the years to come as the family struggles with the “ripple affect” of the homicide on their families.
Street Life: The Conversation. The project sought to engage with young people to identify solutions to the issues of gangs and weapons carrying. The project involved workshops in each of Community Links’ community hubs, and street-based youth work. Young people from the hubs were invited to make their own response to the issues, which they did with huge commitment, energy and enthusiasm. Anti-knife crime t-shirts were made, songs and raps written, posters designed and dramas devised. The project culminated in a big community event attended by over 300 young people, members of the community, politicians and local decision makers. The event showcased the work of the young people and facilitated a conversation about what could be done to make our communities safer.
So why did members of Through Unity get involved? Families bereaved through homicide know more than anyone the devastation that is wreaked on families and communities as the result of violence. This is often described as the “ripple affect”. The victim, the offender, their families, their friends and the whole community all get caught up in the destructive repercussions of an act of violence. Bereaved families have a unique and personal story to tell. For many families it is important that that they “tell their story”, not only as part of their “grief journey” but also to raise awareness of the devastating after affects of violence that is often so trivialised in the media. Prevention is their watch word. If one life is saved and one family prevented from “walking their road” it will have been worth it. For some the drive to raise awareness of the dangers of carrying guns and knives has led them to set up their own charities and work tirelessly with young people.
How did families in the Through Unity Coalition contribute to Street Life? Professional photographer Sal Idriss (who has twenty images in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery), did a four week photography workshop with young women exploring the issue of gangs and weapons carrying. Sal lost his brother Nass (Nassirudeen) in 2007, Nass died as the result of an unprovoked knife attack in Islington.
Bafta Award winning film maker Mark One showed his film, “After Affects” and did workshops in the community hubs. The film explores the way the news of a murder destroys the lives of family and friends and how the after affects ripple through the whole community with far reaching consequences for everyone. Mark made this film as a result of losing the 19 year old boyfriend of his eldest niece to knife crime in 2006.
Ray and Vi Donovan from the Chris Donovan Trust attended the showcase event and Ray told the story of how his son Chris was killed by a gang of youths as he walked with his brother to a friend’s house.
This is what they said about the project:
Ray Donovan – “As victims of crime, we found it encouraging and mindblowing to see so many young people wanting to do something to win back the streets of their community. They have our utmost respect.”
Sal Idriss – “It was inspiring to see so many coming together for one common aim
Mark One – “The ‘Street Life the Conversation’ event was a great morale lifter for our young adults. To see their work come to life in front of a captive audience is a life lesson that hard work pays off. It was an honour to be a part of the event. We need more events like this in our communities for young adults to use their time to develop themselves, learning how to start, finish and present themselves to a high level.”
So what have we learnt from the experience? We have learnt that we need to work together to reduce violence on our streets. The whole community both young and old, have a part to play and it is vital that we hear the voices of those who have lost loved ones to violence.
For more information about the work of Through Unity go to: www.throughunity.com/ or find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Through-Unity/123235661128744