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'YourLifeMatters' campaign launches in Birmingham

ALL TOGETHER NOW: Nathan Dennis, front row second right, with community leaders launching YourLifeMatters

'IT TAKES the village to raise a child.' It’s a saying that’s been used so many times, but it’s taking on a new and important meaning in a bid to call time on the rising levels of youth violence in Birmingham over the past year.

A YourLifeMatters summit is being held in the city as community and grass roots groups join forces to encourage young people to ditch negative, destructive mind-sets and learn how to aim high towards job opportunities, further education, training and apprenticeships.

It follows shocking figures that reveal how Birmingham has been rocked by a spate of shootings over the summer – there have been 57 firearms discharges across Birmingham and the West Midlands since April.

West Midlands Police say they are tackling a new gang war, following the emergence of three groups operating in the south side of the city in Weoley Castle, Quinton and Bartley Green.

Nathan Dennis, of First Class Legacy, is spearheading the summit with support from several community groups including Craig Pinkney, of Real Action; Joan Campbell and Camille Ade-John of Community Vision; Lincoln Moses MBE, of Continental Star; Rastafarian Minister Ras Tread; Dr Carver Anderson and Robin Thompson, of Bringing Hope; and TSA Projects.

The cross-culture youth summit, which has been commissioned by the office of the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner, will be held between 11am and 6pm on Thursday August 31 at Birmingham Conference and Events Centre, Hill Street.

The sub-theme of the event will be around the power of choice – including the ultimate choice of life and death. Dennis told The Voice:

“Sadly, young people right now find it much easier to choose to die rather than live – sometimes it is so hard to live that often dying seems like a better option.

“We have to reach out to these young people and talk to them about the value of life – they have so much to live for, but we have to get that message out to them – the message of love is all important. We need to show them that life has a purpose once they get out of this negative mind-set – we need to empower them because they have so much to live for.

“The current cutbacks in the region have had a big impact on youth services with up to 18 centres being closed in Birmingham alone. We need to work together and unite in our strength.”

Criminologist Craig Pinkney, an urban youth specialist, told The Voice:

“We need to recognise that there is a joint effort being launched to respond to the issues of youth violence.

"'The media documents this narrative that Birmingham has become the capital for gun and knife crime and not much is being done about it but that’s not the case. Sometimes the community feels there are only one or two individuals in the community who are doing the work – in reality there are loads.

“It’s important that we all come together, families, parents and victims of youth violence. It’s important that this event is supported by people who are on the front line. It’s also important that the community understands what this violence is all about and how we can tackle it. It’s more about presenting solutions rather than focusing on the problem.”

Alison Cope has been speaking out against knife crime since her son Joshua Ribera, AKA Depzman, a talented rapper, was stabbed to death in September 2013. She will also be taking part in the youth summit.

She told The Voice:

“I just see that there is hope – many young people don’t always see it that way. They feel that if they’ve made a mistake, then that’s it and they keep going on the wrong track. We can show these young people that there is a life and a future outside of crime. We can unite as a community in strength to stop families losing their children in this tragic way.

“Often the authorities only seem to throw money at projects once something has happened in a knee jerk reaction, rather than concentrating on prevention. Hopefully when they see everyone pulling together, Birmingham still can become the amazing place that it already is to give fresh hope to everybody.”

Joan Campbell of Community said:

“I want to recreate the village because we have a collective responsibility to support all our children. We can be very good at pointing fingers at others and looking to others for a solution, so if we’re not part of the solution, then we’re part of the problem.”

While Lincoln Moses MBE, who founded Continental Star, the UK’s oldest black-led community football club, said:

“We have to get home the message that every life matters. Actions speak louder than words.”

Dr. Carver Anderson and Robin Thompson, of Bringing Hope added:

“We need to start to work together as a village, with our village elders to bring hope and life to let the youngsters know that their lives matter and that they have real worth.”

Dennis concluded:

“From my observations, historically organisations have been pitched against each other – it’s important that we’re all here today, we’ve all put our time into this. We are now all part of that village.”

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