By Olivia Russell
The second annual Youth Awareness Conference went ahead on Friday, October 4th 2019, and was hosted in the Oastler lecture theatre at The University of Huddersfield, the event brought together diverse sectors from throughout the U.K and the knife crime epidemic that plagues communities up and down the country, whilst proposing prevention strategies to get more young people off the streets.
The Lighthouse Church Choir from the Mustard Seed Huddersfield Church set the tone with their group ensemble that brought together the audience.
Professor Bob Cryan, University Vice-Chancellor opened the session and talked about his life growing up in the Ashbrow Ward, being a student at Deighton High School, and becoming a leading figure at the respectable University of Huddersfield.
The session was full of insightful speakers, including talks from ex-gang members, who have turned their life around to mentor young people and steer them away from the streets, safeguarding officers, community educators and established authors.
Estella Dick, founder of the Huddersfield based youth group, ‘Keep It Real’ spoke of her work in Dalton and the wider community to set up a safe space for young people, in providing fun activities for the younger education.
‘Keep it Real’ seeks to empower young people and encourages self-development, and challenges gang affiliation, and offers support for mental health.
For more information on ‘Keep it Real’, visit: https://www.facebook.com/keepItRealyouthgroup/
Craig Pinkney’s session brought all the young attendees to the front and aimed to breakdown the glamorised perception of gangs, by presenting them with real-life scenarios of where young people have tragically lost their lives being caught up in violence.
Craig is a Criminologist, Urban Youth Specialist and Lecturer at University College Birmingham as well as being the U.K lead for the EU Gangs Project.
“The minute we start giving up is when they give up”
Presenter of the Conflict Resolutions Youth Conference, Farada Fox performed his freestyle: ‘Can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.’
Farada is originally from Brent, London and has lived in Huddersfield for over 20 years. He is an ex knife and gun carrier, his love bringing people together through music played a huge role in disassociating himself from crime.
Guest speaker, Robyn Travis, award-winning author with his book ‘Prisoner to the Streets’ took to the stage and delivered a moving speech of the violence he experienced as a victim and perpetrator being involved with gangs from a young age in his home London Borough of Hackney.
His publications have garnered much interest across television and radio and he has also been a leading speaker at a number of events up and down the country.
To buy Robyn Travis’ book, visit: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Prisoner-Streets-Robyn-Travis/dp/0995458901
“An infant mind-set, not a criminal mind-set”
Female local talent and singer Tonia Victoria performed her single ‘Loners Rule’ from her 2017 Ep ‘Herstory’.
Tonia’s Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/146CGtV8BNUkWX7NCSztMV
Milton Brown, Founder and Director of Kirklees Local TV gave a presentation in light of it being Black History Month that raised awareness of the attainment gap between BAME and white students, and also discussed race relations in the present day.
“Disagreements are the first step to resolution”
KLTV is an internet-based TV station which documents news, civic activism and covers social concerns and matters of culture that Kirklees and West Yorkshire as a whole.
Beverley Alexander Belafonte, Qualified Holistic Therapist in mindfulness, life-coaching, addiction and mental-health well-being in children, she gave a poem-like speech to the audience, reminding the young people to believe in themselves. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was mentioned as a fundamental outlook on personal-development.
Beverley is also a Safeguarding Officer at Huddersfield New Testament Church of God and believes that with a positive mind-set, self-actualisation can be achieved through faith and self-belief.
Claude Hendrickson, Co-founder and Director of Chapeltown Young Peoples 10-2 club and active community role-model in Chapeltown with his work for over 30 years talked on the need to provide support services for young people and how we need to open a dialogue of conversation.
“Black children are not hard to reach, but are easy to ignore”.
Claude also went onto reiterate the importance of education, “education is a life-long occupation”, his community self-build projects encourage community cohesion and reiterate the importance for well-funded support services for young people.
Tally Dernelly, a native of Huddersfield performed his rap single ‘Truth’ to the audience.
Tally’s SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/tallydernelly
Naim Vali opened up about his past opioid addiction, and is now adapting his life around being an amputee, caused by his substance abuse. He talked about the stigmas around mental health and addiction in the south Asian community.
He has worked in the field of Substance Misuse & Harm Reduction for over 13 years, and is the current chair of the Yorkshire and Humberside IPED reference group; (concerned with the use of Image & Performance enhancing drugs).
Darryl Laycock is BAFTA Award Winner, Youth Mentor and 2019 National Diversity Awards Winner. The native of Moss Side became embroiled in gang-activity, as a means of escapism from his home life.
He was sentenced to 17 years, 10 months for various gang-associated crimes and has now turned his life around, working directly with young people to steer them away from gangs
“Prevention is better than being caught”
The Youth Conference had full attendance, being positively received by educational institutes, Kirklees Council and West Yorkshire Police.
Chief Inspector for West Yorkshire Police, Damon Solley spoke of how they are tackling knife crime in the Kirklees region and the future plans for investment into community services. The event allowed grassroots and third sector organisations to network and unify on common interests.
Hosting the event at the University inspired the young people in attendance and lifted their prospects of attaining future employment and pursuing higher education through the positive life-style choices endorsed at the conference.
Director of Conflict Resolutions and the Youth Awareness Conference, Howard Belafonte was optimistic about the reception gained from the conference, and is highly anticipating the 2020 conference, to be hosted the first Friday of October at The University of Huddersfield.
Howard is a leading figure in Kirklees and has been actively working in the community for over 25 years. Howard set up the Conflict Resolutions initiative in 2017, mentoring young people in schools and the community. He also founded the award-winning Deighton Carnival, that’s now onto its 19th successful year.
Conflict Resolutions recognises the local services that have withdrawn, changed or restructured in the community, and are filling that void to work with young people and their families to help re-stabilise their future and encourage them to make positive life choices.
“Our long-term ambitions are to go into the judicial system, extending our work at Conflict Resolutions to the criminal justice program. Working towards going into prisons and speaking to young offenders, whilst partnering with other youth orientated groups to maximise our services and make a difference”.
Conflict Resolutions – https://www.ls2y.co.uk/
For more information on the conference, view KLTV’s feature film on the second annual Youth Awareness and to see the highlights of the session and all who participated in making the event the success it was!