Yesterday at the Lozells and Birchfield Social Media Surgery I was paired with a young man who was looking for help setting up a blog for an organisation he was involved with. I started as always by chatting with him a little bit about what the work he was doing and what they wanted to use the blog for when he said something that really pulled what he was trying to achieve into focus for me;
“The girls have babies and the boys shoot and stab each other. I’ve lost count of the amount of christenings and funerals I’ve been to but I’ve never been to a wedding that’s just not what we do”
– He was talking about life in Handsworth and Lozells as he knew it.
The patients name was Mosies, he is a 19 year old ex gang member from Handsworth, He’s not long been found not guilty on a very serious criminal charge, and by his own admittance has been in trouble with the law before, and now he’s taking that experience to not only try and turn his life around but also to try and change the gang culture that plagues youths in some parts of North Birmingham.
He along with other ex gang members from opposing groups in the area, some with criminal records for gang related activities have come together to form the New Day Foundation, They are aiming to try and combat gang culture targeting younger children to educate them on the realities of gang life and try to show them that there are other options to what they think is “normal”, to change their futures so they can go to more wedding than funerals in their lives!
I sat for an hour and listened to Mosies as he told us about the path he’d taken to be sitting in the room with us that day. Where he’d come from, why he wanted to change the lives of people stuck with the perception that joining a gang was the only option and how he and the other members of his group hoped to do that.
He had the whole room enthralled and as he was telling us how at the age of 14 he stopped going out to the cinema with his friends so he could save his money to buy a gun and all I was thinking was look at you now! 5 years later a changed individual talking about the pride taken in earning money the “proper way”, looking forward to getting a mortgage and hoping the story of your experiences would in some way stop others having to go through it.
– and that right there is what I like so much about the Social Media Surgery format; Only in a room where people are encouraged to talk to each other and help each other one on one would I have heard Mosies story. At a prescribed training session we’d have all sat in rows listening to one person talking and hoping to pick up the most relevant bits for our needs and no one would have realised the momentous journey this one young man had taken to be there with us.