The streets of inner London appear to be fast becoming the killing fields for young black men.
In the past year, there have been reports and pictures of our young black men who were brought to early deaths by a savagery previously unseen in London or indeed, the United Kingdom. They have been felled by rampant youths, mostly blacks who have resorted to knives and machetes to settle arguments, disputes and old scores.
In recent days there were five killings bringing a total in the region of fifty so far this year. It is believed that there have been as many as 200 stabbings and shootings during the same period.
The situation has been developing over many months and has now reached a crisis point. Social workers, politicians and the clergy are now frantically searching for ways and means to curb the growth of this cancer in our society.
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, in a belated effort to act decisively in this matter, announced that £17 million will be set aside to address this burning problem. He seemed to acknowledge that it is patently necessary for the authorities to step up and take responsibility in an effort to combat these heinous crimes. However, one wonders why it has taken so long for this curse in our society to be directly addressed at the highest level.
The Home Secretary’s action is seen as a step in the right direction but it begs the question as to whether the systematic closure of police stations and reduction of men on the beat over the last years have in some way ignited the fire. That is now history and the Home Secretary should not be left alone to deal with the matter.
London listens to the words of sympathy by the Mayor and Commissioner of Police every time an atrocity occurs. The general complaint is a lack of resources but those complaints appear vacuous as murder follows murder and mothers distressingly air their sorrow in public on the TV and radio. The lawlessness and brutality are painful to understand by the majority of decent and law-abiding members of our community.
Many suggestions have been put forward as the reasons for these killings. Inevitably, the fingers are pointing to a lack of parental guidance, absence of fathers in the home and by extension single mothers, gang related disputes funnelled by use of drugs and the need to exercise a sense of authority over some territory in a particular district.
But these are the same old cliché ridden reasons that have been bandied around for many a year and yet the situation has steadily deteriorated. No one has found an alternative answer or solution. It therefore begs the question whether this situation is outside the realm of normal control. Many of the fallen and the perpetrators are in their late teens and early twenties and one can only hope that this phase will blow out soon.
In the homes of many black families in inner London there is a fear – a fear that a son or daughter might not return from school. Curfews are being enforced as parents seek ways to shield their young ones from the ravages of violence that could destroy a way of life that is common to most black people in the UK.
Many I have spoken to want stronger policing to the point of more stop-and-search operations in an effort to find the knives but stop-and-search does not sit comfortably with many of our people. They feel it leads to many other problems and particularly the stereotyping of young black men as potentially of criminal intent.
Others see the vast and almost complete closure of youth and social clubs as one of the contributing factors because there are now not many avenues through which the young can legitimately release their frustrations as they look to find ways to make a better life for themselves. They are now free to roam the streets and lend themselves prey to the delinquent forces that await them to take them into the clutches of the gang leaders.
One young man felt that the Home Secretary’s money should in part be used to develop mentorship programmes in schools. He said, “young people are not getting a message in the churches. We need guidance and this can be done in the schools through an extra programme in the time tables.” He believed that head teachers should work with local communities to get older retired black people to go into schools and “show that respect for law and order is the only way to a decent society.”
There is little doubt that black London is in fear and in need of leadership for our young and adolescent youth. There is further need for collective responsibility.
One young lady of Barbadian origin who did not want to be named said, “this is not a problem of national parochialism. It does not matter if those affected are of Jamaican or Bajan parentage. What matters is that we and they are all black. We need to come together and sort it out now. I do not want my children to grow up in this type of environment.”
She added, “we cannot hide behind our curtains and ignore it because it is not happening in our back yard.”
Mr Vincent “Boo” Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is passionate about the development of his island home and the Diaspora