We need to invest in our communities

A shrine for stabbing vitcim Jaden Moodie, 14
A shrine for Jaden Moodie, 14, who was stabbed to death in Leyton earlier this year

Following the death of his friend Jaden Moodie, teenager Tanner Reid-Brady writes about the problems facing young people

When my friend Jaden Moodie was killed in Leyton earlier this year, for a while it seemed the whole country paused. It seemed to me then, that between the government and the community we would find a way to stop this social virus. I was wrong.

Since Jaden’s death, the list of young people killed or seriously injured has grown, but solutions have not. For many of the young people I know, planning the journey home from school is more important than any task set by our teachers.

To me the problem seems so serious that it’s hard to understand why those in authority are not doing more. Instead they talk about Brexit all of the time.

Tanner Reid-Brady
Tanner Reid-Brady, whose friend Jaden Moodie was stabbed to death earlier this year

The reality for many young people living in violent communities is that opting out of this is very difficult, and for some impossible. It feels like self fulfilling prophecy; many young people carry knives for protection but that seems to attract trouble from other knife carriers. Fear of police, stop and search, or knife detection arches, are of no real concern to them. The police don’t carry the same level of threat as other youths.

I consider myself to be very fortunate. Both my parents support my schooling and out-of-school activities. They are ‘streetwise’ and remind me of the importance of safety and will happily chauffeur me where and when appropriate. In addition to this, they have enrolled me in an out-of-school leadership academy, Eastside, where I hang out with a different kind of gang.

Family and community are key elements in this battle against knife crime. I believe that a young man needs a father (or father figure), a family, and a strong community. This provides identity, belonging, and accountability. Nature hates a vacuum and without the above things, gangs and the worst kind of role models will step in.

I believe that government needs to strengthen families, with the right kind of policies. They should also invest in communities, secular or religious, as well as youth organisations.

Finally, school exclusions. Recently politicians and police have been talking about changing the law in order to prevent schools from excluding students. Jaden Moodie was excluded. I don’t know if this is the answer or if there is really a direct link between exclusions and criminality, but clearly for a student to be in a situation where schools are considering expulsion, something is very wrong. Surely this is the best place to start.

For more information about Eastside Young Leaders’ Academy, based in Wanstead Park:
Visit eyla.org.uk