HiT’s 2019 Youth Summit gives a voice to Haringey’s Young Talents & listens to their solutions.
By Omar Alleyne-Lawler, Communications Intern
Bringing schools, youth groups, police officers and community leaders together, the HiT Youth Summit was a celebration of local achievement and proactive thinking, hosted at the London Academy of Excellence and held in partnership with Heartlands High School and Haringey’s Safer Neighbourhood Board.Spirits were high going into the event, with Gladesmore’s Phoebee Htike feeling “excited and ready to represent Haringey” and current Medical Director of North Middlesex University Hospital, Dr Emma Whicher, saying it was “fantastic to see so many people here ready to tackle the challenges they face in their community.”With students from six local schools in attendance; Grieg City Academy, Heartlands High School, Park View, London Academy of Excellence, Hornsey School for Girls and Gladesmore Community School were all well represented at this years summit, making up 190 of the 280 attendees.Year 7 Gladesmore student, Zahraa, was the first student to present after a short introduction by former England and Tottenham Defender Ledley King, with an exhibition titled “Tottenham, The Place To Be”, a showcase on the great things happening in Tottenham. Gladesmore’s second student presentation by Bledina, was another showcase of the talent in our schools with a thoughtful, hand-drawn animation on the peer pressures young people face, encompassing the issues surrounding online shopping, social media, peer pressure and social conformity.
The topic of social pressures continued with Keenayah who led an impassioned presentation focused on Materialism and Body Shaming. Attention shifted from social issues to criminal ones in the second half of Gladesmore’s presentation with Lord Elvis Nyarko & Adoniasking all at the summit the very poignant question: “Do You Feel Safe In Tottenham?” It was a question that raised uncomfortable yet insightful truths, with most of the summit engaging with the proposed safety measures students wanted to take place in the area, ranging from extra policing to firmer stop and search powers. Lord Elvis doubled down on his poignant message with a rap featuring fellow student Caden Donkor before Gladesmore’s presentation concluded with a deeply moving poetry piece from Phoenix on the impact of knife crime, gang activity and the grief they bring.
Afterwards, Gladesmore Teacher, Ade Adigun said that he was “really proud they represented Gladesmore by delivering such a competent performance. The bonus is that they have contributed to a better understanding between Tottenham’s youth, police and those who can affect a positive change in the community by reevaluating where the resources are best deployed.”The Youth Summit was not only an opportunity for students to share their reality, but it was also one in which community leaders had an opportunity to showcase several solutions to the challenges they face.
As such, HiT’s very own Janine Palm’s group of empowered young women from event hosts, London Academy of Excellence did a fantastic job of showcasing just how powerful education can be, not just for the individual, but for the community. While this presentation was displaying some of the brightest minds Tottenham has to offer, it also raised awareness about just how life-saving and life-changing a good education is. The presentation challenged the perception of education for some students in the audience who had begun to believe their education was out of touch with the real world. Instead, they left believing that education could be the only thing that would allow them to escape the current dangers of London, control their future and contribute towards a better society. Heartlands High School was the third school to present on the day, with some students giving the summit some much wanted comic relief in the form of an inventive dance that took the audience through Haringey’s stations on the Overground & Piccadilly lines. This is not to say Heartlands avoided hard-hitting issues though as the next group of students quickly followed up with a powerful presentation about knife crime and their solutions on how to solve it. These students implored the powers that be to do four small things which would make them feel safe from gang activity and violence in the area.
•To increase police funding and presence in the community to allow police to secure gang hotspots in the local area.
•The second was for youth workers to conduct education classes in youth workshops to not only raise awareness about gangs, but to provide young people with relevant career-minded skills such as CV building workshops, interview techniques, etc.
•Third was to give the community a sense of togetherness so it could police itself, proactively deterring people from joining gangs and to know that if someone was in danger, the community would be able to help. Additionally, the students suggested non-uniform police meetings which would allow the young people of Tottenham to know a police officer on a personal level and to know that the police in the area cared about the community on a personal level.
•Lastly, Heartlands asked community leaders to create positive opportunities for young people by providing after-school care and youth engagement activities so that each child has a ‘funner’ alternative to joining a gang. However, what they also felt to be important was that job opportunities were available for them to remove the allure of making money by joining a gang whilst being able to work close to home.
Footsteps, an alternative education and revision organisation were also in attendance at the 2019 summit. As a regular a frontline force in providing educational assistance to vulnerable young people, they offered an insight into the destructive nature of permanent exclusions and how this policy is funnelling youths into gangs and away from careers. As such, Footsteps provides educational resources to students who may have been excluded, offering them a chance to attain the opportunities taken from them by the exclusion. Unfortunately, because so many young people are made vulnerable by these exclusions, Footsteps finds themselves on the frontline, dealing with the aftermath of a gang-related attack on one of their students. As such, Footsteps’ presentation focused on how safe formal education is, but more importantly, humanised the victims of knife crime by describing how these published statistics were people and how those people had families who are missing them. During the break, SOS Gangs Project & St Giles Trust representative, Junior Smart, was very supportive of the Youth Summit and felt “motivated” by the thoughts and feelings of Haringey’s youth being motivated to change the community.
Greig City was the third presenting school who stunned the audience with a dramatised performance that reflected the dangers and issues facing vulnerable young women; tacking topics such as drug abuse, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse from gang members and gang initiation, highlighting that in order to tackle gang activity, resources need to go into protecting young women too as they are often being used as support lines for gangs. Park View’s holistic approach to tackling the issues facing Tottenham was clear in their Vox Pop titled the “Past, Present & Future of Haringey”. Featuring students in Key Stage 3, Park View’s students had a number of wishes, all of which had impacts personal to them, even if the topics were not unique teenage struggles.
•Encouraging supermarkets to better utilise unused foods and collaborate with local food banks so that this food is not wasted, but instead distributed to food banks in order to help lower-income families which make up so much of Haringey’s demographic.
•To reform stop and search measures so that they better target suspects and are more effective in stopping crime.
•To recognise the drug issues within our community and to treat drug addicts as patients instead of criminals.
•To tackle homophobia within the community in order to better protect LGBT+ community members and further encourage the markers of diversity which Haringey has grown to be known for.
•To better tackle litter with more bins and fines for littering. Additionally, measures should be taken to reduce pollution in the area so that it can be a healthier place to live in
The Park View Vox Pop also expressed students concerns in three key areas:
•Homelessness and how there is a lack of support for homeless people in Haringey.
•That schools require better funding as students have not taken a school trip in several years and they feel as though they are missing out on learning about the cultures around them. Additionally, some are reporting that schools are being assisted by the parents financially, placing additional strains on the family at home.
•And better policing to make the area safer.
Hornsey School for Girls were the last of the six schools to present at the HiT Youth Summit and took to the stage with a comedic, light-hearted exhibition that took shape of a game show. With so much focus being on the challenges the area faced, Hornsey’s display allowed the audience to learn about Haringey including the diverse range of languages, its inclusion into being a London Borough and the rivers which run through it. A highlight for many was that the show’s contestants were caricatures of Haringey’s Elderly residents, students and of course, our politicians. The summit did eventually have to come to a close however and Yvonne Lawson of the Godwin Lawson Foundation summarised the event best by saying that she was ‘full of emotion’ and ‘short of words’ due to the student’s exhibitions. Her kind words came with a stark warning though and she urged adults to protect the young adults of our community and nurture their talents so that they are not taken too soon. It was a deeply personal warning as Godwin Lawson was 16 when he was killed in a knife-related incident in 2012. The Godwin Lawson Foundation was created in his honour with a current youth involved in the project ‘Emmy’ saying that it “Helps young women see a different perspective on life, taking dark moments of life and seeing the good in it” With the summit highlighting the failures so many youths in our area face, Jeffery Olsen of the Safer Neighbourhood Board’s “Keep doing the work” was not only encouraging, but a call to action; one that the entire summit got behind.
This article is a republished edition from our 2019 event