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Young people tell it like it is

MEETING OF MINDS: (back row from left): PC Michelle Ugwueze, Amie Inspire, Sergeant Paul Sparrow and Desmond Jaddoo (Front row) David Gibson, Selina Inspire, Inspector Karen Geddes and Talisha Johnson

THE TECH savvy new generation seems to have no inclination to go into politics, though they are the future and hold the power to shape the world in the years ahead.

Many in the 16 to 24 age group may not see the point in voting and are not interested in engaging with their local councillors or MPs.

But a community in the heart of inner-city Birmingham is throwing down the gauntlet and getting these young people to sit up, take an active role and take better ownership of the state of affairs around them.
The first youth forum held at Lozells Methodist Church witnessed some plain speaking from such young people and those in the community who support them such as local police and councillors.

The aim is to hold regular sessions across the city, encouraging young people to hold those in power to account, such as Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore and the newly elected Police & Crime Commissioner Bob Jones.

EXCELLENCE

Some of the strongest words came from Talisha Johnson, a 19-year-old who published her first book at 16, and who is already securing a reputation within her community for organising a series of annual youth excellence awards evenings for the past four years.

“I think many of the problems stem from the fact that at school generally we are not taught about political life, or who are local MPs are,” said Talisha, who is from Great Barr.

“Young people are not taught about mortgages, how to finance a home or invest in a business. The education system keeps us in a box for ten years until we’re told ‘that’s it now – you’re on your own.’”
But others at the forum felt it was crucial for politics to be explained to young people in order for them to see what politics can do for them.

While some felt they were not trusted by the police and did not have the support of local officers if, for example, they reported a crime.

Selina Inspire, 22, said: “I have had good and bad experiences with the police but sometimes the bad overtakes the good.”

But Talisha resented claims from others who said there was nothing out there for young people in terms of employment.

“I am tired of hearing this because we’re all in the same position,” she said. “We have to create opportunities for ourselves and this is what I am trying to teach to my peers.”

Talisha added that it was often easier for those who were disengaged from society to gain support. She said she felt those who had qualifications were sometimes turned down in favour of others who it was thought needed more help.

The forum, which was organised by community lobby groups the Birmingham Empowerment Forum (BEM) and United in Building Legacy (UBL) plans to hold the next meeting in Great Barr.

Desmond Jaddoo, one of the organisers said: “ This first meeting is to develop dialogue, not solve the problems of the world. We are not going to solve all the issues surrounding young people but talking is a start.

“We have all developed this endemic labelling philosophy where everyone and every group is stereotyped. We need to move away from this and start listening to each other.”

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