AMANI SIMPSON is currently on cloud nine. Over 700 people, including community figures like Neville Lawrence, and Kojo the Comedian attended the screening of his debut short film, Amani’s Story.
It tells the story of how Amani, 28, nearly died after being stabbed seven years ago. A Christian, Amani has been overwhelmed by the response to the film.
“Everyone loved it,” he said. “What they loved was that it felt very real. It’s the first time they’d seen the story portrayed in that way and I believe they think it’s going to be a helpful tool. People commented they think it’s something every young person in school should see.”
He hopes the film, which was written in four months and filmed in just seven days, will dissuade young people going down a wrong path.
The cast of Amani’s Story includes rising Hollywood star Joivan Wade, who co-wrote the script with Ricardo McLearyCampbell and community figures like Karen Allen, Paul McKenzie and Leroy Logan.
The black community and beyond got behind this project because Amani visited churches and organisations to raise funds to make the film – and found the experience enlightening.
“I learnt that the community does get behind you,” he said.
“I think a lot of the time people will say people don’t always get behind it but as black people we don’t always support each other but I’m only here because my community has supported, shared and prayed.”
And he’s still running a crowdfunding campaign to finance screenings of the film in schools, prisons and pupil referral units. Amani, along with his sister, grew up in a two-parent, church-going Christian family.
He attended grammar school, but finding it difficult to settle, started hanging out with the school trouble makers and ended up being kicked out the school for bad behaviour.
He attended another school but left at 15 with no qualifications. Aged 16, he spent three months in a secure unit. Soon after leaving he started dealing drugs. Although Amani lost his way in his teens, he got back on track, and by 21, he had joined forces with friends and run an events management company – but it was also the age he got stabbed.
“I got myself involved in an argument that had nothing to do with me,” he recalled.
“In that moment I had many chances to go home.” But he didn’t, and that’s when he was attacked. When he looks back on his near fatal stabbing,
Amani believes he’s alive because of God’s mercy and his mother’s prayers. “One of the things I really wanted to portray in the film was when my mother jumped into the ambulance and started praying in tongues – but the ambulance worker kicked her out saying she can’t do that in there. I have always believed it was my mother who brought the spirit of God into the ambulance,” he said.
Amani also made a pact with God, that if his life was spared, he would do something positive with his life.
God has more than answered Amani’s prayer. He used to run a property company, but now he’s 100 per cent focused on working full time with youth.
Following the premiere Amani has received numerous requests to speak in schools and prisons. And through his company, Aviard Inspired, he’s working on creating a platform where young people can develop clean content as well as a personal development platform for youth.
He believes churches can help combat youth crime and violence. “A lot of young people come to churches with questions, but they are often spoken at by their parents and churches and they are not always engaged in the right way,” he said.
“Churches should be creating forums for young people to speak to parents and have open discussions.”
He also believes churches should support parents dealing with troublesome children. With everything happening in his life, Amani’s faith remains important.
“My faith is a pivotal part of the person that I am. It’s transcended just being a religious feeling or habit. It’s everything. Especially having experienced the love of God like I did when I was 21.
“And it gives me a different level of appreciation because I know what it’s like to come to the end of your life and not knowing if you’re going to make it or not, so now I live everyday and give God thanks for everything.”
Visit www.aviard.co.uk for more information about the film. The film can be viewed below.