Last year we met up with and photographed Abolaji Oshun, a young London based student and upcoming model. After a morning of photographing, we ended up in a long conversation about youth in London, particularly his hometown - Hackney.
Since then, Abolaji has gone on to begin a blog writing articles about topics like those we got to talk about. Today he published his latest article, which we wanted to share:
“Ends are way too hot right now” was a statement I had heard frequently during the period of widespread knife violence throughout the capital. I had also heard people say that “these little black boys need to change.” Both expressions are arguably true, but I can’t help but feel uneasy at the declaration – and implied implication, that knife violence had only become prolific in a month’s period and so had just then become a huge problem. It’s as if people think that teenage black boys suddenly realised that they weren’t killing enough people and had to get their quotas up. Fortunately, we don’t function in that way. I am sure you could speak to the police about filling up quotas though. Apparently, “there’s been reports about…” Or my personal favourite: “iT’s sTaNdaRd pRoCEduRe, mAtE”.
Poverty is perhaps one of the most important reasons for violence and for systemic reasons, a lot of black people are poor. But hey, we won’t dissect the socioeconomic legacy of slavery and racism prevalent in today’s society in too much detail. Let’s take the example of a black boy who lives in a dire council flat, who has been constantly discouraged and provoked at school all his life, who feels disillusioned with the world and his own future, it seems he has a lot less to aim for and a lot less to lose. Realistically, from the perspective of a lot of black boys: if we don’t make it at football, rapping, or through the route of academia, the future seems quite bleak. The plot twist is that a lot of black boys should make it in football and academically, but behind closed doors are discouraged through provocative, bitter and ineffective coaches and teachers. “You’ll never make it with that attitude” yet said teacher or coach does all they can to bring out the attitude they seem to hate. It seems that nobody cares about the black boy who isn’t ‘naturally gifted’, and even the gifted black boy gets the life sucked out of him from early. At this point, why would he waste his time in a seemingly pointless legitimate route of making a small amount of money when one can attain instant gratification through trapping and/or fraud?
“What solutions do you have?” I hear you ask behind your laptop. Fear not however, I’ve got a bunch of unattainable and ambitious ideas that will never come to fruition in the locker. For now though, take some more reasons black boys are little shit bags!
Another damaging reason that a lot of these black boys resort to illegitimate activities is that they have very little reference points and idols to look up to (that looks like us). A good first idol would be your father, but unfortunately, a disappointing number of black children are brought up in households with a absent father. Jokes and memes aside, the impact of not having a father in the household is immeasurable. (These jokes still have to fly, gotta humble your boy if he’s winning a verbal altercation.) Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. The impact can not be discounted, the pain it has brought to thousands of families can not be discounted. Nonetheless, the idea of that the ‘absent father’ and angry son/daughter is a rhetoric that has lazily been overused. Black children are stung by the feeling of abandonment and ‘missing’ what they wish they had. If children of households raised by single-mothers came from an environment where they were nurtured with love, the next meal wasn’t uncertain, they had teachers and counsellors who were understanding and provided solutions, maybe they wouldn’t hold onto this pain into their teens and adulthood.
Social media is one of the most direct causes of so many deaths and beef within young black men. Provocation and the search for clout is a huge reason that fuckeries occur – in simple terms. Young boys are now drawn to the thrill of making a name for themselves through Snapchat, music etc and are partaking in beef I personally feel they would be less involved in had it not been for social media. Not to mention that people getting drawn out on socials only leads to the need for a point to be proved in retaliation. My only wish in this life of sin is that AM doesn’t get stabbed above the waist, the cultural significance of AM x Skengdo’s Mad About Bars is something I will be delivering a think piece on the years to come. Furthermore, Loski or Headie ever get touched, I’ll be one of them shook youngers riding out with their hands on the burner shaking. Not my idols! Another sentiment that I’ve heard expressed is that social media leads to more evidence in court. Arguably it leads to more to be convicted, but if the truth is to be told, has the judicial system ever given a fuck about black boys? I won’t start on the damaging effects of the Joint Enterprise law on innocent black boys but mandem have been slapped birds for accusations, let alone evidence. Social media or not, the Judge and witnesses are hardly ever helpful and niggers are going to jail regardless.
In the eyes of the law, in the eyes of media, black boys are aggressive criminals. And unfortunately, institutionalised oppression and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes starts to have an effect on your own psyche. Internalised racism and self hate are real things, seeing a brudda that looks at you as a problem is a real thing. In the words of Lord Skepta on Castles:
“Too much TV, too many newspapers got a nigga thinking evil/
Got me thinking I’m looking at my enemy when I’m looking at my own people/
Notice when a white man looks at my watch I think he’s trying to pay me a compliment/
When a black man looks at my watch I think he’s trying to knock my confidence (mad)”
In response to the recent ‘resurgence’ in knife crime across the capital, many called for an increase in funding and more employment of policemen and called for an increase in Stop and Searches. This is very stupid and awon Oyinbo ti ya were. This does so little to actually solve the bigger problems at hand. As my Yoruba mum has told me countless times: ‘Prevention is better than cure’. Providing young boys liable to fall to the life of the roads with opportunities might be a good place to start. An investment in youth clubs would be a massive help. More youth clubs and community figures are needed. But did you think the government are going to do anything other than provide cuts to youth services? Another is to provide another viable solution other than the roads. A push for different forms of education to be available and known to be available would help. Mandem could thrive in the arts realm also.
There needs to be more figures that black boys would like to listen to. There are honestly too many washed up olders and washed up uncles etc. Trying to provide advice. There’s a huge problem with a lack of representation and positive role models. Nowadays, black excellence is rife and loud, but it could be more rife and louder. We need more black boys from ends to become idols in the fields of academia, entertainment etc. And not from selling bricks. A lot of guys from the roads are looking up to Nines, money making Mitch from Paid In Full, Meek Mill etc and trap. Fredo will have you wanting to consign stupid amounts of cocaine until you realise that a majority of those trapping don’t even make Fredo and Nines money.
The black community is filled with ills that we need to work to fix, it’s also filled with ills that we didn’t ask for. Ills caused by awon colonisers. Ills that will not be remedied in our lifetime. Fortunately, survivors guilt has already caught me and I’ve been through my angry-at-the-world phase because I can’t come and kill myself for things I can’t change. If you don’t become somewhat numb to the idea of black boys dying in repetitive cycles and nothing happening, life gets long. but hey, in the meantime, we can pray all our evils away! Now excuse me while I go listen to some drill music like the hypocrite I am in peace. There’s no real silver lining from this article, the world is a wicked place. If you would like to see it improve, improve the world around you, homie.
At this point you lot know the drill, and I hope my glossaries have been of use to my white brothers and sisters who wish to impress their contemporaries with urban lingo!
Ends are hot – areas with London where many black people living in poverty have become rife with violence and gang beef tensions are spilling.
Clout – I’ve already explained this one in a prior article, do ya homework.
Mandem – you should know this one by now.
Bird – a prison sentence or a stretch of time served in prison.
Awon Oyinbo ti ya were – The whites are mad.
Washed up olders – men who are literally just older than you in age. Many typically spend their time trying to provide younger kids and teens with life advice. They have achieved close to little with their lives and even on the roads scared absolutely nobody. Their favourite line is “you youngers are…” In which they proceed to make wildly basic and inaccurate generalisations based on insignificant observations in their 30 years of life.
Awon – the/those/the people that are.
Burner – a gun
Written by: Abolaji Oshun
Blog: Abolaji's Convo