On Saturday 24th November, around 50 people gathered together in Passing Clouds, Dalston for a day of free activities hosted by ‘Stop Criminalising Hackney Youth’ aimed at involving more young people into the campaign which has so far been parent led, due to many parents having sons and daughters imprisoned from the August riots.
Written by Rachel Harger
The day comprised of two workshops, the first with hip hop artist Akala and a second with local lawyers on ‘know your rights’. Other activities included t-shirt printing, a short edit of a documentary being made on the riots ‘Riots Reframed’ by Fahim Alam and an open mic filled with spoken word, hip hop and other creative contributions on injustice, resistance and empowerment.
Workshops took place in the downstairs of the venue, whilst music played upstairs with free food available for people to meet one another and talk. There was also a graffiti wall for people to express visually any anger, anxieties, fears or desires we wanted to share.
The workshop with Akala facilitated an important opportunity for a group of 13 and 14 years from Pembury estate (as well as older participants!) to get creative with some poetic lines that Akala handed out individually. Participants had to choose whether their quote was a line from a Shakespeare play or a line from one of Akala’s favourite hip hop lyricists. Once we had chosen whichever it was and everyone had an opportunity to explain their choice and find out whether they were right, we all knew eachother’s names and had broken the ice for the rest of the day.
We were invited to expand on the quote we had been given to shape our own poetic contribution or share our thoughts on the line. Mainly everyone contributed in a supportive and attentive environment. One particularly young girl had a Shakespeare quote, “dead bird flying through a broken sky” – she expanded it to the next thought provoking lines, “my brother’s in trouble and I don’t know why, I try to help him day after day, others try to guide but he only goes his own way”. Other young people shared similar themes of a kind of struggle to stay out of trouble but also many shared a pride of being from Hackney and/or Pembury estate. Adults, particularly one woman shared her thoughts from her Shakespeare quote ‘smile with daggers’, stating that it reminded her of the lawyers who were involved in the court trial of her son, who is imprisoned for life.
There were t-shirts available throughout the day, which people could print themselves thanks to a design made by Joanna, who patiently made and helped others make, 52 T.Shirts emblazed with the slogan “I am Not a Criminal” with Stop Criminalising Hackney Youth underneath.
Fahim Alam, who was acquitted by a jury in half an hour, after being accused of being involved in the riots in Hackney, presented a first glance at the documentary he has been making for the last year on the riots. It’s called “Riots Reframed” and should be completed by next year. The documentary provides a powerful and important narrative to the riots, which remains unheard elsewhere.
The day finished with an open mic with lots of positive and empowering contributions for people to express their anger, inspiration as well as thoughts on the police, the riots and protest.
Thank you to everyone who came, helped co-organise and supported such as Defend the Right to Protest campaign.
Please keep checking the Stop Criminalising Hackney Youth website for updates and news on upcoming events.