Identity and Belonging.
I am speaking and training at a conference tomorrow titled: Identity and Belonging, Gangs, Schools, and community: Psychology, research, and practice.
It has been organised by Kent University and I am really looking forward to it for a few reasons. First, I am always humbled when invited to such events as these because. well… I spent a long time trying to get people to listen to what I had to say as a child, but no one did. Not really. So, when I get a chance to share what I know and what I have learnt, I always feel proud that the voice of the young person is being heard.
Second, it has been organised by Kent University, meaning that they see a need for professionals to get together and look for solutions around Identity and belonging and gangs.
I also get to work with some amazing people such as Sammy Woodhouse and meet professionals that want to make a change for our young people. I am presenting with Matt Tate, Head teacher of Hartsdown Academy. He has been openly speaking out about the Gang and CSE in Thanet. I have a huge amount of respect for this because it seems that many professionals are unwilling to do this. He has seen the impact of gangs and CSE in the local community and, just like myself, refuses to do nothing.
So, its going to be an interesting day I think. I am going to talk about the impact of gangs and CSE through the eyes of a female. I am going to talk about what could happen if we don’t make a change. I am going to play a bit of Grime to engage the audience, set the tone and wake people up.
I am going to tell and show people what it is like for our young people today living amongst Gangs and CSE. What the consequences are and what we can do to support and protect our most vulnerable.
I think identity and belonging is a good title for the day because, after all, that is what most of the children and young people that we work with are craving. In fact, most of the adults are looking for this also. This got me thinking, what does identity and belonging mean to me?
Well, as an adult, Identity means that I am doing a job that means something to me. That I am recognised as a professional and my experience and knowledge is recognised. The belonging part, for me as an adult, is mainly around my family and making sure that my children have everything they need…not what they want.
Then I tried to think what identity and belonging would have meant to me at 14. It was hard for me to think back to those times, to see life through those eyes again. My identity back then would have been a very negative one, well in my eyes anyway. No scrap that, in most people’s eyes. My identity was fractured, and I didn’t really know who I was. Deep down I had strong morals and knew what I was doing was wrong but also felt detached from that. I identified as Blondy and not Kendra, as if they were two different people completely. I also think I identified as two different people in the fact that outside I was doing what I had to do to survive. I would make money …however I could and had created such a reputation for myself that I had to walk with a high level of swagger. But at home I was caring for my mum at times and trying as best I could to keep her going and keep the house going. I was also trying to keep myself out of the care system and ensure that all my activities on road did not affect my mum.
Belonging is a hard one as well. The only place I ever felt I ever belonged truly was with my mum. Even though the gangs provided many things, I craved for my mum to provide that kind of support and love. She did most of the time, but when she didn’t or couldn’t then yes…I would seek that elsewhere. I did not feel like I belonged at school as I was moved around from PRU to PRU. I didn’t feel like I belonged in my family because most had given up on me. I sometimes didn’t feel like I belonged at home because I would struggle with the conditions. But I did (and always have) felt that I have belonged on the streets. It was the only place I could just go and do what I wanted, gang or not. Walking down Clapham high street, sun beating down, in no rush to get anywhere soon, is one of my earliest memories of feeling like I belonged somewhere. Like… I was where I needed and wanted to be.
Let’s see if I feel like I identify and feel like I belong at this event tomorrow…. I will let you know.