Come…get comfortable…let me tell you about the Sandwell exploitation summit…
On Thursday I was fortunate to be part of something nothing short of epic. There are a husband and wife team, Nathan, and Sabrina Dennis, who are making moves to tackle gangs, exploitation, and youth crime that others only ever talk about. The Sandwell exploitation summit was advertised as “The ultimate criminal and Sexual exploitation awareness event” and I can tell you now…it did not fail to deliver.
I met Nathan last year when I spoke in Sandwell (Not Birmingham …with a finger wiggle…if you know then you know). I was blown away on the spot when I heard what he had to say about gangs. SO, when he asked me to speak at his event, I knew it was something I wanted…no…. needed to do. I asked my Head teacher along as I felt it was time to show people just what Matt Tate is doing to support children and young people.
Then …disaster. My child care all went wrong. Being a single mum and working two jobs is hard enough as it is. So, when there is a bump in the road it can cause all sorts of problems. Nathan and Sabrina didn’t really know if I would make it until the morning of the event.
First Class Legacy events…the don’t mess about. Matt and I arrived at West Bromwich Albion Football ground for the event, not quite sure what to expect. There were LOTS of people….and as we walked int the main event I was blown away. There were, refreshments (don’t even get me started on the treat baskets on each table). There were video cameras, music playing…my gosh…I was not ready.
I saw Nathan and gave him a hug and then started to see others that I have grown to know over the year. Nathan stated proceedings and he was brilliant. Had people get up out of their seats, walking around and talking to each other. The energy in the room was buzzing!!!
Nathan then started to talk about what First class legacy looks like and what they are doing to change things. You can read about this Here. Nathan has a very unique way of holding a crowd when talking about gangs and the structure. I wont spoil it for anyone who has not seen Nathan talk, but his version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs triangle…brilliant.
Then we had a performance from some young people who acted out some scenes that young people face when involved with gangs and exploitation. They blew people away and the end scene where a man was beaten and left for dead was very powerful. Then the young people spoke. The ones that we ae trying to reach and it caused some fire! The thing is, its easy to talk about what WE as adults think these young people want and need but when it comes to asking the young people…their feelings and emotions bubble over. I loved every second of it.
Then…all of a sudden…it was our turn to talk. Matt went first. He was so nervous as he was not sure how the crowd would react to some of his thoughts around safeguarding children involved in exploitation. They loved what he was saying, and you could see that the crowd wanted more.
Then it was my turn. I was truly so nervous. We were on a stage and I decided that honesty was he best policy. “Hi, my name is Kendra, I have ADHD and walk around a lot so I am gonna take off my heels and will probably piss off the camera man, oh yes…I also will try not to swear but will forget”. That’s how I introduced myself. God knows what these people thought was going to happen with the shoeless crazy women on stage. And then I just spoke. It came flooding out, and sometimes when I speak it feels rehearsed and rushed. But this felt like I was just telling someone what happed when I was younger, telling an old friend how county lines made me feel…and then it was over…. people were clapping and I felt like it had all happed so fast.
I sat down in my seat with my heart still pounding.
Then it was Tanayah Sam from TSA projects who are Supporting those are disengaged to re-engage through the medium of Sports & Education You can see what they are all about by clicking Here. Tanayah spoke from the hart about what our young people are facing today. About how they are exploited by those above them, not just on a street level but by everyone. Tanayah said “This is not the industrial revolution – Exploitation is spreading as organised gangs are making money hand over fist using young people”. He made people know that a change needs to come, and we are the people to make it happen.
After years of being around professionals in Kent who deny and ignore that there is a gang an exploitation issue, it was like a breath of fresh air to be around kings and queens that know that ignoring the issues will not make them go away.
Sabrina Dennis, (who….by the way….is beyond stunning…look at the pics!) showed a vie of parents who children have been affected by gangs and youth violence and was veryo humbling to hear such raw words. Sabrina spoke about the work she has been doing but I promise you know she did not big herself up as much as she should have! This woman…click Here to see what Sabrina is doing to change lives.
We had lunch (Which, by the way, was ridiculously amazing) and the we were back for a panel talk. The crowd asked many questions and all of them important in the learning process. I felt overwhelmed to be sitting in front of all these people and for them to be looking to us for answers. It was a mad experience. A lady asked about how to engage children and young people that do not want to be engaged, Nathan spoke about a guide he has developed to help with this and you can get your copy here
Then it was time to go. A 4 hour drive back to Kent (We had to drive slooooow over the Dartford bridge ya know…. I was not OK with that!)
We missed Carver Anderson and was absolutely gutted about that , lets hope I get to see Carver speak at a future event. Read about Carver Here
Nathan and Sabrina Dennis are making moves that other people only speak about. They brought together so many different people from such diverse backgrounds and then housed them all under one roof. They had young people from local schools helping, the event was recorded, Nathan did not shy away from a single question that was thrown at him. The whole event felt safe and welcoming but also raw and fresh at the same time. I promise you know, if you get the chance to attend an event by First Class legacy it will change your practice, the way you work with children and young people and will change how you view gangs and exploitation.
Sandwell exploitation summit…. Bar has been raised people…. game changer.
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