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I was once a criminal, now I’m fighting to end knife crime and gang violence

by / 1 Comment / 01/09/2017

When I was criminally active on the streets of London, I did my best to avoid confrontation and knew that there were individuals who wanted me dead. So, instinctively, I sought out a solution for protection and bought a gun. Once in my possession I believed that it would deter anyone willing to mess with me, and I was prepared to take a life.

 

However, underneath I was a frightened individual who needed to maintain an image and build a reputation, which I felt I needed in order to keep the people who knew about me from wanting to rob me. This was the miserable state I was in,  and looking back, it gives me a chill to know I was once thinking like that.

Now, my life has taken a different direction and I am campaigning for young people to do more with their lives. I have set up workshops, mentoring programs, back-to-work projects for Department of Work and Pensions, and Gang Intervention initiatives to deter youngsters from that lifestyle which I once led. All of this I have been able to achieve with my social enterprise: Roadworks Media. This targets individuals not in employment, education or training by offering courses around film and media, which provide routes to employment and higher education.

At present, I am working with Underworld TV as their host and reviewer of film and TV programs focusing on crime. I reviewed the gang-related films that were broadcasted on Channel 5 and then interviewed two people who gave interesting perspectives. The first one was somebody I knew from my old days when I was criminally active and who built a reputation for his own activities. His name is Junior McGibbon, also known as the ‘Screamer’ on the streets and he is somebody I am very proud to now know too. He changed his life around by going to university and finishing with a degree, and now works as a probation officer. The second person was Paulette Hall and she is somebody who knows what it’s like to lose a loved one. Her brother is Mark Duggan, who was shot by the Police in 2011 and went on to spark a riot that spread to many areas nationwide.

Both interviewees described how appalling the films were, arguing that they didn’t do any favours in terms of portraying certain sections of society. Paulette went on to say that some of the youngsters who were talking about violence, didn’t have that right to take other people’s lives and cause suffering. It devastates her to know that families are losing loved ones so young and that these deaths are related to gang activities.

It is a well-know fact that gang membership can create a situation for a young person where they feel they are trapped, without any escape. Junior added that when you are in the ‘thick of it’, you cannot see a way out — something that I, of all people, can relate to.

Instantly, I reflected on why I felt that way when I was younger, thinking that this was my life. I began to think about my esteem, my confidence, my temperament, my communication skills, my social environment and what impact my childhood had on the decisions I made. Everything came to a point where I became almost desperate and frustrated with not being able to find a solution. In time, it dawned on me that I could play a small part in influencing other youngsters’ lives and that by changing my own lifestyle I could help others overcome their deprivation.

Knife crime has recently spread like wildfire in the UK. The streets are plagued with young individuals willing to walk around with sharp objects and use them to take somebody’s life — even if that means going to prison for it. The repercussions of this are overwhelming, as communities and families end up suffering devastating losses and long-term torment.

However, there is also a huge elephant in the room; and that is that these sufferings predominantly affect the black community.

When I listen to or watch reports about another knife crime attack, it usually involves somebody from an African or West Indian background. This forces me to feel embarrassed, ashamed and saddened. Then I put it into perspective: this is prevalent in the culture I am from; what can I do to eradicate this? What can I do to help these youngsters understand that their lifestyle is objectifying them as gang-related murderers, irrational and senseless individuals?

This is the question that is making me desperate and frustrated for a solution. One thing I am certain of however, is that something needs to be done instead of being accepted as the inevitable norm. We need to talk about it, create a debate, question those who deplore it, question those who ignore it and pretend that it’s not happening on their doorstep.

I want to be an all-round campaigner who raises the issues plaguing young people; those who either live in deprived areas, have a difficult background or suffer from a mental barrier. If we aim to provide more positive information on what communities can do to resolve the epidemic of knife crime, by using evidence that demonstrates how society can play an active role in combating this problem, then we have a better chance of deterring crime and fostering a knowledgeable sense of hope.

It’s true, I am an idealist who wants to change something that is difficult to fully understand. You can also cynically describe me as somebody who is over-optimistic and wasting  his time with individual who don’t have regard for life. Nonetheless, I am a pragmatist and this means that I see the likelihood of something happening as being based on the decisions one chooses to make.

There are some clear objectives in my mind. Amongst them, is going into education facilities and talking to young people about gang relations and knife crime. Also, developing programs and projects that aim to act as deterrents against violence, while distributing booklets that show what Roadworks Media is doing to help communities combat these issues. Making films that highlight the problems in either documentary or drama form, remains crucial. Lastly, I intend to carry on hosting my new show with Underworld TV where I get to review and interview on the topic of crime.

At this point, I’m feeling even more determined that I can create change. It is possible to break through the destructive mindset of young individuals who convince themselves that there is no way out. It is possible and must be done.

By Quince Garcia, Founder of Roadworks Media

Biography

I am somebody who used to be criminally active and spent time in prisons. The realization of what it takes to be a responsible father made me change. So, I decided to become a better person for my family and believe I can be a positive member of society. I have studied film and animation at university and run a social enterprise that delivers courses to individuals who are not in employment, education or training.

  • Eve Williams

    Amazing story of someone putting first the lives of their community and the next generation. You’ve stepped up to make change and I’m sure have positively influenced more lives than you can know. Good luck with the initiatives and programmes.