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Giving young people opportunities can combat systemic racism and gang grooming says West Hampstead community figure

PUBLISHED: 18:07 23 July 2020 | UPDATED: 18:07 23 July 2020

Rakin Niass. Picture: Rakin Niass

Rakin Niass. Picture: Rakin Niass

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A north London teacher, poet, and former rapper, has spoken of the importance of giving young people opportunities, but he worries about “gang grooming” culture.

Rakin Niass speaking at a community anti-knife crime event. Picture: Rakin NiassRakin Niass speaking at a community anti-knife crime event. Picture: Rakin Niass

Rakin Niass – a West Hampstead father of four who is an RE teacher in Enfield and a director at Rumi’s Cave in Kilburn – has released a new book of poems dealing with difficult social issues like youth violence.

Rakin told this newspaper how his poetry was inspired by the work he does as a mentor with his Save Our Boys group.

He said: “Save Our Boys was set up to guide and support young boys having difficulties growing up – those finding it difficult in school, for example – and trying to keep them out of criminality.

“We need to teach young people that there is another way.

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“For young Black boys especially, they have got two dangers. First of all there’s all the systematic racism that they grow up with. But then we also have the problem of knife crime.”

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Rakin’s new book is called Third Eye Open – and he wants to show young people creative outlets and positive ways of expressing themselves.

A former member of 90s music group Cash Crew, Rakin currently teaches at Oasis Academy in Enfield, but runs his youth work from West Hampstead and Kilburn.

Talking about the problems young people face, he said: “We have talked a lot about grooming in a sexual sense, but it’s so prevalent in gangs too. I see young people haging outside the chip shop, for example, and then someone starts giving them a bit of money if they can do an errand, and so young boys are easily brought in.

“Social media can make the problem ten times worse.”

Rakin said service closures had pushed teens onto the streets.

He said: “We need to find them things to do. We need to give them that alternative and help them take it. I think poetry is one of the most exciting areas. It’s somewhere where young people can explore creativity. Art is a way to discuss, for example, mental health.

“it’s not just poetry, we need more people making music that’s not just about gangs and stabbings, but has a positive message.”

Third Eye Open is available on Rakin’s website at sites.google.com/view/rakinniass/home


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