We Rise was commissioned by Footwork to produce a film for the London Festival of Architecture. It is a powerful insight into how young people think about their future.
We Rise partnered with local youth club Knights Youth Centre and worked with a small group of thoughtful and articulate young people aged 13-17 to explore the theme of power. How powerful do they feel? What gives them power? How optimistic do they feel about their future?
The results are eye-opening and extremely moving.
In this 6 minute film, we hear first-hand from Thiaran, Olivia, Jamie and Eden who are growing up on estates around Clapham Park about what power they feel they have and how they are positioned in society because they are young black South Londoners.
We hear the insight of these young people about how their environment limits their choices and aspirations. They can see a way out of the life around them and believe with determination anything is possible. They themselves have huge ambitions. But they also see people around them who are limited and trapped by their immediate environment.
“What you are around is what you become”
They explain that for young people growing up in their area there are huge concerns about their safety which can affect the choices they make. They speak with candour about how they see young people as being too easily influenced by bad role models and “too money oriented”
They describe how a combination of peer pressure, not being determined enough, a lack of good role models and not realising the consequences, means that both girls and boys easily get drawn into gang culture.
One of the group Eden had a brief, eye opening experience of going to a private school where everyone was white. He reflects on how different they were and that even the one black boy sounded “posh”. It made him realise “What you are around is what you become”.
“People in power can’t relate to people like us”
But this group can also see the border factors which are influencing their lives and reducing their power to work for a positive future.
“The people in power can’t relate to people like us. They come from affluent backgrounds. They’re out of touch with the real world” says Thiaran.
“All the issues that are building up in communities today will end up being the big problems that they will have to face in the future” says Olivia. “If they just tackle it now and listen to young people then they will be able to prevent a lot of bad things happening in the future”.
They see a lack of support for how young people think about themselves in their lives. “Most (young) people don’t really have a goal” “The people around them don’t care enough to just ask what’s going on or to show them wrong from right.”
“We can be the people who make the change”
What is perhaps most impressive and moving about this group is their determination and sense of personal responsibility.
“I know so many people who have had such a rough life and they’re still doing great” says Jamie. “It’s all about that determination to carry on doing what you’re doing and not giving up and not being distracted by crowds”
“If we work hard we could be the difference. We can be the people who are gonna make the change” says Olivia.
“The adults that are there now, they haven’t done it and they won’t do it. That’s what this generation needs to wake up and understand. We need to work hard, stay in education, get our qualifications and be the person who makes the change.”