On air: Living with gangs

I’m writing this from home because today’s show is coming a few hundred metres up the road from where I live in Camberwell, south London. And no, I haven’t just arranged this to save me a trip on the bus.

Nas is a keen WHYS listener and when he heard our show from a gypsy community he wondered if we could also bring the show to his neck of the woods, to talk about the problem of gang violence and how it affecting him and his mates.

Within a mile of where he and I live, gang conflict has left at least five people dead in the past two years, and many more injured. Just last week there was stabbing on the high street in the middle of the day. It was two groups of school kids battling each other. It’s so common you hardly notice.

AJ is hosting us today. He’s from Nigeria originally, and now lives in a block of flats in Camberwell with his brothers. We’re going to the show from his bedroom, which should be cosy as he’s got enough speakers and weights to be running a small gym.

AJ’s involved in a group called Alpha Juniors which campaigns against gangs, knives and guns, but is mates with people who’ve walked away and those who still choose to stay in gangs. He’s inviting a group of them round to talk with you. And here are some questions he has for you:

Is your life affect by gang violence? Have you ever been in a gang, and if you have why did you join?
Do gangs operate where you live? And if they do, how does affect your day-today life? Do you feel scared? Do you resent their presence?

Or do you feel they operate in a parallel world that has little to do?

How do we explain the increased use of knives and guns by young people?

What question would you want to ask kids who are in gangs now?

Brooke Kinsella is a well known actor in the UK. Her brother was stabbed to death recently. She’s travelled to New York to look at why knives and gangs are becoming such a problem. Here’s her report in the Mirror newspaper.

Anti-knife campaign in the UK, plus info on the problem

Take your pick of 100s of other stories relating to this.


I use the Camberwell blog a lot to find out what’s going on:

Here’s a map of where we’ll be.

Camberwell Flickr stream

Camberwell on Wikipedia

77 Responses to “On air: Living with gangs”

  1. 1 Herbert - Nairobi - Kenya
    November 11, 2008 at 13:36

    In Nairobi where I live most of the time, the most notorious of what one would call a gang is the ‘Mungiki’ which brings together the youth mainly from the Kikuyu community.

    I am yet to come across a Nairobian whose life hasnt been affected by the Mungiki. The most significant area is transport within Nairobi. They have virtually taken over transport in some parts of Nairobi especially the Eastern part. It is common to see buses go up in flames if the owners do not play by the Mungiki rules. The Mungiki kill and they are very brutal and mean. New entrants to most routes in Nairobi must pay some prescribed fee to the Mungiki before they are allowed to operate. This plus a daily fee that is usually charged on the owners.

    This is criminal and many entrepeneurs suffer at their hands.

    I do not know the experience of the UK but in Nairobi, we attribute this to poor governance. The state has just been unable to police the transport sector in the country. Gangs have therefore taken over.

    But why do we have gangs in the first place, one would ask. In Kenya, it has to do with the presence of very many idle, unemployed and disillusioned youth. They are ready recruits for selfish individuals who readily use them for selfish gain.

    What do I envision as a solution. For Kenya, we must move very fast to create opportunities for meaningfully engaging the young people. This plus the state seriously taking its governance mandate.


  2. 2 Asiya
    November 11, 2008 at 14:09

    I don’t know much about gangs, I have never been in a gang and don’t recall ever having had any contact with one. So I would like to know, as someone who is living in gang free blissful life, just what is my responsability towards other youth in gangs and what can I do, if anything, to make a sustainable difference.


  3. 3 John in Salem
    November 11, 2008 at 14:35

    I live in the capitol of Oregon. Four blocks from my house is a middle school that has earned the distinction two years running of having the most children expelled for carrying weapons. We have a large and growing Hispanic community here and a big percentage of the kids walking past every day are part of that community.
    But most of them are first generation immigrants and the tagging on buildings and violence is limited to their own neighborhoods. They don’t want to antagonize us locals or draw any attention from the law so they pretty much keep all of that among themselves. I read about stuff that happens in my city but it’s as if it were happening in a foreign country.

  4. 4 VictorK
    November 11, 2008 at 14:45

    Gangs, and the problems they bring with them, are off the radar for most people in the UK.

    That’s because they are a predominantly ethnic phenomenon [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1036833/Over-half-young-knife-suspects-black-Scotland-Yard-figures-reveal.html ] and – it’s assumed – most of the people who suffer from the violence, intimidation, drug dealing, and knife crime that go with the gangs also belong to minority groups. The indifference of racism.

    How can you even begin to explain the use of knives and guns, and the membership in gangs, by some young people without acknowledging and examining this basic fact about the sociology of the phenomena?

    Since the gangs are a vehicle for criminality (why else are they an issue) how could people not resent their presence? It’s a serious injustice to the victims of these criminal gangs to treat them (the gangs) with kid gloves or dream up excuses for them (disaffected youth, misunderstood, disenfranchised, alienated, disillusioned, lacking Obama-like role models, etc). Such rationalisations wouldn’t pass muster coming from a rapist or a regular murderer and shouldn’t be taken seriously when offered in defence of gangster thugs.

    We see the same phenomenon in the US, with black and hispanic gangs.

    It’s a straight law and order issue as far as I’m concerned.

  5. November 11, 2008 at 14:47


    Can we please define what a “gang” is. Is the thug that robs your money on the street corner any different then the stockbroker who knowingly sells you junk stock. Is the hoodlum that shoots you because you can’t pay “protection money” any different then the insurance company that denies paying for your life saving treatment? In Texas, they found Joe Horn innocent of shooting and killing a two buglers who stole his neighbors DVD player, would we find the same morality if we walked into a bank that sold our neighbors a bad loan and took everything and shot the loan agent and underwriter? In the end, aren’t these gangs too? Just because they got a nice “crib” and a fancy name, isn’t the result of their actions the same?

  6. November 11, 2008 at 14:48

    Meant to say “Asiya, you say you have never had contact with a gang”.

  7. 7 selena in Canada
    November 11, 2008 at 14:50

    You might think that this topic would not resonate with me, living as I do in rural Canada.

    But the drug subculture exists here, as everywhere.

    Just yesterday two youth were stabbed over a drug deal.

    It’s strange that, while this lifestyle exists all around, it rarely touches people who are not directly involved.

  8. 8 selena in Canada
    November 11, 2008 at 14:59


    So much wisdom in your words.

    Now I have to ask, what is the meaning of gang?

    I just assumed it meant groups making a sub business out of selling drugs?

    So, what does gang mean?

  9. 9 selena in Canada
    November 11, 2008 at 15:04


    If we are talking about the drug subculture, I am willing to bet the farm that industry is not predominately an ethnic phenomenon.

    It is underground though, so ordinary citizens would not necessarily be well informed.

  10. 10 VictorK
    November 11, 2008 at 15:09

    @Selena: you’re probably right as far as the drugs sub-culture goes. Drugs are hugely profitable and, as Voltaire said, when it comes to money all people are of one religion.

  11. 12 Ade from London
    November 11, 2008 at 16:19

    One of the reasons for the increase in gun and knife violence is the lack of male role models, especially father figures for youths. There is a continuous rise in the amount of single parents, with fathers leaving the household and also leaving behind their parental responsibilities. I acknowledge that not all mothers struggle bringing up male teenagers, but for a majority, being both mother and father is not easy to balance.

    The lack of male role models within the household, supporting mothers to parents their children, results in teenagers seeking role models out of the home. These role models tend to be people that they call their ‘olders’ (leader of a gang). These ‘olders’ take the youth under their wings and show them the ‘love’ and attention that they are lack from thieir fathers. They are also shown a degree of respect. In order to get a sense of belonging, the youths become fully fledged members of these gangs that are involved in gun and knife crimes.

    The Government needs to devise new initiatives directed at the family, placing heavy responsibilities on the out -of -home fathers. Teenagers of today need someone that they can aspire to be, that is, a positive role model.

    This exerpt from me is not meant to be exhaustive at all, but i believe that lack of positive role models is one of the main reasos for the increase in the gun and knife culture.

  12. November 11, 2008 at 16:44

    lol, Selena

    YOu mean like pfizer drugs, the coffee industry, Phillip Morris, or the credit industry? see now we are going to have to define “sub-bussiness” and “drugs. way to go.

  13. November 11, 2008 at 16:44

    What I notice as different the most living here in Jacksonville Florida for seven years as of last 4th November is the gang thing. You do not see gangs walk the streets here and there is little public transport usage by gangs. Police here are heavyweight. There are constant shoot outs with individuals either pulling guns or having been perceived to have guns. The number is about 15 killed by the police, on the streets this year alone. Gangs do go around in cars and there are constant drive by shootings. There are areas to the North and West of Jacksonville that no one will go to night or day. There is little ‘petty crime’ although the number of incidents involving cars and from cars is increasing with the economy crisis. People here routinely park their cars and don’t lock them in some areas. One of the latest things is to break into a car on a driveway and then to use the garage opener to access the house and to use the vehicle to carry stuff away. This is normally a daylight thing and two young girls were serially responsible at Jacksonville Beach recently. I actually abhor the muscle bound police activity mostly and there is an arrogance to all that but in fact gangs just cannot exist in that environment. Gangs do not mean shootings in the UK. That is a good thing????

  14. 15 Vijay
    November 11, 2008 at 16:45

    World Have Your Say trying find out what the “word on the street is” by asking the “kids in the ghetto” smacks of tokenism ,tick box we have done our slumming for the year.

    Anyway ,”Living with Gangs”

    I have had only a couple of gang experiences one was in the USA a friend of mine invited me to his hometown,he had grown up in a rough part of town and wanted to show me round ,nothing happened in his old neighbourhood,however the next day we went to a shopping mall and I inadvertently bumped into one of a group of 5 African American young men ,I of course apoligised but the guy just kept starring at me as he was walking away .
    My friend had disappeared I found him a couple of minutes later and he told me that I had bumped into a member of the most notorious gang in the city and was lucky they hadn’t done anything to me,6 months before when one of the gang members had been arrested ,the other gang members started shooting at innocent members public as as an act of revenge.

  15. 16 Helen
    November 11, 2008 at 16:49

    I’ve lived in east London Hackney to be precise for the majority of my life a place which has been notorious for such activities and crime. Until a few years back I never had to deal with such things the day police cut off my road and did not allow me and my family to go into our house, was my first experience of gun crime. When I kept baggering the officer as to whuy we could not go into our home it was later explained to us that the incident happened in front of my family home.

    The thought of this sent a chill through me. The car and the young black man that was shot dead was still near my front door.

    It is sad that our black brothers have no respect for life or each other.

    I’m not afraid to go out, but I am much more weary and cautious of my surroundings, and life should not be this wa.

    The term Gang is a positive and what it can be used for can actually be positive, the fact is that it is not just the black men or gangs creating this mayhem, the system in which we live is not designed for young black men to excell, or believe in themselves, their deomestic life is unhealthy and also counter productive, when the majority of gang hot spots are in impoverished areas.

    The government needs to stop wasting our money in nonsensicle schemes that they know does not work and start asking the people most effected what they want, allow positive black role models to the fore front in our society, the less excuses black people have to fail the more we can successed.

  16. 17 Tony From Singapura
    November 11, 2008 at 16:58

    I think there is some link between computer games and the increased use of knives, guns and other weapons by young people.

    I notice that many of these games require the player to “kill” adversaries. This killing is performed with total impunity – either points are accumulated , or the player is able to reach some valuable goal for each killing.

    It is my oppinion that this “kill with impunity / kill for reward” game activity conditions the players in such a way that they are more likely to cross the line in real life.

    Perhaps the role model that is being played out in many of these cases of violence is that of the individuals personal game persona.

  17. 18 Vijay
    November 11, 2008 at 17:14

    My other gang experience was in the UK in the aftermath of 9/11.
    It was pointless and annoying.

    Again I was in a shopping arcade, when I was surrounded by a teenage girl gang(7 of them),who were all high on drugs.The leader wanted to know why I had beard was I some kind of terrorist,I ignored them and walked into the nearest shop bought a few things when I got out,they were waiting for me this the girl asked me” matey ,matey with the beard, why you got a beard matey are you some kind of terrorist ?you look like Bin Laden”I told not to be so stupid and to leave me alone

    However they decided it would be more fun if they would all spit on me,I got a bit upset and pushed through them and headed for the exit,but they started to follow me,fortunately a couple of Pakastani youth came upto me and asked me if those girls were bothering me and did I need any help I said “yes” and they replied they would handle it.

    I have had a knife pulled on me three times in the UK but not by gang members.

  18. November 11, 2008 at 17:16

    Ade from London has his finger on the ROOT of it all. Incompetent, or unprepared (what’s the difference?), people who have children they HAD NO BUSINESS HAVING.

    Everybody wants to be FREE to do as they please in their private lives…UNTIL the hard work of parenting comes down of them like the load of bricks it is.

    The narrative paradyme to responsible society is: “write the check now or face crime and maybe a bigger check later”. However true this may be; it is not politically sustainable… People with choices just keep adjusting their lives, building walls etc. Plus the premise is fundamentally flawed – there is not enough money to begin AND sustain the “missing father/mother” programs necessary to compensate for the UNENDING CONTINUATION OF IRRESPONSIBLE PROCREATION. Plus, the poverty pimps who run many of these programs have no intent of actually SOLVING the problem at it’s roots.

    If you can’t afford them – stop making them.

  19. 20 DOLAPO AINA
    November 11, 2008 at 17:19

    Gang crime in Lagos isn’t really serious. Actually, it depends on how you view it. It is called hooliganism here. And most often it is perpetuated by young males without any abode to stay. These men are usually found in the impoverished parts of lagos.
    While in the universities, gangs’ related violence is termed cultism where young men who are disillusioned join or are coerced to join cults whose main goal is to cause mayhem and inflict terror on other oppositions.
    The main cause of this problem is lack of parental upbringing. This role can’t be left to the government.
    Dolapo Aina,
    Lagos, Nigeria.

  20. 21 Dinka Alpayo ,kampala
    November 11, 2008 at 17:33

    Dear BBC. Witchcrafts are a bigger gangsters here in Africa than the the real gangsters as some people even dont know how to uses a guns.

  21. 22 roebert
    November 11, 2008 at 17:34

    From South Africa: members of a youth-gang in Cape Town recently murdered two young men, after stripping them naked, purely as a rite of initiation. The idea is: you may join us only AFTER you have proven that you are able to murder in cold blood, with no other motive than the thing-in-itself.

    How is one to understand this? It’s just too horrible.

    I am touched by this kind of violence very often; it’s all around us, and it’s ongoing. Some months ago I walked past a local bank and was confronted by the sight of a murdered security guard lying on the pavement just across from me. He’d been shot some minutes previously.

    The curious thing is that just this morning, browsing through the local edition of the M&G, confronted by page after page of violence, corruption and general criminality, I was again aware of a line of Seneca’s that flows through my mind very frequently, almost obsessively. You may recognise it as the epigraph to T.S. Eliot’s poem, “Marina.” It’s a line from “Hercules Fures”, a cry of disorientation, and it’s an everyday part of my life. The line is: quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?

    It means: What place is this, what region, what wounded patch of the world? (“plaga” has a dual meaning: a. an inflicted wound, b. a flat surface or place).

    It’s become an oft-repeated, spontaneous cry of my psyche: QVIS HIC LOCVS, QVAE REGIO, QVAE MVNDI PLAGA????

    What I’m saying is that these thugs, even when they don’t get to us physically, still touch our minds with a kind of despair.

  22. 23 Vijay
    November 11, 2008 at 17:35

    In the UK,gangs are related to drugs and drug distribution or gang membership is about copying US gangster Rap and bling bling culture.

  23. November 11, 2008 at 17:50

    Gang violence is the result of a society where the entire parental influence has to leave those duties to make a financial “living”. The responsibility of raising the children falls onto the unconcerned and cold machine of the state. When children are left to find the meaning of their lives from older children.

    As far as I know. No child who was raised on a farm, with cattle to milk, crops to plant and harvest, and livestock to raise as part of their daily routine has ever went on to become a gang member. I am pretty sure that no responsible working parent has known that his/ her child was cruising around in a car with loaded guns in his hands.

    It is our governments fault for allowing this environment to be promoted and prosper. We see the “fundamentals” of that environment collapsing now. It is equally the PARENTS fault for not making choices that would allow them to raise a mentally fruitful family.

  24. 25 parth guragain,Nepal
    November 11, 2008 at 17:55

    yes in nepal we can see gang violence among school students.these people generally have rivallary other school students.there is sometime nasty clashes between these school gangs.besides drug addicts also form gangs and robb other people.these people when they don’t success in robbing also don’t hesitate to kill others.

  25. November 11, 2008 at 18:00

    If kids DO NOT find anything to – look up to – at home or in school, they will find it somewhere else.

    This is a terrible social problem; it is not complicated at it’s root however.

    Most folks don’t want to deal with ROOT CAUSES of the problem. Our various national and tribal cultures won’t let us approach the issue honestly.

    So let’s just keep asking for more police, more jails, more programs that don’t work but make us feel like something is happening.

    And keep tilting at windmills until we all go up in flames…or down in our own mess.

  26. 27 Venessa
    November 11, 2008 at 18:07

    Growing up I was exposed to some gangs and their activities but found their behavior irrational and horrifying. Of course everyone has a need to belong but I just can’t understand why someone would be attracted to near death experiences and violence. Sure, you may not have the best role model or home life; a lot of people don’t and they don’t use it as an excuse to kill and steal to make up for it.

    I’d like someone in a gang to explain why all the violence is necessary. What is the point of hurting someone for initiations? Why do they have to hurt innocent people? I don’t care if they feel the need to kill each other but leave everyone else out of their disturbing confrontations. Some people actually value their lives and are unfairly caught in the crossfire.

  27. 28 jamily5
    November 11, 2008 at 18:10

    Dwight said:
    I am pretty sure that no responsible working parent has known that his/ her child was cruising around in a car
    with loaded guns in his hands.

    I know parents who were working, responsible, sometimes even suburbia parents who left the innercity to try and lessen that influence.
    A distant cousin, a friend, etc talks to a child and the next thing you know, their child is in that gang.
    Sometimes it is not the parents or the Government: it is the glorification of such a lifestyle. Each secter of the society needs to take responsibility.
    Yes, some parents are making horrible choices that will lead to their children desiring the bond of a gang.
    Yes, the Government makes it hard for people to succeed and children see easy money in gangs.
    Yes, the media (under the umbrella of free choice) allows people to glorify gangster living.
    Yes, free interprise has allowed us to make games and videos which allow people to kill and reward them for it.
    There are too many factors to name them all.
    Just focussing on one, won’t lessen the desire to be in a gang or gang violence.

  28. 29 jamily5
    November 11, 2008 at 18:36

    Has anyone looked at country statistics?

    I can’t find any country statistics that show which countries have the most gang activity.
    Some people say that it is an unintended consequence of fast paced living and progress.
    But, I would like to find statistics about gang involvement and specific countries.

  29. 30 Thea Winter - Indianapolis IN, USA
    November 11, 2008 at 18:39

    Hi All,
    In Indianapolis area most of the gangs life center around the drug culture. They fight for street location to sell their drugs. I try not to go out after dark and there are a few places I will not go at all. I would say for the most part the only visual sight I see of gangs is the tagging. I have been lucky and hope that continues.

  30. 31 nana prempeh aduhene
    November 11, 2008 at 18:44

    i thank God that we do not have gangs in Ghana. how ever i think it all bothers about the formation of the society in common that brings about this gangs. when one loss his e sense of life, he then takes to crime to achieve his/ her aim in which gangsterism is part.

    Nana prempeh aduhene
    from Ghana

  31. November 11, 2008 at 18:58

    Why people think this is a new phenomenon is beyond me – gangs have always been around. Hell – The Bow Street runners were a gang.

    What is always common among young men and women these days (Ugh! That sounded old) is that money is the route of this evil. It matters nought that you have a Labour gov, Conservative Gov – none, and I mean none of them will get jobs back, well paying jobs. Even now, in this economic downturn there is the opportunity to do something about it, but they won’t. The, the Gov will bail-out a bank and let them hoard billions – but not invest in well paying jobs!

    That is, they will invest in local councils having idiotic rules and regs, but not – again, jobs!

    A society needs to feel a purpose – and those young men you will speak to, will see and have no purpose in life!

    THAT is the horror of all this.

  32. 33 Thea Winter - Indianapolis IN, USA
    November 11, 2008 at 19:06

    Well Said Will!
    there is nothing I can add.

  33. 34 selena in Canada
    November 11, 2008 at 19:09


    Gotta hand it to ya! Spot on!

  34. 35 Ogola B
    November 11, 2008 at 19:12

    Its very common for gang groups to stage around night club streets, coming from dark corners, robbing , raping and stabbing their victims to death! Gang groups well good at marijuana and other drugs including sniffing petrol is the order of the day. Going hungry, being idle and group influence makes their day. Funny enough, they know the police and even make friends to them but how do you take in one without having envidence is the question?
    In african its seen with street children who could have lost their parents due to the AIDS scourge, wars and just people who don’t want to go to school for the streets and the unemployed who need a better income. Even though that – background aids the same on a white color man who can’t just stop bangi for his adiction and thereby protecting his aides and pimps for his stuff!

  35. 36 Steve
    November 11, 2008 at 19:21

    One of the guests said that the government has more money than sense, and basically implied that they government should basically give more money to her/other people in situations like this. That’s an entitlement mentality that only breeds laziness.

    My dad was born dirt poor and put himself through school, and worked, and supported his parents. He didn’t expect the government to take care of him and it made him a productive person.

  36. 37 Leonet Reid- Jamaica
    November 11, 2008 at 19:28

    Jamaica is no different than any other countries that are riddled by gang crime. Jamaica wears the shame of being one of the most violent places in the world per square capita. In Jamaica why gangs are so attractive is the ‘easier’ access to money and also the life being portrayed. Also i think, here in Jamaica, kids are initiated at a young age how to survive the streets. it is as if they are hardened and detached from their feelings. As a result, these kids become the future gang members that become a menace to society. How can we mollify this problem? The answer can only be fashioned by geographical problems and geographical needs.

  37. 38 Solomon
    November 11, 2008 at 19:34

    The black people need to stop being a victim. Stop playing the race card and stop the mentality that you a re a victim just because of the color of your skin.

    Bill Cosby said: I’m talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was two? Where were you when he was twelve? Where were you when he was eighteen, and how come you don’t know he had a pistol? And where is his father, and why don’t you know where he is? And why doesn’t the father show up to talk to this boy?

    The church is only open on Sunday. And you can’t keep asking Jesus to ask doing things for you. You can’t keep asking that God will find a way. God is tired of you. God was there when they won all those cases — fifty in a row. That’s where God was because these people were doing something. And God said, “I’m going to find a way.” I wasn’t there when God said it — I’m making this up. But it sounds like what God would do.

    We cannot blame white people. White people — White people don’t live over there. They close up the shop early. The Korean ones still don’t know us as well — they stay open 24 hours.


  38. 39 Jenny
    November 11, 2008 at 19:34

    what happened 200 years ago cannot be blaimed for all the crime of black on black. I also had long walk up th hill to school and joining gang never crossed my mind. When I see group of young black men in Brixton somehow I feel uneasy carrying my shopping. I simply do not feel safe despite never expiriencing anything bad

  39. 40 Lisa
    November 11, 2008 at 19:35

    I usually just listen, but homegirl got me mad by blaming everyone else for someone joining a gang. Honey, get it straight, we all start off the same place, our family and society leaves it’s mark, but it is still up to us to decide what we are going to do with the life we’re given. And the guy from California got it right. So choose what you want out of life, go after it and stop looking at the obstacles. That is all I got to say.

  40. 41 Steve
    November 11, 2008 at 19:39

    What? Someone resents being taught British history in a British school?

    I’m American, not of english heritage, and I had no problem, and enjoyed learning British history, then American history in school. It was the history of the nation I live in, and was far for relevant to me than learning ancient Jewish history…

  41. 42 Hiawatha
    November 11, 2008 at 19:41

    Okay… I’m from Nashville, TN. But gang violence is increasing here tremendously. As an African American, who is part of the hip-hop generation, I have to admit that a major part of our current problems can be traced to Hip-Hop and its influence on black culture. The lack of positive male role models for young black kids forces them to look to those the media puts in front of them. If they don’t know what being a man means or how to be a man, and the media is shoving 50Cent, Tupac, and Biggie in their face saying…”these are men”. Those are who they are modeling themselves after. I don’t accept so much the government argument because I think of African Americans from the 50s and before who used persecution, racism, and unfair treatment as a catalyst to become better and overcome. WE, as black people, have to take our communities and OUR KIDS back! This is what Barack is saying… We need to learn about ALL people. The knowledge is out there…go get it! If you want to learn about Nigeria, go to the library… I wanted to learn about my people and my parents taught me about the civil rights movement and their experiences, but they also told me to go hang out in the library instead of with my thug friends…and I did. It does boil down to the home, adults TAKING their children back. And like the brother in Cali said… the individual. If you want Change…MAKE IT HAPPEN! No one is owed anything! We have to make our success happen. That’s the beauty of black people is we do overcome!

  42. November 11, 2008 at 19:42


    Sorry, there is no way a “talk” from a cousin or friend can end in a child deciding to end in gang life. This child was already predisposed for that kind of corruption prior to these events. A kid who is sitting at the kitchen table doing homework for an hour a night, is getting straight “A”s in school, and is not being contacted by the administrators about the company the child is keeping are not going to join a gang simply because the child had a “talk” with a cousin. You put the words “responsible” and “working” in the same sentence. Sometime the responsible thing to do is not to work. Sometimes the responsible thing to do is to not have a child unless one parent can stay home and raise them.

  43. 44 Franklin Yartey (Bowling Green, Ohio, United States)
    November 11, 2008 at 19:44

    Say there ain’t no hope for the youth and the truth is
    It ain’t no hope for tha future…
    And even though you’re fed up
    Huh, ya got to keep your head up. (Tupac Shakur)

    Gangs are part and parcel of our social lives, it is important that we invite them into the decision making process instead of ostracizing them. To be able to do this we need to listen to the music that they listen to. Gangster rap is a reflection of the lives of gangs and gang members. Gentrification and police brutality is not the answer.

  44. 45 Akinseye
    November 11, 2008 at 19:46

    Traditionally gangs functions as a gathering of like minded people. Describing a group as a gang does not mean that they are divorce of organization, purpose and function. Many gangs serve as protectors of the immediate communities and families from which they come from. Many respected organizations could be reasoned to have originated from “gangs”, governments that were once coups; states, territories and cities that were once social and society groups, corporations that were once bands of hustlers and money chasers. Gangs will always exist to raise their own uniquely appropriate issues and or raise appropriate solutions. The real question: is your gang able to productive, be progressive and be effectual? Is your group helping? Gangs can only be judge on what they have produced and their moral values. But since the definition of morality varies from person to person and region to region it will always be hard to come to a definitive conclusion about the importance of gangs.

  45. 46 Lovemore
    November 11, 2008 at 19:47

    A lot of kids get involved in gangs simply for acceptance. They want to have a sense of beloning.

    Lovemore Nanjaya,

  46. November 11, 2008 at 19:48

    i agree with the Nigerian lad because I undertook a research on youths and crimes in Jamaica and discovered that youths from the Marron communities who have close identity with thier roots are less likely to join gangs in Kingston. if these kids are taught about thier culture, they will feel belonging to a community. that will help correct thier lack of self identity and worth

    Doctoral Student Athropology:- Katholieke Univerisitiet Leuven Belgium

  47. November 11, 2008 at 19:51

    it took me 5 minutes wandering round the bbc site to find this link
    the bbc has the most uselss search
    would like to see the images of your interview in your room
    pls get the Interviewer to repeat slowly where to find the link to the live show!!
    he needs to be more specific
    as a search doen’t find this first time
    enjoying program

  48. 49 Neil
    November 11, 2008 at 19:52

    I disagree with the commentator from Nigeria who said the British government should teach immigrants about the countries where they came from. Please tell me what resources the govenment have in teaching a class of say 20 students from Nigeria, India, Jamaica, china etc., etc., about their various countries. That is mainly the responsiblity of the parents, relatives, and that community. Today’s young people are fortunate to have the internet, instead of being on chat lines and myspace etc., they can look up and read most things about their country including reading the local newspapers and listening to radio stations and tv stations from most countries around the world.

    The government have written the laws, and the guidelines within which to operate. Just breakign them will tell you that you are doing something wrong. Obey them and most of your problems in society will be gone.

    When will we stop blaming the government and take responsibility for ourselves & our children? You are the CEO of your life, you are the master of your destiny. Manage it properly and stop crying and blaming everyone for being a donkey.

  49. 50 Akinseye
    November 11, 2008 at 19:52

    Question: why do so many focus on “street” gangs but do very little to abolish police officers that act as gangs?

  50. 51 Chris Craig
    November 11, 2008 at 19:53

    It isn’t just a black phenomenon, there’s plenty of white gangsters in Manchester where I come from. The first thought I had was that we classify a bunch of street punks in the same bunch as a group of armed robbers when we use the word gangster. Increasing policing of oridinary teenagers on the streets of greater manchester is resulting in the alienation of this youth from any form of authority making them even more lawless. As for the guns and knives…I found the tale about the man who was murdered by his own weapon as a very important tale, perhaps this young man and these others there in the living room should be given more airspace. The big problem with violence is the fact that our governments use it all the time and then expect us to do what they say and not what they do.

  51. 52 Tod in Atlanta GA
    November 11, 2008 at 19:54

    To my fellow Nigerian:
    If you want to learn about Nigeria, you can do that very easily and more effectively ON YOUR OWN. There are tons of Nigerians in England. Talk to a few. It is NOT the government’s responsibility to teach you about your culture, or the hundreds or thousands of other cultures that reside in England. The government (in any country) should make sure there are as many educational resources, both public and private, available to the whole population, as possible.

    The gov’t should handle their responsibilities ( economics, education, defense, human rights, etc) with the highest integrity and quality, but I do find that there are a disproportionate number of blacks around the world that rely on, and expect way too much from their gov’ts, especially when such gov’ts are majorly flawed.

    Take control of your life for the better, regardless of the cards you’ve been dealt, because life is way too short. Buckle up man…

  52. 53 Hiawatha
    November 11, 2008 at 19:54

    I know that it really boils down to lack of education. I remember when I was doing photography for some indie record labels… the young kids were coming through having these album cover photos made for some record they’re putting out that isn’t going to be a hit. But here I am with this little camera making mad money. It hit me that these cats don’t even know they can make money as a photographer…or at least how to do it. Lack of education! We have to educate our youth that they can be engineers, architects, lawyers, photographers, graphic designers, etc. not just rappers and sports players. We have to get them and introduce them to black people in these different professions. My brother-in-law who lives in Atlanta makes a point to take his son through neighborhoods of black professionals living in nice homes. This is how we have to influence our children. Education!

  53. 54 Steve
    November 11, 2008 at 19:56

    It’s not society’s job to do anything for you.

  54. 55 jessica
    November 11, 2008 at 19:56

    I want to touch apon the issue of different cultures being taught in schools. It seems to me many feel that when their cultural history is not taught in school they do not matter. Personal and culture histories are part of our identy. If different cultures histories are not being taught are school people begin to feel they do not matter. The gangs give them an idenity and a feeling of belonging and culture they do not get anywhere else. Maybe we need to work as a team and community aknowledging different histories and identies within our culture equally. It is parents and teachers responibilites to give young people a sense of worth and place within our community and our culture.

  55. 56 Ab
    November 11, 2008 at 19:57

    If we could find a safe place for kids who are expelled from school that would meet their needs it would help. Why do we keep expelling when we know the consequences?

  56. 57 Thea Winter - Indianapolis IN, USA
    November 11, 2008 at 19:57

    To the mad man on the show.

    You need to get a job! don’t blame society for your issues. I work two jobs to keep my home. Grow UP!!!!!!!

  57. 58 Venessa
    November 11, 2008 at 19:57

    To your guest that he has had to struggle for everything – welcome to the real world. We all have to work for what we have. Get over it, life isn’t fair. I came from a horrible home and I didn’t use that as an excuse to be a thug or expect a hand outs. It’s ridiculous logic that because you have to struggle it justifies such behavior.

  58. 59 Hiawatha
    November 11, 2008 at 19:58

    Thank you young lady for calling out this cat for bragging about carrying a gun and being kidnapped. See, there’s the problem. He thinks it’s cool. He likes it. That’s what the brother from Cali is talking about in taking your life into your own hands. You don’t have to sell drugs… Thuggin’ is a lifestyle! And some cats love it. These guys love the gang life…they think it’s cool. They need to see some of their peeps with their brains splatted! Or like my man Vinnie, God rest his soul, shot in the head at point blank and thrown in a dumpster!

  59. 60 jessica
    November 11, 2008 at 20:07

    It may not be “society’s” responibility to do anything for us but we are all society and we need to help echother instead of clawing up on the backs of others who are down. I agree education education education..we are ALL responible for it

  60. 61 selena in Canada
    November 11, 2008 at 20:15

    People on this blog come from all socio-economic groups in different countries. But the one thing they all seem to have in common is they are intelligent and independent.

    I finished high school when I was 15, at the top of my class. That was not special for me because school work was very easy and interesting. What I didn’t understand, at the time, was how hard it was for my classmates to accomplish what I took for granted.

    What are we expecting from children who are barely getting by in their schools and their communities? We don’t need to look after the smart kids; they can look after themselves. It is the ordinary child who struggles that, as a society, we have to protect.

    I was responsible for myself. It came naturally to me. Would it have come as naturally if I found studies and peer interactions difficult? I expect not!

    Those of us who have found it easy should not look down our noses and judge the ones amongst us who find everything in life a struggle.

  61. 62 Kenny
    November 11, 2008 at 20:15

    Like Leonet I live in Montego Bay Jamaica. Gang culture thrives in JA because youngsters see it an easy means to wealth and false image of a “high status”. I dont think we can blame one single person or group of people.
    The homes need to start taking more responsibility of their children and not leave everything up to the school system.
    Government give little reasons for young people to aim high with very few youth programmes, turning a blind eye to police brutality and a futile justice system in addition to high unemployment.
    Communities who witness violent acts and cover it up or harbour the gang members so that they can benefit from the spoils of their acitivities also need to change that attitiude.

  62. 63 Steve
    November 11, 2008 at 20:35

    @ Jessica

    So if I don’t get what I feel entitled to, I should then take up crime since society didn’t give me what I felt entitled to? Why doesn’t everyone do this? I would like a jacuzzi.

  63. November 11, 2008 at 21:13

    I want to thank BBC for having our Administrator Dr. Levon Davis of ThugExposed.Com on the show today. Just want to remind the audience that a free Ebook of Thug Mentality Exposed is available to this audience. The book has stories of incarcerated gang members and an antidote to this pandemic.

    God Bless,

    Rayford L. Johnson/Youth Correctional Counselor/California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Director of ThugExposed.Com Ministries.
    Author of “Thug Mentality Exposed”

  64. 65 selena in Canada
    November 11, 2008 at 21:18

    I would like a jacuzzi.

    And you should have jacuzzi but what has that go to do with entitlement?

    They have as much an entitlement to a life free of the stress of vying for food and clothing and shelter as the children of the rich.

  65. November 12, 2008 at 01:34

    Gangs are the result of social disintegration at family levels. The members of these gangs find no orientation in their families or schools. They’re left to their fate as belonging to a gang fits the principle of the survival of the fittest. Defying law and order is the principle of these gangs as they can’t survive in an environment where the law of the state is supreme.

    What makes gangs worse is the rivalry that exist between them making each set on the destruction of the other and hence the ongoing violence. Some find belonging to a gang as heroic as it means a stature of a different kind. This brings in mind the sex strike women in Brazil staged to dissuade their husbands and boyfriends from being violent.

    West Side Story is a commonplace story repeated over and over with different actions evolving with time. It’s up to societies where gangsters roam to find appropriate ways to put an end to their threats. The critical period is childhood and adolescence that need particular attention at least to minimise the number of gangs.

  66. November 12, 2008 at 01:56

    OKAY; for sake of discussion – lets say that government, video games, bad parents and lack of economic opportunity are ALL a part of the problem.

    Which ones of those four things can anyone REALLY do anything about?

    And, no matter how insideous any of these things maight be…. WHO is the only one standing in the gap for EVERY kid???


    equivocate with neutral ethicism all you want…. blame stuff none of us can control… everything but the mirror! The mirror is too hard – too personal…

    Cosby is right…not just in America but Universally…. And it’s not just a black thing…it’s a human thing… Blacks just have a disproportionate % of dysfuntion; we have plenty of non-black company.

    And you whiners about not learning your ethnic history in your ADOPTED land; get a grip… That’s how it goes everywhere… You don’t like it – study your own history for yourself… or go back to your ancestral home. What’s stopping you? Ain’t it a party back there?

  67. 68 Jack Hughes
    November 12, 2008 at 04:31

    Chapter 7 of the PC Handbook has a list of

    23 excuses for criminal behaviour.

    I’ve checked through this thread and there are still 2 to go 😉

    I’ll drop a hint – one of them is to blame a previous female prime minister. Can aanybody guess tis or the other one ?

  68. November 12, 2008 at 10:17

    i would rather be a one man gang than join some gutter gangs.majority of political parties in the world are just a collection of gangsters and monsters…..i wouldnt even vote for a gang to rule my life.

  69. November 12, 2008 at 10:18

    i would rather be a one man gang than join some gutter gangs.majority of political parties in the world are just a collection of gangsters and monsters…..i wouldnt even vote for a gang to rule my life.

    precisely right


  70. 71 Bruce Sickles
    November 12, 2008 at 16:06

    AJ, an excellent subject and one that, while it is timeless and apparently immortal, has long been ignored for larger issues.
    I think what we should ask ourselves is “WHAT IS TERRORISM?”

    The tactics and results of the Al Queda and Taliban are the same as any street gang (or international gang like MI-13). We are talking the same thing that inspires us all. A success in your chosen field. Power. A means of controlling your own destiny.

    Many children are forced into gangs simply as a means to survive. When the streets are flooded with violence and the safest manuever is to join a gang. This does not start as a drug thing. The drug dealing and robbing are a means to an end. The real issue is power. We have totally striated our society to the point that success means different things at different levels.

    And, of course, the second half of the equation is…terrorism is a means to an end. Let’s face it. The gang rule is based on terrorism. There can be no other word for it. And if we are going to have a war on terrorism then we have to start where terrorists learn the basics.

    sorry, I get carried away on this topic. It is one of my pet peeves.

  71. 72 Sejanus
    November 12, 2008 at 18:46

    I’m sorry VictorK, but gangs are not strictly a law and order issue. Having grown up
    in Albuquerque, NM, and East Denver, I’ve been around gangs all my life and can say definitively that law enforcement is not the cure to the problem. The breakdown of the family has caused many youths to seek acceptance and protection from gangs that their drug-addicted single mothers can’t provide them. Lack of economic opportunities makes drug dealing an acceptable career, even an institution, in poor minority neighborhoods. A lifetime of abuse, neglect, illiteracy, and poverty have given these kids little to feel proud of themselves for, and as such many resort to being the biggest bad-ass on the block as their only means to attain some sense of self worth. This attitude is why many gangsters will never admit they did wrong, never show vulnerability, and bloodily avenge even the slightest insult. Their egos are very fragile in that regard. Law enforcement can only lock these monsters up, but they can’t effect the conditions that cause the formation of these youths. In fact, many of these youths are compelled to join gangs because the most important financial and emotional support system in their lives, their parents, are removed when they are imprisoned. So, basically, don’t expect results in Great Britain anytime soon. We here in America have been trying to fix this problem for decades now to no avail, and as the gang subculture grows and defines itself in Britain expect an increase in gun violence.

  72. 73 Nas
    November 12, 2008 at 23:35

    Hi all,

    This is Nas I would like to thank you all for your comments.

    But what is truly sad is this senseless killing of young adults and teenagers STILL continues in Britain and throughout the world.

    2 hours after our live broadcast yet another youth killing in Britain. Unfortunately a 15 year-old kid what shot in the head and was killed instantly.


  73. 74 Jack Hughes
    November 13, 2008 at 05:53


    The elephant in the room is that the victims and the killers are all black.

    Why is this so ?

  74. November 14, 2008 at 07:27

    Just to thank you all for such moving contributions from all around the world. There has been many incidences of shooting here in Nottingham and the impact is far greater on many people because there is not a gun possession culture in the UK, neither do we have a military state with armed police and militia.

    The factors leading to gangs and violence are obviously multifactorial, but many contributors have highlighted such factors as lack of (male) role models, influence of violent computer games, lack of responsible parenting, the injustices of racism and other prejudices, lack of meaningful employment for youth and so on.

    Building a safe and sustainable global society is not easy, but certainly the establishmenyt of stable and loving families, a strong ethical and moral code in children, a just society. the removal of prejudice and the recognition of the onness of humanity (that all people are brothrers irrespective of ethnicity, socio-economic status, or religion), the elimination of greed through excessive materialism, would go some way to creating the foundation of a prescription of living together in harmony.

    I would be interested in hearing about those who are working to overcome the issues described above and to dispel the forces of corruption and disruption in our societies.

  75. 76 ogbonna from nig
    November 15, 2008 at 12:15

    if the govt can provide adequate jobs for the youths then gang violence would be a thing of the past.

  76. 77 Shakhoor Rehman
    November 15, 2008 at 17:40

    The touchstone of any gang is the culture of pals. What is a gang anyway? It is a group of individuals operating in tandem like an assembly line in a car factory or a telesales team in an office. Teamwork is the motivating factor except with gangs it is something more: being pals. What I find silly is this autosuggestive factor when gang-crime is reported ie gang=crime does teamwork=crime? if not why? Shady estate agents for example operate as a gang but they are never referred to as such. To a certain extent it is double-standards and gang street crime is deemed a more popular subject by the media. Of course it needs attention but not to the extent of excluding other examples of gang activity in all its forms.

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