New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Long reads
19 September 2008updated 24 Sep 2015 11:01am

My fight against street life

I spent most of my teens in street gangs and I suffered serious consequences. That experience shaped

By Shakir Kamali

When I was younger and in street gangs, street life used to be territorial – for example we’d fight over this side of the street/the other side of the street or on what your postcode was. I used to be quite an active member of the whole group, the one that hyped the others up and got them going. There were a few of us and where we went people followed. I had quite a reputation. I started in Tower Hamlets but when I started to lead the proper street life I was all over – other London boroughs like Newham and out of London. I started the street life from 11 and properly got out when I was 17.

I came from a well educated family and they had high expectations of me. That led to problems. Young people grow up at their own speed. Two incidents led me towards street life. When I was 13 I used to bunk school, do dodgy stuff and my brother found out – he went mad. He took all the nice stuff out of my room – my computer, TV etc and I ran away, staying for 2/3 nights driving around up north. The second time I was going into year 10, my first GCSE year, and my family wanted me to get my act together. They got physical and didn’t listen to me.

I was kicked out of the family home at 15. I started working and juggling on the street, making dodgy money. My life wasn’t going anywhere. There came a point at 17 when I was struggling with life, that I thought I have two choices, this path or the other. I realised I had to stand on my own two feet and rely on myself. When I had no money, wearing the same clothes with no roof over my head, I thought where are my friends now?

It was my youth worker that really helped me get out of street life. I told him everything. He’d never judge and was neutral. He’d been there himself so he understood how I felt. People come out of that life only when they are ready. But when they do, I think they can be the best people to help others still in that world. Someone who has gone through street life can properly understand, they have experience of reality. A person who hasn’t been there only has theory.

When things get tough now I know I have to keep going. I don’t have a role model. I go to different people for different stuff. Music helps keep me calm and I enjoy working with young people as a youth worker – it helps me focus on their issues rather than mine. I know how important a non judgemental support is. My hope is to continue to inspire and support young people as they make difficult choices in their life.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
An innovative approach to regional equity
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change