Mural in Cologne Prison, Wing 3
On Friday I saw the documentary “One Mile Away” portraying the efforts of two warring gang members in inner city Birmingham to form a truce between the B21 and B6 postcode rivals. A couple of the gang members were present for a Q&A session afterwards; brave, brave men, lit up by the desire to bring about change and to prevent the pointless feud infecting their children. In this case there was nothing more than the difference in postcodes and the dividing road between that caused a sense of territorial animosity between people otherwise of the same cultural heritage, ethnicity and age.
“Born to lose, built to win” was one of the rappers’ lines that struck me with its potency.
I wondered how I would be as a young, black boy moving through life in constant fear of being “licked” (shot), feeling powerless so reaching for the status and “respect” promised by the knife or gun. I wondered, as I did during the 2011 riots, how you would make sense of the world when every message signals that you are a nobody without those trainers, this phone, that car. Yet the only paths to get them are controlled by the drug dealers, the shine of their bling obscuring the trip wires of violence, time inside or death.
It’s so easy from my perspective to see a way out of such a feud; to think I would never even get sucked in. But can we ever know how we would be if… if… if…