In 2007, RECLAIM started its journey in Moss Side. Today, ten years on, we have seen its community and young people thrive; working with young leaders who continue to show that Moss Side is more than the negative media headlines.  

On Tuesday the 8th of August, our hearts sunk with news that no community wants to hear – a teenager had lost his life and others injured, to knife violence. When reflecting, it was of course one of our young people who voiced the underlying issue:

‘People will say ‘bad life choices’, but for some it feels like there is no choice’

We must ask ourselves, what is so fundamentally wrong that a young person growing up in Moss Side will feel like the only time any real interest is shown in them, is when they do something wrong, or when a tragedy such as this takes place. There must be an understanding of the type of message this sends.

The loss of a young life should not be used to further criminalise young people or a whole community, who already, feel alienated, subject to neglect in a society that willingly repeatedly fails them.

The questions we need to ask is why and how this is happening. Why are young people going to school hungry? Why is it that a single mother in Moss Side can work every single possible hour under the sun, yet cannot afford to provide the basics for her children? In the UK, being able to spend quality time to nurture, protect and bring up your child is a luxury only afforded to those better off. This is a sad state of affairs for a country which thinks of itself as great.

Social inequality is at the heart of these incidents and should be at the core of any solutions. We must challenge the perception of young people that is fed to us by the media, a practise familiar to RECLAIM.

Society often believes young people lack the critical thinking to interpret the political landscape and the effects directly imposed on them. RECLAIM’s young people, however, know all too well that it is those leading our country who often fail to acknowledge the effects their decisions have on the UK’s most vulnerable communities. As knife crime in the UK continues to rise, we will inevitably see stories that tell us it is a consequence of disengaged youth. However, our young people will continue to challenge the real issues; restrictions of their pathways, with the working class as a target.

In 2016, Salford council cut £6m from its children services, Trafford council closed all seven of its youth centres, meanwhile Southern shires with affluence and opportunity were rewarded. Although RECLAIM’s young people do not agree with the actions of their peers, they understand why less favourable paths are taken. At a time when we choose to cut young people’s support left, right and centre, we cannot blame just our young when we are systematically stripping away their options – options that are already limited if you are from Moss Side. For some young people, it may feel like a knife is the only tool they have to survive when we are cutting every lifeline. As Gary Younge suggests, we must not hide from underlying issues.

In 2015, police in Greater Manchester asked young people to ‘bin the blades’, no questions asked. However, a society without questions is not one RECLAIM encourages for our youth, and our young people will continue to challenge the matters that may steer the direction of many of their peers – that is where society must focus, and where our solidarity must lie.

At RECLAIM, we work with working class young people every day. They are ambassadors for the strengths in their community and evidence the power of the young people within them. They are ready to disrupt and ensure society does not forget them when they are yesterday’s headlines.

We must think of Moss Side this week and going forward. We must remember those who have been lost, but equally the young people who still remain; full of Moss Side pride and the ability to be our next generation of working class leaders – if society comes together to challenge the status quo. We must join our young leaders in fighting for change.