Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu,
*I know this is a long message but please bear with me*
If you are Somali and living in Sheffield, you will have witnessed the many ways in which our city and our community has broken over the last few years. The ways in which our families that have been torn apart and the roles we have that make us collectively and individually responsible for where we find ourselves today. We know that we have brothers in prison, for crimes that range from dealing drugs to murder. We know that we have sisters who have had children and abortions out of marriage. We know that we have a higher percentage of divorce amongst young people than ever before. We know that we have countless young people in gangs across the city. We know that we have young people sectioned in mental health clinics because they were forced to stay silent about their pains. We know this… we speak about this.
But what happens beyond our words?
Young people are the heart of every conversation about the troubles in our city and our community… We are quick to criticise and chastise them… but we do not educate one another. How can we hold our young people to account, without first holding to account the people and systems they were raised by? No child enters this world alone, and no child is raised isolated from the world around them… So if we are to speak honestly and openly about the issues facing our young people, we must first be willing to acknowledge that these issues affect us all.
If we are to truly seek the change we speak of, we must consider the following questions:
1. Who we do WANT to be as Somalis in Sheffield? Do we want to be a community that stands together through every hardship (be it fundraising for droughts regardless of being from Somalia/Somaliland or appealing jail sentences and challenging schools)? … OR do we want to continue to be people who work and live in small cyclo- communities based on Qabil and historic ideas of gendered responsibilities?
2. What CHANGE do we want? Do we want change that offers a better future to us and our children? That offers security, sustainability and aspiration? … Or do we want change that takes the attention away from us so that other communities or local authorities don’t see our failings?
3. What are we WILLING to do to change? Are we willing to put aside our differences and bring together our skills, expertise and experience to put in place the infrastructures we need to change? … OR are we going to meet in community spaces and speak for 3 hours on these topics, only to go home and return to our routines?
I have and always will stand with those who truly want change, but we cannot rebuild a community without first recognising that it is broken.
Lecturer in Psychology of Education