#ChangeTheNorm Stories Series by Dr Stella Vig
The world is changing rapidly, and society is struggling to adapt to the change. This column will highlight those who are recognising the challenges and developing solutions to accommodate this change.
I have been saddened by the level of knife crime that continues to plague our society. Anyone who has children will hope to see them thrive and achieve more than the parents, whether this is financially or socially. The tragedy of investing in your children and seeing their lives cut short at such a young age cannot be imagined. The senseless violence that has engulfed us is no longer in isolated violent communities but is now on our doorsteps. It is happening to children of friends and colleagues.
This week I interview Dr Mark Prince. His son Kiyan Prince died violently on the 18th May 2006 whilst trying to prevent harm to another child. The loving nature, by which he was known, was what made him step in and defend his friend who was being picked on by another youth. The incident took place outside the gates of his school, the London Academy, located in Edgware North London. Kiyan attempted to resolve the situation in the most peaceable way by directly challenging the aggressor.
The ‘killer’, 16-year-old Hannad Hasan, felt that Kiyan had disrespected him because he stood up to him. He then turned and callously killed Kiyan – plunging a knife straight into his chest. Kiyan died of a single, but fatal, stab wound to his heart.
Mark has set up the Kiyan Prince Foundation, with a vision to “work with young people to increase awareness and address the consequences of gun and knife crime through education. It aims to empower young people by promoting a sense of belonging, self-worth and purpose that can be found outside of gang culture and offending behaviour through providing access to diversionary and preventative activities”. He has been honoured with an OBE, for services to tackling knife and gang crime in London.
Please tell us about yourself
So, this could take all day to answer! Be a great start if everyone could buy The Prince of Peace on Amazon that would help, but for interview purposes I would say that from a young age I have always had a love for reading books, learning and dreaming big. I also love sports activities and I mean any sport activity. I had my favourites like football, cricket and basketball but I just love being active and developing skills. I had a Dad who was extremely harsh to say the least. The recurrent dishing out of punishment led to emotional and physical damage on my part which took a long time to recognise. I ran away from home at 15 initially getting into drugs, alcohol and criminal behaviour. Being a determined young man with dreams and aspirations I decided at 21 to break the cycle and change. I decided that I wanted to be a champion and become a professional boxer. This determination and hard work led to me becoming no1 in the world ranking and fighting for a world title.
This journey changed me as a person, and I developed the character needed to set and attain goals which made me proud. This in turn made my friends and family proud of me which was not present in my former lifestyle.
Life continued to throw testing experiences. I buried my stillborn baby, my high profile career abruptly ended after a freak accident that left my knee out of its socket tearing all the surrounding ligaments. My mum was given a 30% chance of surviving an operation to the brain to release a blood clot but the most severe one was having to identify my son after the doctor announced his death by stab wound to the heart! This left me an utterly broken man. I was tested on every level as a human being rethinking what I stood for and what I had taught my son, those values embedded on his journey to be a man.
I found out a lot about myself during this experience. I would say I am determined, I am truth, I am forgiveness, I am love, I am a leader, I am growing, I am life, I love life, I love people, and I love the manufacturer of human beings, my creator God.
Would you describe Kiyan and his love for life as well as the tragedy that sparked The Kiyan Prince Foundation?
To describe Kiyan is very simple, he was very funny, laid back, caring and peaceful son. He was a leader that left an impression amongst his peers and grownups alike, even when Kiyan was being cheeky or naughty you liked him!
Kiyan, played for Queens Park Rangers Under-16’s football team. He was dubbed ‘The Bullet’ because of his speed and he was hailed as the next Wayne Rooney… tipped to play for England. After his death QPR confirmed that he was going to be offered a professional contract.
Kiyan was a beautiful, thoughtful, kind and considerate young man. How he lived was reflected in the way he died. Even though he must have been very scared and in pain, in dying he still represented the life he lived. His heart was so full of love and empathy for others. In his final minutes his thoughts were, even then, still of others. As he lay bleeding, he told his friends: “if these are my last words… tell my Mum I love her’.
The tragedy that sparked the foundation is a very sad story, to leave school and walk up to an altercation peacefully trying to break it up is not where you expect to die. To start the Foundation because of your son’s death and impact on so many young people’s lives is not where you expect to find your purpose!
What problems are you trying to solve with knife crime?
The main problem we are solving is changing the negative narrative that this is a problem with only an isolated demographic of youth. This is a problem with leadership, from government leadership to parental leadership. Even social platforms of leadership i.e. online music are sending out negative messages. We need to change the narrative and sending out positive message to empower young people and this needs to be solved by changing people’s mindset and this can only be done through education and inspiration.
Who are the people who could benefit?
People with low self-esteem, behavioural issues, negative mindsets and anger problems. Partly this is a phase of life, but this needs a senior steer. These children have an untapped talent potential. These children fall into several groups, primary age 7-11, secondary age 12-16 and young adults age 16-24 groups. The other group are the young offenders. What we often hear from our volunteers is that anyone who works with these young people often find that they benefit from the interactions with these children too.
What are the challenges to make the public aware of your work?
Funding is always a challenge because we need to be sustainable to continue reaching these children. We lack premises and this is a huge issue because there are so many young people we want to reach out to. We know we can continue to support them with our programs, but we have nowhere to deliver these especially as community youth centres and programmes have been discontinued.
What keeps you going?
It is difficult. I get a special boost when I receive the many messages from young people expressing how they have changed the way they think regarding carrying knives and their peers carrying knives. I feel like I can let Kiyan know that children are telling me that I have become their new role (real) model and have saved their lives and they have never been so inspired before. This and evidence that the work being done continues to make a difference keeps me going.
What can we do to help?
You can highlight positive stories where we have demonstrated we have evoked change. Please encourage people to make donations so we can continue our work. Everyone needs to help change the negative narrative that media normally cover on this issue, this is not just an issue of poor black criminal boys. Share the Kiyan Prince Foundation’s work and encourage Corporates to adopt us as a Corporate responsibility. If anyone can signpost to premises that we can use, we would be grateful.
What key message do you want to highlight?
That we are all here for a purpose and as individuals we have great value to add to this planet with our talent, gift and positive thinking. Our roles should be inspiring young people and supporting the children who are disenfranchised and disadvantaged. This is a society and community role.
We must educate and demonstrate leadership qualities. By doing this we can educate and role model to our children, so they recognise when they are being led astray.
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