Hoxton youth leader uses his past to steer others away from gangs

A Hoxton youth worker has drawn on his experience of gang violence to write a practical guide on helping disaffected youths to find ambition.

Emeka Egbuonu, 25, who lives in Myrtle Street resisted joining a gang during his time at City and Islington secondary school and is now an anti-gang worker for the Crib Youth Project.

His book Consequences - Breaking the Negative Cycle launched this week, and offers advice on giving young people confidence and skills to move on from involvement in gangs and crime.

At school Emeka tried to hide the fact that he lived in Hoxton, but as soon as a group of youths found out he had problems.

“Guys would be coming to the college looking for me and my friends to have fights, they came with weapons and knives,” he said.

“One day I had to carry a baseball bat for protection because one of my friends wasn’t in college,” said Emeka.

While some of his friends were getting tattoos and swearing allegiance to Hoxton, Emeka did not get “in too deep,” and resisted joining a gang.

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“It didn’t make any sense why we were fighting each other, some people don’t even know whey they’re fighting,” said Emeka is now one of the London Mayor’s mentors.

“There may be someone higher up who has a problem with this other group and it filters down, and spirals out of control from there,” he added.

Five years ago he began working with youths at The Crib youth project, and after seeing teenagers making the same mistakes he had, he developed a programme of seminars called Consequences, which underpins the book.

“Instead of just saying “Don’t do drugs,” or “Don’t do guns,” we look at the barriers stopping them from achieving certain things,” said Emeka who visited LA, the gang capital of the world, earlier this year to find out about gang intervention schemes there.

“We look at the impact of broken homes, peer pressure, and the negative and positive effects that can have, they don’t realise they are a victim but it’s happening on a daily basis.”

Emeka’s ambition now is to get his book “as far as possible,” and it has already received praise from leading criminologist Professor David Wilson and Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier.