Key figure in LA gang truce tries to tackle youth violence in Hackney
- Credit: Twilight Bey
A key figure in the truce between rival Los Angeles gangs the Bloods and Crips has been trying to try and tackle violence in London for the last 15 years.
Social Intervention Specialist Twilight Bey has worked in Hackney with organisations such as social justice charity Voyage and Stand United to apply the same reforms that worked in Los Angeles at a time of huge tensions some 30 years ago.
Twilight was first invited to London in 1994 due to concerns that gang violence was starting to resemble the same trouble that LA went through.
He told the Gazette: "At that time people didn't think it could happen here but that London was heading in that direction.
"There were signs that things were starting to break down."
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Twilight recently worked with Stand United, the Stoke Newington community group set up in the wake of Tashaûn Aird's fatal stabbing.
He said the only way to tackle the problem of youth violence is to empower people within the community who intimately know the youths that are at risk, but insisted that real change takes time.
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The truce he brokered in LA was the result of four years of work that started with the gangs taking the first step to come to the negotiating table.
Conflicts between the gangs were no longer resolved by the group but were mediated at a personal level by an ambassador network that prevented escalations.
He said: "Before you talk about kids being groomed by gangs you have to understand why they're susceptible to being groomed in the first place.
"Violence is always a result of socio-economic factors, it's never violence for violence sake."
As part of Twilight's intervention work he created Goal Models, people who are members of the community that serve as role models for youngsters.
They aim to be a constant reminder of what they can become and also act as people they can turn to when facing challenges.
He stressed that attention needs to be placed to everyone in the community, not just kids who are struggling.
He added: "If there's a such thing as good kids and bad kids, we need to work with both and we have to work with older ones in prison.
"One is not separate from the other."