Reformed drug dealer from Queen’s Park turns his life around and hopes to inspire others
- Credit: Archant
He started smoking cannabis at 14. Soon after, he was stabbed – and by his mid-20s, Bradley Laurencin had done jail time for drug offences.
Now 28, Bradley runs his own fitness business and says he hopes to inspire young black men by sharing his story. He still lives on the Mozart Estate in Queen’s Park where he grew up.
“The biggest thing for me is: ‘What made me go from being a relatively happy child to being a criminal, and what I am doing now?’” he said.
Born in St Lucia, Bradley came over to the UK with his father when he was six, his mother staying behind then moving to America, which he said “got to me”.
Aged 12, he spent a week in a coma after being knocked down by meningitis, which prompted a quick visit by his mum.
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By the time he was 15, he was his sick father’s full time carer.
He said: “My dad had cancer. At 15 I was the person looking after him. It was the start of a breakdown of my mental capacities.
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“I started looking for other forms of support and the streets and road life became a more comfortable place to be. People around me at that time filled that hole.”
He’d excelled academically at Wilberforce Primary School, but things changed when he went to North Westminster Community School. “I had lot more independence,” he told the Times. “School didn’t really cater for outspoken people like me. I realised what I didn’t like, it made me rebel and I would get into trouble. I was especially trying to find my place in society.”
He added: “Young black male images in society are not always the most positive. When it comes to the media, to films, it’s very rare to see a positive image. Therefore you are looking at yourself in a negative light then trying to find acceptance. It’s all very difficult.
“Black people are associated with sport and music and excel in those things but not all of us want to do that.
“Where I live on the Mozart Estate the black people who came before me, they’ve started wrong themselves, so they can’t inspire people under them. It becomes a vicious circle.
“You’re allowed to hang around the streets but when you end up on the streets you meet people there who were there before you.”
It’s there he got stabbed, “multiple times – on my head, my shoulder, my lung punctured”. But he adds: “I don’t see myself as a victim of knife crime. I had a lot to do with that. I wasn’t the most perfect child – it wasn’t a random attack.
“When you’re younger it’s a lot about reputation and asserting your authority. I went to the wrong guy and he asserted his.”
He found himself in court “multiple times” for petty crimes but never picked up a conviction until the age of 24 when he was caught drug dealing.
He was given a suspended sentence, then caught again.
“The judge was extremely lenient,” he said. “I had a lot going on in my life: my father was sick, I’d just started uni. I also went in suited and booted. He gave me six months and I did three.”
Wandsworth Prison was a sobering experience. “Put a person in a place surrounded by negative thinking and reform will be very low,” he said. “I’d stopped smoking weed before my conviction [but] I came out a smoker.
“There’s a lot wrong with the prison system. I knew a lot of the people in there because I’d gone to school with them or because of the area we lived in. We were learning nothing – catering, gardening. I’d just come from making thousands a week selling weed.
“Give prisoners cadet and military training. Bring in motivational speakers. Show prisoners that they are capable of a lot more. In prison I realised I had a lot more to offer.”
He added: “I’m not a drug dealer: I’m a businessman. I asked myself: ‘How do I achieve the life I want?’
“People said I had a great body and suggested I got into personal training. I read up stuff on the internet, and the more I searched the more I found.”
He did a stint working for Virgin where he learnt personal training skills and gained confidence. Today he’s a fitness entrepreneur developing a website, thegymproject.com.
“Personal training is time vs money,” he said. “It’s nearly like selling weed – I’m still doing time for money. I asked myself: how do I get to the internet where timing is irrelevant?
“If I can achieve what I want to achieve, so can others. I want to go much further than that and inspire people.”