Quamari's One Love Memorial Festival draws thousands of people to Harlesden
PUBLISHED: 15:04 23 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:23 23 July 2018
Thousands of people enjoyed a free community festival in Harlesden organised by the parents of a murdered schoolboy.
Quamari’s One Love Memorial Festival saw rappers, gospel artists, dancers and families seeking justice for their own murdered children take over Roundwood Park yesterday under the banner of “ethos of no violence”.
Quamari Serunkuma-Barnes was just 15 when he was fatally stabbed outside Capital City Academy in Doyle Gardens, as he left the school to go home in January 2017.
His killer, also 15, received a 14-year minimum term in jail.
Quamari’s parents, Paul Barnes and Lillian Serunkuma, draped the stage with the Ugandan and Jamaican flags in honour of their son’s heritage, and offered the public a festival of their own making.
Months of planning culminated in games and a bouncy castle for young visitors, stalls selling food and goods, face painting and temporary tattoos. Throughout, there was non-stop entertainment from a host of local performers.
Comperes including D Cee and Chris Peddie OBE introduced the children’s choir from the Church of God of Prophecy, Gospel singer Sarika, and reggae and rap artists including Gappy Ranks and Big Zeeks and Tinez. All the entertainers dedicated their sets to Quamari.
Lascelles James, former Boney M and Haircut 100 musician, said: “I’m here for Quamari. I used to teach him the guitar. I’m a sax player but I taught him what I knew. He was a brilliant kid – he’d come home, do his homework, play the guitar. It’s so sad. It’s a pleasure for me to come here tonight and do something for him.”
In an emotional plea to stop the “knife crime epidemic”, parents of murdered children came from all over the UK to stand on the stage.
Founder of Mother’s Teardrops, Vanessa Hyman, whose 17-year-old son Anton Hyman was found stabbed and shot in River Brent on Mother’s Day in 2004, told the crowd: “We as a community need to start our fight to try and prevent our young children from all nations getting involved with gangs and the crimes they commit.
“We need to stop them killing each other before they have lived a fruitful life.”
Appealing directly to the young, she added: “Be a leader and not a follower. Be in charge of your own destiny and remember to be strong for yourself as you may have young ones looking up to you.”
Emma Taylor, whose son Jordan was stabbed four times, said the law had to change. A member of Anti-Knife UK, she set up a petition: “Exempt the use of a knife from self defence and reasonable force. Anyone can carry a knife in a public place – they shouldn’t be able to say they acted in self defence.”
She told told the Brent & Kilburn Times: “We need help from the government. Their serious crime strategy is 111 pages long and all they are doing is passing the buck to agencies who are split at the seams. It’s a community problem, not just a black problem. Kid are getting cautions and suspended sentences and not getting the message. They should go to jail if they are caught carrying a knife, then word will get out.”
Murdered Gee Smith’s cousin Marie Salter has never seen justice for his death. “Picking up a knife and stabbing someone six times is not ‘reasonable force’,” she said.
If Paul and Lillian’s plan was to get young people involved, they succeeded in this too.
Basit Ayanwusi, 14, and Malachi Welch, 15, had the starring roles in Not Another Youth, a dance illustrating the different lives of two 15-year-olds. The piece was created by Tamsin Nathan, who stayed with Quamari in the moments after he was stabbed.
Tewaina Tomlin, 14, said: “Today is a good example to the youth that’s it not all about fighting together, it’s about coming together and understanding that we all live together, so we should work together. Even now Quamari’s gone, he shows us it’s not about knives and killing, it’s about love and health.”
Takiela Francis-Williams, 14, added: “These events should take place more often. Look how many young people are here. So many people would be on the streets right now doing God knows. This event has brought the whole community together.”
The boys, too shy to speak on record, simply wrote “very fun”.
At 7.30pm, with a rousing chorus of Quamari’s favourite artist Bob Marley’s One Love, the crowd quietly dispersed.
Lillian, who is setting up the QSB Foundation following the festival, said: “I’m so glad everybody came to support us and we were able to give this to the community. They made it happen – everybody had a good time.”
Paul added: “It went so well I’m stuck for words. It’s the first time we’ve done something like this in Brent.
“I’ve got to take my hat off to the team. If it wasn’t for them it would never have happened.
“I wish it went on for longer but the main thing is we got to create an ethos of no violence. Today we were able to send out that message. I hope we can pull it off next year and make it bigger and better.”