United Borders founder shows Brent Youth Parliament how he's tackling gang violence
PUBLISHED: 16:29 04 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 04 April 2019
The founder of a charity aimed at uniting warring gangs visited Brent’s Youth Parliament to tell how his work is changing lives.
Justin Finlayson, founder of United Borders, was invited to give a talk at the group’s weekly meeting at the Brent Civic Centre on Saturday.
He explained to members how he aims to tackle growing crime amongst young people.
He said: “I asked them how they feel – how do they feel about themselves, their situation? It’s a different conversation – it requires a bit of inflection. This is what we do as an outlet and this was the point of the [United Borders] project.
“Even though we offer all the things we offer, the courses we offer, the main thing I’m interested in is how young people feel. Once you change that feeling, you change the projection.”
He added: “A lot of the feelings we see played out by people who are stabbing each other are by people who have lost a sense of self.
“If you can look at someone who looks a lot like you and try to kill that person, you’re saying a lot about yourself in that action as well.
“This is what I’m trying to change. A lot of the narrative here is just ‘violent young boy, out of control’ – no, these are young individuals who have lost their way.”
Mr Finlayson grew up in Harlesden and was raised on the Church Road estate, which later became “notorious” as a result of gang violence with the Stonebridge Estate.
The death of James Owusu-Agyekum – a 22-year-old student who was gunned down outside his home in Tynsdale Road in 2016 – prompted him to start his charity.
In 2017 – as reported in the Kilburn Times – he bought a red London bus and converted the upper deck into a recording studio, installing desks, USB plugs and a plasterboard studio booth at the front.
Picking up gang members from Church Road in Harlesden in the morning and Stonebridge gang affiliates in the afternoon, his project soon took off, with warring factions staying on the bus, messing with the decks and making music together.
The project has now expanded to include kickboxing and yoga.
Cllr Ketan Sheth, chair of Brent’s wellbeing scrutiny committee said: “It was hugely inspirational to hear Justin speak so passionately about his experiences and how he is now helping Brent’s young people.”