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Singer Jermain Jackman urges Sadiq Khan to think again on stop and search

We shouldn’t criminalise youngsters, says The Voice winner heading up Fair Futures initiative

02 March, 2018 — By Angela Cobbinah

Jermain Jackman: ‘Too often we label young people as criminal and oversimplify a complicated issue’

SINGER Jermain Jackman made a passionate plea to Mayor Sadiq Khan this week to think again about his plan to step up police stop-and-searches in a bid to curb increased gun and knife crime in the capital.

“Stop and search in the past has been associated with its disproportionate use on people of colour and we should not be criminalising youngsters in this way,” he said.

“There are many reasons why more and more young people are losing their lives to street violence. We have communities that have seen the closure of youth clubs. We have lack of funding in local authorities. Police numbers have been cut and there are too many youngsters who feel disenfranchised and without opportunities.

“All these things are bound to have an effect. But too often we label young people as criminal and oversimplify a complicated issue.”

Mr Jackman, who won BBC talent show The Voice four years ago, said that growing up he had known too many friends who had fallen victim to gun and knife crime, including 18-year-old Isaiah Ekpaloba, a former classmate of his at Arts and Media School Islington, in Finsbury Park, who was stabbed to death in January 2015.

“From a young age I have seen people being stabbed and I cannot just sit back and think that this is an everyday thing. How many more lives need to be lost before we get to the bottom of what’s really going on? It is a public health issue and it should be approached through that lens,” he added, pointing to the success of Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, which has seen a dramatic fall in knife crime in Glasgow over the years through education, mentoring and training.

Mr Khan could implement a similar programme in London, he stated.

As chairman of Islington Council’s Fair Futures Commission, Mr Jackman presented a raft of recommendations last week seeking a sea change in youth policy and services following a year-long probe of young people’s views on all manner of issues.

“Too often young people’s voices are ignored so we wanted to change that by going into youth clubs, schools and estates, not just to talk to them but listen to them,” he said. “We wanted to find out what the issues are in their lives in an attempt to deliver the solutions.

“My personal plea to Sadiq Khan is for him to be inspired by our findings and set up a London Fair Futures Commission. What we found in Islington applies to the whole of the capital so there is no point in plugging one hole when there are 50 others elsewhere. Fair Futures is a platform for change with young people at the centre of it.”

The 23-year-old has been a political activist since his teens after Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn spotted him singing at a school concert. “He told me I had a fantastic voice and asked me to sing at [political] events,” Mr Jackman explained. “He would speak and then introduce me and I would sing.”

The Hackney youngster later had a heart-to-heart meeting with Mr Corbyn at the House of Commons. “We sat and talked for one-and-a-half hours. I told him I wanted to do more [than sing] and that’s how I came to join the Labour Party.”

Ignoring warnings by his record company to steer clear of politics, he has been on the campaign trail for Labour ever since and in last year’s general election appeared on a number of platforms alongside Mr Corbyn. He is not surprised at the Labour leader’s popularity among the grime generation.

“Youngsters are drawn to him by his principles and the fact that he has had a clean record for his entire political career. He is so real and normal. If he wants a suit he will just pop down to Holloway Road to buy one, not Savile Row.”

Mr Jackman, one of six siblings whose parents hail from Guyana, is now studying politics at Leeds University with a view to one day standing for Parliament and, as he told The Voice judges, becoming Britain’s first black prime minister.

“No dream is too big and no role is too far,” he declared. “I have always wanted to change the world somehow and the Fair Futures Commission is a vehicle that can actually change things.”

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