Trading places – Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans

“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans” – apparently. So it’s best not to hang around too long making them.

Seize the dime and all that.

Like Emeka Egbuono. Here he is getting east London inner city youth together with police officers in a role reversal exercise – to build mutual understanding and trust. He started as a participant and now he helps run them – as described in this excerpt from Emeka’s blog.

I remember being part of the pilot session…  I was 15 at the time and to be honest all we wanted to do was to have our weekly table tennis competition.

The police turned up in two vans. There were at least 9 of them for that first session.Everyone seemed uneasy with their presence, looked more like a raid to be honest.  They came with their plain clothes.  The session was not how I imagined, Janette project manger for The crib had to stimulate the discussion because she could sense  that none of us wanted to talk to the police.  Eventually after a few games that broke the ice, we started discussing issues that affect us, this was our chance to get our voice heard and if anything would happen after this was yet to be seen. We spoke about police tactics, stop and search, profiling, stereotypes, legal rights, and the justice system.  It was very interesting talking about all these things and seeing thing from a different perspective. It was all done in a respectful manner as everyone had equal say.

This was then followed by role reversal role playing between us and the police. An example of a scenario we had to do was that a group of young people were hanging around on the stairwell in block on the estate, a concerned resident calls the police to come and move them along because of the noise and what looks like fighting. So now we have the scenario, we now had to act as the police who turned up to deal with the situation, and the police were acting as the young people who were only play fighting with each other and having a laugh.

A Trading Places session – youth and police – pic from Emeka Egbuonu.

As the police officers we started off with the nice approach, but the police officers acting as young people did not go easy on us, they made it extremely difficult to resolve the situation. I think they have vast experience dealing with scurrilous youth because they were doing a good job. Eventually we had to use force and make them move along.

The second day was really interesting because the police now had to come in with their full uniform and the dynamics of the session changed.  There was a sense of animosity between us and the police, even though it was with the same officers from the day before. We were less interactive and there was less of dialogue between us and them.

[Over the past 10 years the sessions have continued, but…] Even with all our efforts  to create better relations with the police there is still a strong sense of hate, animosity between many young people and the police.

During a post riot discussion we had, many young people condemned the looters and arsonists. They were saying why were they destroying the own communities, some said had they been involved their anger would have been to support those who were attacking the police. One of the young people in that session said that ” if they were smart the would have organised and focussed all their energy on attacking the police instead of trying on trainers outside JD Sports”. This is a young man that is not involved in gangs or any criminal activity, he says he is tired of fitting a description of every black boy when a crime is committed. He went on to say its not the inconvenience of being stopped but the way people look at him when he is being stopped that angers him, he says it makes him feel like a criminal and that they all have assumptions about him which in turn perpetuate stereotypes about young black males.

This is exactly why we we work hand in hand with the police and safer neighbourhood teams to make a positive difference. Seems like all it take is one significant event to erase all the hard work, nevertheless we keep TRYING!

More information about the role swapping workshops for 13-19 year olds and how to get in touch here.

Recently Emeka has been using the London Olympics to inspire teenagers to create their own gold medal moments. Having built up their enthusiasm during the games – with the help of Team GB’s medal-winning prowess -Emeka then encouraged the teens to come up with their own gold medal moments to strive for after the closing ceremony.

The wonderful Jessica Ennis. (Sigh) Women’s Heptathlon. Gold.

One young person, Gloria aged 13, explained how Jessica Ennis winning Gold had inspired her. Although having little knowledge of the athlete prior to the games she had become captivated by her story and excited by her achievement. Gloria’s aspirations are not in sport but Medicine – her dream is to be a paediatrician. So her Gold medal moment will be when she qualifies and is able to help her first child patient. Ennis’s hard work ethic and deserving gold medal instilled in her motivation and determination to make her own dream a reality.

Greg Baum of the Sydney Morning herald newspaper wrote “Some Olympic sites become wasteland after the games, this one began as wasteland and is now full of possibilities.” I could not have put that better myself so now the topic up for discussion across the nation is of legacy, hopefully we live up to those possibilities.So regardless of your age, whether you are in secondary school, college, university or in the middle of your career sit back and think about what your Gold medal moment is.

Are you doing enough to achieve it?

Don’t have much to add to what Emeka says. Except that the theme “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans” was set by Shackman and you can find out what the rest of the Loose Bloggers Consortium make of it by scrolling down the right hand side of the screen and clicking on their links. But don’t hang about. Life’s a passing…



Filed under D - Loose Bloggers Consortium, friends

14 responses to “Trading places – Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans

  1. This is great stuff and has been done in Miami, Florida for at least 5 decades with nurses and firemen and other such role models. It is important to incorporate policemen in Miami as we are now 52% foreign born and the police in their countries are murderous soldiers to be feared.

    • blackwatertown

      Interesting point about foreign-born residents who may have radically diffrent expectations of the police.
      Oh – and they also work with other uniformed organisations – including the prison service. There’s more information at Emeka’s blog.

  2. rummuser

    Those are remarkable exercises that needs more exposure than they have generated so far. I shall do my bit to share.

  3. One issue can undo the progress that’s been made, still they try. This is so impressive, reveals that everyone wants a better relationship.
    Blessings ~ Maxi

  4. Great work and it deserves support.

  5. It can be hard to put yourself into someone else’s shoes. It requires an active imagination and a lot of empathy. But it’s the only way to demolish negative stereotypes and see other people for what they really are.

    • 29

      A great initiative. Perhaps the police could consolidate what small advance that they have made by taking some of the older boys and girls out on patrol with them ie an extension of the ‘other person’s shoes’. It might be well worth the little extra expense of a few uniforms.

      • Great study – some similar have had tragic results – and as a resident music man I’d simply offer a blinding flash oif the obvious .

      • blackwatertown

        Well you remember the old saying – before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes.
        That way – if they react badly to your criticism – you’ll be a mile away.
        And you’ll have their shoes.

  6. Denyes Ramis

    This story was surprising, but also very gratifying. Hope they keep up the good work.

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