Working with Black Young People

Baljeet Singh Gill
Monday, November 12, 2007

Edited by Momodou Sallah and Carlton HowsonPublished by Russell House PublishingISBN 978 1 905541 14 024.95

A collection of essays examining the influences on young people and how these can be a force for good.

Editor and contributor Carlton Howson sets the scene for this collection of essays on the issues black young people face in an uncompromising manner by charting the development of black consciousness in an oppressive climate.

As a youth and community work practitioner of 30-plus years, my only disappointment was the lack of reference to the work and the influence of Beyond Steel Bands 'n' Samosas by Vipin Chauhan, who has already analysed many of the issues that Howson cites.

Fellow contributor and editor Momodou Sallah continues the passion that comes across forcibly by providing an analysis of the term 'black'. He also provides appropriate facts and figures to highlight current issues, concerns and events including the 'uprisings' and the scapegoating that occurred at an institutional level following the murder of Victoria Climbie.

There is a clear acknowledgement in some of the chapters that racist attitudes, behaviours and practices adopted by those in power are a major influence on the lives of young people, regardless of the policies adopted by organisations.

In others chapters, however, the analysis is not what it could be. The Macpherson Report into the death of Stephen Lawrence is cited, but the numerous racist murders then and since and the suspicious deaths of many black young men in custody which are not even categorised as racist are issues that warranted mentioning.

There is a very good section on volunteering, although the high level of volunteering in community organisations and those such as Islamic Relief wasn't really explored.

The suggestion that education about Islam should be introduced cannot be argued against and, while this needs to be done in a setting where recognition is given to Muslim scholars whose achievements were stolen by the west, it also needs to be put into context and it should be recognised that Muslim invaders also stole things. And while Islam itself has undoubtedly influenced other cultures, it too has been influenced by other cultures and religions.

Across the book as a whole there is some inconsistency in how terms are used, which may lead to confusion for those dipping in and out. Issues such as forced marriages, although explored in a very open manner, would definitely have benefited from the inclusion of work done by practitioners on sexuality and masculinity in particular. These two issues are noteworthy in their absence throughout the book, which is surprising when there is so much good work being done with black young people on these issues.

Otherwise it's great and practitioners, students and trainers should all find something useful in it for their purposes.

Reviewed by Baljeet Singh Gill, Lecturer in youth and community work, Ruskin College.

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