Marvina Newton is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Leeds and CEO of charity Angel of Youths, which helps young people build their dream careers and positively impact their communities.
From litter picking in Harehills, excelling in sport or just taking the bins out for the neighbours, Marvina is inspired by the actions of the young people she meets every day.
And it’s those young people who should take the lead on anti-violence work in the city, Marvina believes, spreading the message that there are alternatives to carrying a knife.
As ‘freedom day’ approaches, Marvina is planning a Youth Against Violence parade in the last week of August to coincide with the virtual Leeds West Indian Carnival.
“We need to be led by young people,” Marvina told the YEP.
“Once lockdown is lifted, we know that violent crime will increase because these young people have been locked up.
“Young people have the fear of missing out on something, they may think, ‘if I’m not holding a knife, then I don’t look hard’ or ‘if I’m not beating another girl when she looks at me funny, that means I’m weak’.
“We need to show them there are alternatives – that they can uplift other people, or if they don’t like something in society they have the power to change it.
“And there’s so many young people doing that already.”
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BLM Leeds is now under an umbrella coalition of groups fighting for equality, United for Black Lives, leading national conversations around issues such as violence.
Marvina hopes that August’s march will weaken the appeal of carrying a knife, giving young people a voice to make change.
“We recognise it’s not only black issues,” she added.
“We have to work within our family community – the South Asian community and with white people in Leeds – pushing the narrative away from ‘black-on-black’ crime.
“When it happens between white people, we don’t say ‘white-on-white’ crime. Violence is violence and we have to say no to it.
“Violence of any kind can change everyone’s lives in a split second and we have to ask young people to call a ceasefire.”
Marvina is calling for more recognition for young people who are involved in ‘positive deviance’ – those who are able to find solutions to problems in their communities, despite facing similar challenges to their peers.
BLM Leeds will launch a series of events for International Youth Day on August 12 to celebrate youngsters who are having a positive impact on their communities.
Marvina added: “If you look at the services provided in the UK for young people, bad kids get more attention than anyone else. There’s a problem there.
“BLM Leeds recognises that young people should lead what they want to see out of society and services, they should be able to write their own narrative and own story. It’s their lives that are being affected by this.
“We need to think about creating more practical outlets for them that defies the normal stereotypes of what they think they need to do.”
Marvina praised the “extraordinary” organisations who are working to support young people across Leeds and called for more funding and resources into the city’s communities.
BLM Leeds will partner with Youth4Climate to launch a new organisation to address issues such as racism, youth poverty and violence.
“That intersectionality is needed to tackle those issues, it takes multiple voices,” Marvina added.
“We’re trying to give the community back that power to lead that conversation.The areas where violence is happening are often the areas that have negative stereotypes, where these things are almost expected to happen.
“It shouldn’t be expected anywhere. We have to look at how we can engage our young people in more counter-productive activities, helping them to find their voice and influence.”
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