The Advocacy Academy
When you grow up in Brixton, shocking things become normal to you. Once, on my walk home, I saw a boy who’d been excluded from my school pull a knife on someone. Another time, I saw a boy I knew getting chased by the police. Young people in my community see these things on a daily basis, yet none of the teachers at school are willing to talk about them.
I first discovered the Advocacy Academy in an assembly. It was so refreshing to hear issues in the community being talked about properly by an adult. In my application, I wrote about how I see Brixton stigmatised in the media, and how it’s only ever gang or knife-crime being reported on. Then in my interview we discussed things I hadn’t even spoken to my family or friends about. I started crying. I felt like my voice was finally being taken seriously.
On the first residential, the most important thing for me, and I think many others, was the part on sexual harassment. I spoke about getting slut-shamed in school, and after others shared their experiences it made me realise I wasn’t alone in what I’ve been through. For my speech in Parliament, I was so scared and intimidated. I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell my story to people there who I didn’t know. But I realised I needed to do it on behalf of other girls who’ve suffered from harassment. I talked about fighting against sexual harassment in schools by running workshops for teachers. Then we got to work.
We quickly realised if we were going to get through to teachers we needed to make students care, first, so we put posters up around my school. We also practiced our workshop delivery at Battersea Arts Centre and it had such a surprising impact! It allowed people who otherwise don’t have a chance to share their stories to speak and be listened to. At the end, everyone made personal pledges to root out the problem of sexual harassment. For example, some of the boys pledged not to say the ‘b-word’. Later, we came up with having a page in school homework planners that provides support for students who experience harassment. It all culminated in having a meeting at my school this summer to implement our ideas.
To me, the Advocacy Academy means change. It means power, working together and applying things you learn to the real world. Not just in big campaigns, but in small situations, too, like calling people out when they say offensive things. Since I joined the Academy, I’ve had lots of debates with people about how to treat girls, relationships and racism. People at my school all know about the Academy now simply because of how many times we’ve had debates!
The Academy isn’t like NCS, where you might build bonds with your team but you won’t achieve anything real. It’s bigger than that - it’s about being respected, not liked. Before the Academy, I thought racism, sexism and poverty were inevitable. I was pessimistic about society. But now confident about leading change. It doesn’t have to be white, middle class people on the news talking about our community. We can speak for ourselves.
“To me, the Advocacy Academy means change. It means power, working together and applying things you learn to the real world...”
— Amina, Class of 2018
The Baytree Centre
Ebony Horse Club
ML Community Enterprise
MLCE supported a young person who was deemed hard work, had been to various services within Lambeth, and who felt that they all exited him from their service due to his lack of commitment and behaviour.
Over the past few months, he has engaged very well with us and the reason for his 100% commitment was that our service worked with him on various attitude, mental and emotional wellbeing areas and his future prospects in terms of work or education.
This meant different team members with targeted skills were involved in the engagement, from our counselling team, employment officer, and his key worker.
The engagement with the young person is still on-going as a result of the trust we have built with him and our flexibility in responding to his needs.