Trevor Hercules is a mentor, author and founder of the Hercules Programme (VIBRANCY KLAXON!:’Inner school hardcore mentoring is a new, innovative, and vibrant way for dealing with problematic students…’). And of course, he’s touting for business – where else? – in CiF:
Hearing the news about Operation Trident, the Metropolitan police unit set up to tackle gun crime in black communities, taking on teenage gangs, all I could think was: “How many different units are they going to set up to tackle this?” Something new has to be done.
And you’re here to be that ‘new thing’, I guess?
I was in care most of my formative years, and from there I moved on to hostels, detention centres, borstals – and finally prison. Ten years of my life was spent in jail, two in solitary confinement. Oh, and by the way I am black. The reason I mention this is that I always had a problem with my identity living in a predominantly white society, and at times I felt very alienated.
You know, Trev, being a minority isn’t really something da yoof of today can really relate to, given that in quite a lot of areas of London now, they are the majority.
Like many young people living in our most deprived communities, I had a certain mindset. On large council estates, where people are struggling to make ends meet while being bombarded by adverts for the latest goods and fashions they will never be able to afford, economic deprivation can lead to young people feeling like social outcasts…
Strange sort of advertising, that doesn’t seem to have that effect on white/Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai and other minorities, Trevor, eh?
Maybe it’s something else?
Often parents and extended family members are unemployed and feelings of negativity and despair begin to rub off. Maybe members of their family have been through the criminal justice system – certainly someone in their peer group will have been.
Ah. Well now, yes, there is a certain ‘cycle of criminality’ here, isn’t there?
Their world view – which I call a social deprivation mindset – lacks a moral dimension, and has little interest in social responsibility, or interaction with society as a whole. They have their own codes and belief system that rules the day, regardless of society.
Perhaps, then, an answer is to remove them from society? After all, it seems to be what finally worked with you.
…this thinking is very dangerous, and pulls others into its clutches. Young people think: “We have nothing, so we have nothing to lose.” They have not had proper moral guidance from family, schools or society, or been taught that they have real options.
So, what should we do?
We can only change this mindset by re-educating them in school, with classes that teach them moral and spiritual values.
At school? Don’t teachers have enough to do, Trev? And isn’t it too damn late by then, anyway?
Shouldn’t families be doing this sort of stuff?
They need to be taught about a work ethic throughout their school life – these things should now be standard schooling.
The schools haven’t got time Trev, and nor do they have the responsibility for this. They are too busy, in any case, implementing the ‘prizes for all’ concept so beloved of the folks who probably invited you to write for CiF…
Thankfully I changed my life. I had to go through a long process; there was no one I respected in authority. I had to spend many years in prison before I realised there was much more to me. People like me need to be utilised – especially among the black community, where many of these youngsters are lacking black male role models.
Ahhh, right. So you are shilling for a job, then?
Today I run a mentoring programme, and speak in prisons and schools with support from my local MP, Justine Greening. I have just given a talk at the Houses of Parliament on reducing re-offending: I have come a long way. People like me, who were and are disillusioned with a society that they believed alienated them have so much to offer society if we bring them in from the cold – and we can.
So, you’re going top lead these youths by example, eh, Trev? ‘Look at me – I spent years in prison and now they give me money direct from the taxpayer for telling you about it! Sweet deal, eh?’