At 18, Kenny Imafidon was arrested and charged with murder. Now he devotes his life to fighting social injustice, and getting young people engaged with politics and society…
‘I was at my mum’s house in Peckham when the police came, two days after my eighteenth birthday. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I grew up in the area with just my mum and little brother. My mum came to this country 25 years ago from Nigeria and deprived herself, working menial jobs, so we could have the best possible life. She drummed into me that if you’ve got education, the world is your oyster – so I always took my education seriously and enjoyed school. Before I got arrested I was studying philosophy, politics, economics and history at college: very different to many of the friends I grew up with, a lot of whom got kicked out of school early.
I was charged in a big joint enterprise case, with five people arrested for six charges, including murder. Joint enterprise means you can be found guilty by association, which I think is an injustice. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that the police had been using it unjustly and disproportionately with black and minority ethnic communities for the last few decades – those aren’t my words, those are their words.
I was on remand for six months, and the conditions in prison were terrible. I was at HM Prison Feltham, but it’s not just there: it’s a wider problem. Prisons are understaffed, so a lot of people spend 24 hours a day in a cell, not doing worthwhile activities or getting the training they need to be employed when they leave.
Eventually I was fortunate enough to be acquitted. I don’t have a criminal record, but if I did, my chances of getting a job would be slim. If people in prison don’t already have certain skills or a good level of education, of course they’re going to reoffend when they come out. Rehabilitation just doesn’t happen.
I’ve always been passionate about social change. Growing up, I saw a lot of people struggling to get by, affected by drugs and alcohol, and I felt a sense of duty to do something about it. Before my arrest I was gaining political experience. I had a mentor who worked at the Home Office and he took me to a meeting with junior ministers and Theresa May, who was home secretary at the time. But I’ve got no silver spoon; I’m just a young black guy from Peckham passionately trying to do something.
Since coming out of prison I’ve become a social entrepreneur. My company, Clearview Research, helps organisations striving for social, racial and economic justice. I’m involved in campaigns to get more young people engaged with politics, like Bite the Ballot, and I recently met Theresa May again, this time at 10 Downing Street. I’m also a governor at a local school. Black representation on governing boards is key, as black students are three times more likely to be excluded.
I’m trying to raise aspirations, because kids need to understand they can be whoever they want to be. It’s my responsibility to remain authentic and make sure the young people aren’t forgotten. I’m very aware that I live a privileged life now, but that’s not the reality for
a lot of young black males from places like I’m from. I hope they see that regardless of what storms may come into your life, you can be who you want to be. You have the potential.’
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