'Knockbacks haven't stopped me fighting for young Sheffield people' - anti-knife campaigner tells his life story after awards nomination
After the birth of my second child, I found myself lost in a place of violence and depression. My outlook on life was negative, expect the worst and trust nobody because no nobody is there when you need them.
This outlook was purely based on my upbringing, living in council houses and moving homes frequently. I had found myself easily placed in a world of criminality due to the violence at home and not having a positive role model: my role model being the Notorious BIG and local drug dealers.
I had no purpose, no focus and other than my children, no real reason to live. Until I decided enough was enough and I wanted to live for others, set examples to others, not just my children, but their children’s, children’s, children. Do you know your great-great-grand parents? Why not, they are the reason you are here.
Anyway, I locked myself in my house until I came up with a game plan; the first step was easy, get an income. I got a job at a local frozen food chain doing deliveries. The pay was rubbish but it got me mixing with different people and I was able to provide for my family: each pay check made me proud. Then there was a problem, I kept getting pain in my feet and my toes went numb. I went to my doctor and was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and extreme flat foot. A foot disability that causes me major issues with mobility. I got signed off from work, it was a big blow, I should have been upset as my old mindset was right. However, I was ready, I was focused and ready to tackle this issue head on.
Back the drawing board, as I couldn’t work with my body I had to work with my brain. The next step was university. I looked at courses and chose one I felt I could enjoy, computer networks. I went back to college to get a maths GCSE. I passed with a B and got into university. At this stage I was 24, with two children and I felt so much out of my comfort zone. My first ever test result would change the rest of my life.My tutor put me in for a learning difficulty test as she saw I was struggling. Dyslexic, here we are again another knock back? Not for me! I read books on it, watched videos, anything to help me understand. Throughout that year I thought myself how to learn my own way. Every year I passed with a makeover 70 per cent allowing me to get my degree with a first. Then I went on to do a masters in Advanced Computer network engineering and scored the highest mark in the class.
During my time at university, I started Stay Safe Security LTD, a security company that specialises in safeguarding vulnerable children and adults. I loved the company as it is helping people, but not enough. So midway through my masters I set up another company, Limitless homes and support with a friend. It is supported accommodation for young people aged 16 to 18. My job is education and engagement mentor and it is growing faster than we could have ever imagined, we are making a huge difference.
As soon as my security company was able to give me a wage, I was able to do what I wanted to do, help young people, this came in the form of an award-winning anti-knife crime campaign called #KeepSheffieldStainess. I delivered free workshops, purchased a weapons bin and provided weapons collection. Unfortunately, during the campaign I developed secondary trauma and PTSD through what I had seen when I was younger (a murder when I was 16) and stories from people that needed help.
I nearly gave up. But I felt that I just needed to focus on the helping by looking at the mind behind the weapon and offer support to young people. So, I created Always An Alternative, a not for profit.
I still do workshops and 121s but now I focus on the mindset, not the weapon.
We now have six weapons bins, the last collection collected over 50 weapons. I have teamed up with Sheffield Forge to run free American football training sessions. My part is the mindset coach! I also talk with parents to ensure their behaviour is good at home.
During Covid we made a pen pal project and over 100 kids got involved.
Finally, my book, One Knives Many Lives! I created it to spread awareness of the destruction knife crime causes while highlighting domestic abuse, substance misuse and mental health. I self-published the book and I didn’t even have a C in English. Something I am very proud of.All the work I have done around youth violence and empowerment is voluntary. In the past three years I haven't taken a wage, it all goes back into the young people.
Anthony has been put forward for The National Diversity Awards 2021.
To vote for him visit: https://nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/nominate/34611/