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Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Tuesday, 14 August 2007 12:10 UK

On a Knife Edge

Bim shouts at Abiola about his homework
You have still got all of that, all of that, all of that, all of that, all of that! For next Thursday! Darling!

Tonight's Panorama on gang violence, that has taken the lives of 18 teenagers in London alone this year, includes no experts or their theories on how to stop the killing.

That's because, with due respect to them, none could speak with as much authority and clarity as Bim Akerele, the mother of one of the two 15 year-old boys we feature tonight.

Bim and her husband have already had to send Abiola's older brother to Nigeria to keep him out of the clutches of gangs in Canning Town, East London where they live. Now she fears Abiola and his friend MacCarthy Anamoo could go the same way either by getting implicated in violence or ending up as victims of it.

"I know what MacCarthy is capable of, I know what Abiola is capable of. What I don't know is when they are walking on that street, what the person walking towards them is capable of. They have to know the gangs a little bit to be safe."

That is the heart of it. They have to know the gangs a little bit to be safe.

Both boys know more than one young victim of gang violence. Abiola witnessed the build up to one killing. In the film he revisits the scene even though it's the turf of a gang called Asian Virus. He calls this "slippin"; a simple bus ride which for him has enormous significance.

"Most of the boys attacking him didn't know why they were attacking him, you know what I mean, and just following the crowd and that and it resulted in tragedy really" he tells Jeremy Vine.

He doesn't want to join a gang - they call them "clicks" - but he thinks he can gain its protection if he plays his cards right. Actually joining means making enemies of other gangs.

"Don't wanna get myself in, cos once you're in its hard to get out. When you join a click you gain their enemies as well. You know? He's from Custom House, but he's not in GMG (Get Money Gangsters). I'm cool with them, but at the same time I ain't got their enemies as well if you know what I mean?

As Jeremy replies: "This is a confusing world."

Bim is seen tackling the issue head on telling the boys: "Let me ask you a question, if you are among a group of friends, can you vouch for every other boy there, that one of them is not carrying a knife? Can you?

Can you seriously put your hand on your heart and say that none of them carries a knife? You know you can't!"

Jeremy talking to Abiola (left) and MacCarthy (middle)
Jeremy talking to Abiola (left) and MacCarthy (middle)
Abiola and MacCarthy have both had the support of the Weston Spirit youth project and together with the support of teachers are well on their way to forging a life clear of gang influence but Bim will surely earn the cheers of every parent in the country when she lashes out at Abiola who is slacking on his studies.

"I've just been to your school, 99% of your teachers are telling me that you don't pull your weight in class. The quality of your work is bad! Is zero!

This homework is due on Thursday. If you don't want to rush, and you don't want to do this, then you should have done it when she told you to do it! Shouldn't you?

You have still got all of that, all of that, all of that, all of that, all of that! For next Thursday! Darling! And that's not all, you've still got your history, and your maths to catch up on! So if I was you I would start working, and I mean, start working! Trust me, there ain't no play! "

As acknowledged by Scotland Yard recently boys are influenced by their older brothers and this makes it hard to break the cycle of violence in the absence of other role models. She pleads with the boys not to give in to peer pressure.

"When I see boys, black boys in groups, on this side of the road I'll cross over to the other side. We know you're good enough. But you get distracted. Don't be one of the crowd, be the different one. The one that is distinct!"

The film ends with her telling Jeremy: "I am scared for my son, being attacked by other people. That's what I am scared of. I feel for them, I really, really do. I feel for all of the black boys out there, and trust me there are loads and loads of innocent black boys out there.

Jeremy Vine: "Why are so many kids dying and what can be done to stop it?

Bim: "Oh I wish I'd know the answer to that, it is a lot of hard work, trust me it is hard. But parents have got to pull their weight. They've got to. Yes the police is going to do the job. They are going to arrest them, take them to court, but the most pain is here, and if you're a mum. You don't want that pain.

So you might as well put the work in now."

That's why there are no experts in the film tonight.

Panorama: On a Knife Edge - BBC One on Monday, 13 August at 2030 BST

Transcript - On a Knife Edge
10 Dec 07 |  Panorama
Jessie's mother fears gang attack
13 Aug 07 |  Manchester
Attacking youths 'causing mayhem'
07 Aug 07 |  South West Wales
Do youth clubs help stop crime?
26 Jul 07 |  Magazine
Street life
28 Feb 07 |  Magazine


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