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 Sunday, 19 January, 2003, 22:11 GMT
Ms Dynamite's plea over gun crime
The Ellis family on stage at Villa Park
Relatives of the dead girls led tributes
Rap star Ms Dynamite has called for an end to gun crime as she performed at a concert to remember two teenagers shot dead in Birmingham.

She called for black people to "start loving instead of killing each other" in a poem she read out to an 8,000-strong audience.

The concert-goers also had a pledge from Prime Minister Tony Blair that he would not rest until the gun criminals were brought to justice, in a letter sent to the event's organisers.

Ms Dynamite
Ms Dynamite: Called for community to wake up

But singer Beverley Knight accused the government of being "irresponsible and misguided" in their approach to Britain's gun culture.

Friends and family of the Charlene Ellis, 18, and her 17-year-old cousin Latisha Shakespeare were among those who gathered for the tribute concert at Aston Football Club on Sunday.

The cousins were killed in a hail of bullets outside a New Year party in Aston, on 2 January.

'Tragic murders'

Ms Dynamite - real name Niomi McLean-Daley - said in her poem it was time for the community to wake up and stop living up to stereotypes.

And the Brit Award nominee said only miracles could change the problems facing Britain.

"I would love to see basically everything in the dreams of young black people and how we are seen, how we see ourselves, how we are treated and how we treat each other change".

Although Charlene is dead in the flesh, we know that she is alive in spirit

Charlene Ellis's brother Michael

Mr Blair said the whole nation had shared "the horror and repulsion of the tragic murder of these two young girls."

The girls themselves had rejected the gun culture, he said in a letter read out to the concert.

"The home secretary and I will not rest until those who carry out such cowardly and ruthless acts of violence are caught and brought to justice, " he continued.

But soul diva Knight criticised Home Secretary David Blunkett for picking on music as a "soft target" in explaining violence on Britain's streets.

Earlier this month Mr Blunkett attacked artists who made music which glamorised gun violence.

"Violence is inextricably linked with poverty and communities that have had an economic break-down - that brings the guns and the violence", said Ms Knight.

Brother's tribute

Charlene's brother Michael told the crowd how his sister had said when she was just seven-years-old that her ambition was to be a mother.

"Charlene Ellis was a special sister, daughter, niece and cousin. We, her family, loved her dearly," he said.

"She was humble, innocent and intelligent, artistic and very creative.

"Although Charlene is dead in the flesh, we know that she is alive in spirit and alive in our hearts.

Charlene's mother, Norma, spoke of forgiveness and love in a tribute poem for the two girls.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Martin Popplewell
"The concert was a chance for the community to air its grief"

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online

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18 Jan 03 | England
09 Jan 03 | Politics
07 Jan 03 | Politics
07 Jan 03 | UK
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