Advocacy Academy students launch this year’s campaigns

MP Helen Hayes with this year's Advocacy Academy students at the Houses of Parliament
MP Helen Hayes with this year’s Advocacy Academy students at the Houses of Parliament

The Brixton-based Advocacy Academy is dedicated to preparing young people to bring about social change.

A free academy fellowship gives students the tools, skills and confidence to tackle thorny subjects. Students choose a particular issue to tackle throughout an intense six-month course.

They choose big ones – domestic violence, sexual harassment, racism, body image, bullying, homelessness and mental illness.

This year’s students launched their campaigns at the Houses of Parliament with local MP and host Helen Hayes.

Although the topics are diverse, the common threads running through the speeches were confidence, passion and eloquence.

Academy students work with top campaigners, creatives, academics and coaches to help them develop skills ranging from leading a grassroots campaign to addressing MPs in the House of Commons.

Below are edited extracts from four Brixton students’ debut speeches. MPs had better watch their backs.

Applications for next year’s programme open in January 2020. A free Advocacy Academy fellowship is perfect for anyone who is passionate about changing things in their community, society or world. Applicants must be going into Year 12 or 13 and living or going to school in South London (an SW or SE home or school postcode).

Applicants complete an online form and submit 200 words, or a three-minute video, telling the academy what makes them angry. An informal interview follows.

No particular grades or experience are needed.

#ICFREE – Olamide Taiwo (17)

We are not the stereotypes people make about us

Our campaign addresses racial profiling and the perception of BAME people in our society. There are many stereotypes and misconceptions about who we are. Our campaign, ICFREE wants to challenge this.

The concept comes from the identity codes used by the police and how, when black people are identified, there always seems to be a generalised tone when speaking about us.

The majority of us are categorised as IC3, despite the fact that we are not all the same.

We aim to address the problems that surface in the education and criminal justice system, when we generalise people into one category.

ICFREE liberates BAME people from racial profiling. We are not the stereotypes that people make about us. We want to change the perceptions people have of us. We want to be free.


ICONIQ – Gabriella Sanchez Ango (17)

A community not only of celebration but of understanding

ICONIQ started simply, a group of loud queer kids sitting in a misshapen circle, reminiscing on the good old days when things were much simpler and we hadn’t yet learnt first-hand how cruel the world could be.

Sitting in that circle, telling our stories, felt a lot like pulling teeth.

At first, none of us spoke. Then, the floodgates opened and years and years of anger and bitterness came out.

It was then that ICONIQ, a safe space for the queer youth of Lambeth, came to life.

No more ultimatums. No more sacrifices. Simply a place where kids get to be kids. Where you can be as queer and as loud as you want.

As queer kids, we have spent most of our lives hiding. ICONIQ doesn’t believe in that. ICONIQ believes in a community that can save lives, a community of not only celebration but understanding and learning too.

At ICONIQ, we intend to provide kids with the family they should have had so that, maybe, one day they can learn what so many of us struggled with – how to be proud of who they are.

No Papers Please! Petar (17)

A charter to create safe havens for migrants

The UK has always been a nation of immigrants. This does not mean that migrants have always been welcome.

Lambeth has had 718 racist hate crimes in the past year. In the month after the Brexit vote, hate crimes rose by 58%. What has the government’s official policy been?

The hostile environment. Policies intended to make life for undocumented migrants hard and deporting them easy. This has meant that much needed legal aid has been slashed for those who need it most. And the widespread use of indefinite detention, which has been incredibly ineffective and almost always results in mental or physical harm for those inside.

This is why we are launching our campaign: No Papers Please. Our aim is to create a charter that boroughs can sign up to, to become safe havens for migrants. Signing up to the charter would mean that the borough would have to protect the rights and dignity of all migrants, be they documented or not.

Fill In The Blanks – Rochelle (16)

Why we must teach our youth about the horrors of empire

Year 8. Second period. History class …

We’re learning about the transatlantic slave trade and my teacher begins the lesson by proclaiming that slavery has nothing to do with race.

I open my mouth in protest but no words come out. I leave the classroom angry and confused. Silent. I was speechless.

Four years later, I have found my voice as part of a group called Fill in the Blanks.

We are campaigning for a compulsory Key Stage 3 history module on British colonial history because we believe this will lead to a reframing of immigrant identities and subvert the narrative that empire was a beneficial and benevolent endeavour.

White supremacy cannot, and will not, be dismantled until we teach people to acknowledge the horrors of empire.

We can continue to feed young people the fantasy that we live in a post-colonial vacuum, or we can begin to teach our history and fill in the blanks.