Someone’s sister, mother or friend

Ruby Gregory talks to people involved in a documentary investigating women and young girls who are coerced into gangs, featuring a former victim who grew up in Brixton.

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Lucy Martindale

Lucy Martindale lived in Brixton in the 1990s and became involved in a gang at 14.

When she was nine, Lucy witnessed the murder of her cousin and would later lose 10 close friends and family members to gang-related incidents.

She says: “This generation is traumatised. There is rarely a young person I meet or know that has not lost someone due to murder.

“It is quite common now, they are all suffering.”

It took Lucy years to report the domestic violence she was experiencing, but she was supported by an older female journalist to contact the police. 

Even after she walked away from the gang to rebuild her life, Lucy and her family moved around London eight times in the space of five years for safety. 

Today, Lucy is a youth worker and supports young people and the families of young people who are groomed into gangs.

Operation Shutdown is an anti-knife-crime organisation launched in 2019 by Lucy with bereaved mothers and youth workers across London.

A charity established by Lucy collectively tackling issues of knife crime, youth violence, domestic violence and county lines gang violence will soon be available as a service for young people. 

Lucy says the impact of lockdown has caused an increase in gang-related violence and that it becomes harder to engage with young people through Zoom and Microsoft Teams instead of face-to-face support. 

GXNG GIRLS title

GXNG GIRLS is one way Lucy hopes to raise awareness and show young people there is a progressive path away from gangs. 

“Sharing personal stories of trauma is not easy to do.

“I have to put aside my insecurities and vulnerabilities and think of the bigger picture and how it raises awareness.”

Funding and resources for education, safeguarding, mental health support and local grassroots projects are all key issues Lucy says need to be addressed. 

She believes there is a long way to go to improve the relationship between young people and the services in their community.

“Young people are treated as perpetrators and not victims,” Lucy says.

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Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the MP for Streatham, agrees with Lucy and appears in GXNG GIRLS. 

She says in the documentary: “Young girls are bought into the criminal justice system, particularly looking at their race and class, and are just looked at as criminals.

“No one is thinking about the situation that put them there.”

Florence Eshalomi, the MP for Vauxhall who grew up in Brixton’s Moorlands estate, has spoken on this issue before. 

Her report Gang Associated Girls: Supporting young women at risk, suggests there is a lack of understanding among outsiders to recognise when gang-affiliated females are at risk.

GXNG GIRLS is an independent production by journalist Abbianca Makoni and video producer, Samson Falodun.

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Former gang member Matthew Norford in the film. He is now a youth worker and founder of 1message

Abbianca presents the documentary. She told Brixton Blog that she wants to explore the ways crime affects marginalised communities.

“We need to bring the conversation of girls and gangs back into the limelight, they are someone’s sister, mother, friend or girlfriend,” she says

“There needs to be a more gendered response.”

GXNG GIRLS premieres on YouTube this week. 

Watch the GXNG GIRLS trailer

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