In our new video series, three young activists bring the spotlight back to knife crime, the climate crisis, and the Grenfell Tower tragedy
With Brexit talked about twice as much as the climate crisis in 2019 and the Tories so focused on “getting Brexit done”, it’s hard to see past the headlines and remember what else you’re voting for. To refresh your memory, we spoke to three young campaigners on the frontline about knife crime, the climate crisis, and Grenfell for our documentary series, Anything But Brexit.
In our first video, 16-year-old activist Athian Akec – who previously spoke about the knife crime crisis in parliament – talks openly and passionately about why he thinks the knife crime epidemic is something that needs to be tackled urgently and effectively. Speaking to Dazed a few days ahead of today’s election, Akec said: “As each day passes, the massive potential of my community is being wasted all by politicians who are driven by a desire to redesign our society in a neoliberal vision.”
According to filmmaker Hugh Clegg, working with Akec was “very emotional”. He praised the teen for explaining “the complexities of the UK’s knife crime crisis, as well as offering comprehensive solutions”.
If the knife crime epidemic continues without something changing, Akec believes Britain will have “a lost generation whose adolescence has been defined by low educational opportunity, high living costs and stagnant wages, cuts to mental health services, the erosion of social security, and a general sense of all-consuming despair and hopelessness”.
Starring in our second video is Anna Taylor – co-founder of the UK Student Climate Network, a group who arrange student-led strikes and protests across the country. At 18 years old, Taylor is one of the leading voices in the climate crisis, and, in her Anything But Brexit video, passionately explains why she thinks it’s a more important topic than the EU referendum.
In 2019, the UK Student Climate Network organised over 850 demonstrations including September’s Global Climate Strike, which saw over 300,000 people take to the streets. Discussing how she got involved with climate activism, Taylor said: “I felt there was a severe lack of awareness about climate change among young people in the UK, and as a result, a lack of motivation for action alongside this.”
Our third campaigner, Tayshan Hayden-Smith, comes from the community of Grenfell victims who have tried to create positive change. In his video, he explains how the tragic events of 2017 redefined his relationship with politics, and why he decided to campaign for change. A father of two, Hayden-Smith was described by Clegg as someone who “still finds the time to campaign and help others”. The filmmaker continued: “It’s a constant reminder that there is always time in the day to make some positive change.”
Part of the Justice4Grenfell campaign, Hayden-Smith is just one from a long list of fathers, mothers, and children who “while grieving the deaths of their most loved ones in a fire that was wholly avoidable” are having to “campaign for justice when they should be in a state of peace and recuperation”.
In addition to this, Hayden-Smith also started his own personal project, known as Acklam Nature Project or The Olive Branch Charity, which is a gardening group based in North Kensington that operates on council-owned green spaces, and has now bloomed into a bustling community group.
As the Tories continue to spout hate, Akec, Taylor, and Hayden-Smith are working tirelessly to make the world a better place. As Clegg says: “All three all have solutions that could be implemented and could create genuine change in the UK. The current set of politicians just aren’t listening.”
The UK’s general election is happening today – it’s imperative that you use your voice. Polling stations are open until 10pm tonight. Find out where to vote here, or look at the address on your polling card.