By all accounts, I shouldn’t be standing
here today. Parents who were drug abusers, council estate
upbringing, currently looking for work. I wasn’t meant for this stage. This camera.
These lights. In one way or another, all my life I’ve
been told I don’t matter. That my voice doesn’t count. That I’m defined by my
disadvantage. Not born with a silver spoon but a black mark.
And sometimes, I believe them. I first remember being called a chav when
I was six. A group of men – white and middle class – took
one look at me and spat out that word like it was my name.
Society will remain broken until we learn to look beneath the surface. We see a tracksuit,
a skin colour, a hijab, and that’s all we need to know.
But we know nothing. CHAV – Council Housed and Violent. Moorland’s Estate in Brixton may be my home, but
those men didn’t know my circumstances. They didn’t know that I took the bus to school
by myself every day Because of how badly I wanted an education. They didn’t know I’d
never start a fight. They judged me on my appearance and not my values. In reality I
was busy looking after my Nan. When things were really bad at home I would
go sit in the community centre. I was five or six, and staying out past midnight. And
there were gangs there. But rather than trying to recruit me, they gave me money to buy chicken
and chips and sat with me to make sure I was safe.
Most people aren’t all bad. Or all good. And then at secondary school, In and out
of care, I saw the students with As and A*s were the ones getting all the opportunities.
The chance to go on trips, to do debating, to become leaders. But there’s no correlation
between academic success and leadership skills. A simultaneous equation can’t tell you if
someone’s respected. I might not be the most book-smart, but why was I labelled a
failure? Why was I destined for lesser things? Its like judging a fish on how well it can
climb a tree. Fish have other talents. I became Governor of my College, and got
to ask Vice Cable questions at the election hustings. I joined the Labour Party, and
interned with Helen Hayes in her Parliamentary Office. I was selected to join The Advocacy
Academy and Campaign Bootcamp, two crazy competitive activist training Fellowships. I worked with
Citizens UK to secure genuinely affordable housing for struggling families in South London.
And now, the chav from the chip shop is here, talking to you. I could have risen to the label and dropped
my aspirations but I was determined to defy everyone’s expectations of me. And people
like me. I set my sights on Parliament. Parliament. The place to fight inequality,
right? Except that the majority of our MPs grew up privileged, much more privileged than
the majority of people they represent. The likelihood of a poor black kid becoming the
next Prime Minister is one in seventeen million. But if you’re a white privately educated
boy, it’s just one in 200,000. And the top six private colleges in the UK send the
same amount of people to Oxbridge as 1051 state colleges together. 1051. I have a better chance at winning the
Lottery. But I’m still going to try. Because someone has to be the first, so why not me?
Or you. And because if I try, then maybe another mixed race kid growing up in Brixton might
think that he can too. The more of us that stand up, and stay standing even when we’re
laughed at and labelled, the more society will begin to accept that a young person of
colour from a low income background is a crucial part of the democratic story of this country, tracksuit
and all, whether they like it or not. I believe that the most aspirational place
in the world isn’t London or Los Angeles, it’s the graveyard. The graveyard is packed
full of inventions never created, businesses never
built, books never written, ideas never shared. Row upon row of the dead, who were
told – who believed – that bigger things “weren’t
for the likes of them.” Don’t die with your dreams still inside you. I could have addressed all this to the haters,
but I’m speaking to you today, not to them. You – who remembers the first label you were
given. Failure. Special needs. Future criminal. I see you, watching me and thinking –
“that could never be me.” I know that feeling. It’s called impostor syndrome
– like our dreams are too big for us. I’m done being told who I am and what I can do. Are
you? People see a mixed raced guy with a slit
in his eye – obviously means he’s about to commit a crime. What if that “crime” were
to inspire the next generation? To make them feel like they have no limitations, whether
they are mixed, black, Latino or Asian? Then yeah, I hope I can commit many “crimes” and
change our nation. Because my identity is more than my appearance,
and just because you’re white doesn’t mean you should get clearance while black kids
get stopped and searched, but police fuel our perseverance. We must continue to strive for our goals.
In a world where the lighter we are means the brighter we are;
Where being a minority means we have no say
And must do the jobs with the lowest pay;
Where being a girl means you should have no flaws
and should look just like the Photoshopped models
on billboards. Its time for us all to say no more.
Students only make up 20% of the population,
But we are 100% of the future generation.
We should be taught that our identity is more than
skin deep, Or what we wear, and
what people think. Because everyone’s identity
is unique, And it’s really the values we hold
deep, That makes us the individuals
we want people to see, not our hoodies
or the way that we speak. So next time you see a six foot tall guy,
Slit eye, Big build from Brixton,
Don’t instantly think he’s going to prison.
Because he could have a vision to become the next politician
to bring an end to sexism, racism and every type of “ism”,
That create a system of oppression and
division. Because a section of our
population are being imprisoned
Just for being born “different” than the standard tradition. You are able to break the label.