Black History Month: 'Why are we not being celebrated all year round?'

Jo Hailey of Striking Places

St Albans resident Michael Wallace co-founded off kickoff@3 - Credit: Striking Places

As part of our celebration of Black History Month, we spoke to the co-founder of a youth organisation that supports development through the medium of sport.

Michael Wallace set up St Albans based non-profit organisation Kickoff@3 because he wanted to create more opportunities that young vulnerable people couldn't always access.

Michael, who co-founded the initiative with Ashley Levien, explained: "The ethos of Kickoff@3 is to use the power of sport and music to spread key messages of hope and change across diverse groups."

Michael said over the last four years the organisation has put on sport and music activities which have enabled the young people who attend the sessions to develop holistically, with many using Kickoff@3 as a springboard onto training courses, internships and employment. 

"Sometimes we receive letters saying how much we have helped them - we always try and keep in touch to follow their progress," he explained.

He said Black History Month was a bit of a gesture: "Why are we not being celebrated all year round? I have experienced racism from childhood. We have come some way in our communities but there is still a lot of work to be done with the younger generation of black boys and girls."

Michael, who is a serving Met Police officer, said he is driven by a passion to engage with all young people, not just those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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"It is very challenging being a black police officer, especially in areas where there is serious youth violence, and it is hard at times to be accepted by various community sectors where you are genuinely trying to make a difference."

"I understand the challenges that young people have in communicating with the police, not least around how to approach each other and the attitudes they hold, which is why I work tirelessly to help break down the barriers and form a better understanding and how we can all work to overcome these challenges."

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