Publisher Amanda Wilson shares why she has published a new book, where 13 prominent Black British men share details of their lives, so that young people can learn from them
Actor Hugh Quarshie, athlete Tony Jarrett, MP David Lammy. We know the names and what they are famous for, but what do we know about their lives and the challenges they had growing up as young, Black males in the United Kingdom? We hear a lot about the ‘American Struggle’ and how African American men have had their challenges throughout the decades, but what was it like to be a Black male, growing up in the United Kingdom in the 50s, 60s and 70s?
In the book, ‘Letters to a Young Generation’, 13 men have shared their life experiences in the hope that the next generation will be able to learn from their mistakes; understand that these 13 men understand the struggles they are facing, and help make the rite of passage from boys to men that bit easier.
Sometimes we fail to appreciate the number of great role models we have in the United Kingdom; we may not have Barack Obama, Morgan Freeman or Bishop TD Jakes, but we do have Clinton Jordan, Reverend Les Isaac and Julian Golding – men, who have grown up Britain, have made a mark in their industry, and are excellent role models that the next generation can look up to. And, when you read the letters they have penned in ‘Letters to a Young Generation’, you’ll understand that, for them, growing up wasn’t easy.
Reverend Les had a big shock when, at the age of six, his grandmother suddenly announced that he, his two sisters and his brother were moving from sunny Antigua to the less-than-sunny climate of England and, after being in London for a year, he then had to deal with his father leaving the family home. Julian Golding, well known for being the Commonwealth gold medallist, left school with one GCSE grade C in English. In 2012, he graduated from Middlesex University with a First Class Honours degree in Sports and Exercise Science with Teaching and Coaching. Clinton Jordan faced the challenges that came from growing up as a mixed-race child, and trying to live up to the expectations of those from his race and the opinions of others.
Despite the challenges faced by these and the other men featured in the book – some of whom were involved in gang crime and fraud – they have made it to a point in their lives, where they have been able to look back, reflect, and put into words what they have learnt from their experiences. And they’ve been honest – something that the younger generation can appreciate and benefit from.
Unless we are honest enough to ‘tell it like it is’, how can we ever expect the next generation to move forward with the challenges they will face in life? Contrary to popular belief, young people do appreciate it when we, as adults, are open and honest and share from our own experiences. We can often underestimate young people’s ability to deal with the truth; but if that truth is packaged in the right way, and shared in the spirit of love and sincerity, then it has the potential to set someone free; enable someone to achieve great things, and allow someone to be confident in who they have been created to be.
The men featured in ‘Letters to a Young Generation’ have experienced various challenges in their lives: being involved in gang crime and criminal activities; failing examinations; prejudice in the workplace, and family issues. Their letters demonstrate how their past has not dictated their future. As Reverend Les Isaac states in his letter: “It’s not where you’re coming from that really matters; it’s where you’re going in life. It’s not how you start in life; it’s how you finish.”
These letters are honest testimonies, and I’m grateful that the writers didn’t hold back. They didn’t try to gloss over their challenges, or pretend they’d never experienced difficulties growing up. But, at the same time, they’ve shown readers that making the right choices can make the difference between success and failure. In the words of Commonwealth gold medallist Julian Golding: “Perseverance is a fundamental prerequisite for success.”
In sharing their histories, 13 men have given the next generation an insight into how to ensure they make the right choices on their journey towards adulthood.
Amanda Wilson is a Deputy Headteacher, and an Executive Pastor at Bethesda Ministries, London. She is founder of 9:10 Publishing, publishers of ‘Letters to a Young Generation’. To get your copy, visit www.910publishing.com or any online store.