Where The Devil Won't Go

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The Myatts Field Estate in Brixton, South London, has been described as a place that not even the devil would venture. Known locally as ‘Baghdad’, armed police are not an unfamiliar site in an estate that is the birthing ground of two of South London’s most notorious gangs. Under the all-seeing eyes of spike-protected CCTV cameras, Nicholas, Terrol and Karl are three young men who once forged formidable reputations in their previous incarnations as OC gang members. Now these young men are devout Christians, completely turning their back on lifestyles of crime, violence, fast money and the security that comes with gang affiliation. Where The Devil Won’t Go tells their compelling stories through photographs and their own words.

Transcript of Where The Devil Won't Go

  • where the devilwont go

  • Copyright Jendella 2013

    The right of Jendella to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

    First published in Great Britain in 2011

    Printed and bound in the Netherlands

    All rights reserved. The digital edition of this book is available freely for digital distribution as a whole entity, unedited and unaltered from its original state. Individual extracts of text or images are not permitted to be reproduced or published in any form, digital or otherwise, without the express written consent of the author. The print edition of this book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author.

    Design, images and text by Jendella.

  • AcknowledgementsThis project would not have been possible without the cooperation and

    hospitality from Pastor Mimi, the leadership and all the members of Word of Grace Ministries, the guidance and support of Paul Jenkins,

    Hainsley Brown and Charlie Murphy, and the moral support and encouragement from Sean Benson and Florence Adepoju.

  • When approaching the Myatts Field estate from Brixton Road you will find an abandoned trailer with the letters GAS graffitied across it in black. If you were in any doubt about whose territory you are stepping into before, this landmark serves as a clear reminder.

    GAS gang are close affiliates of the notorious OC gang based around the Myatts Field estate, an estate that is known as Baghdad by the locals. Armed police officers are not an unfamiliar sight around the estate and closed circuit television cameras survey the area from high vantage points protected by spikes and anti-climb paint. This is an area that, according to one reporter, not even the devil would venture.

    Hidden between the stairwells and sirens are former gang members living lives under very different circumstances. They have turned their backs on the lifestyles they used to live, forsaking crime, violence and their formidable reputations for new lives as devout Christians.

    While the government, local authorities and the judicial system search for ways to stem the tide of gang-related crime, violence and death and the media whips up moral panic with tales and statistics, there are some that have found an escape route.

    Here are the stories of three of them, in their own words, explaining why they got in and how they got out.

  • My names Terroll. I grew up in Myatts Field, Brixton, thats South London. Growing up on an estate with no father figure around affected me, so the people I looked up to were the older guys around the estate. They had nice cars, jewellery and that so Im thinking thats the life there. That was their influence, my life was brought up on influence.

    Getting into a gang just happened; youve got loads of friends, all hanging around together and that becomes a gang. If you live in the area youre part of the gang, even if you dont say

    that you are, youre seen as one of them, thats how it is. When youre younger you dont know what youre getting yourself into and you just get into fights and what not. As you get older, its not really about the violence, its about money, trying to get your money up, but you have to look behind your back all the time because all the madness you were keeping about when you were younger catches up on you. A lot of gang members usually say, Im going to get my money up then leave because you realise that you need to start planning for the future ahead and you just need to get out of it.

  • Ive got seven tattoos. The one on my neck on the left is a tattoo of the gang I used to be in, OC, One Chance. The other side says live everyday like its your last because when I was on the road that was basically how I lived. Ive got one on my left arm, cry now, smile later. A lot of people know the phrase smile now, cry later but the things that Ive been through and this world were in, I believe that its a stressful time that we have to go through now to make us who we are in the future. My motto is you have to go down to go up and going down, going through all these troubles, Im crying right now. Im going through stress stages and Im going through depression stages, but I know that soon Ill be able to smile.

    The change has been powerful but its not an overnight change, definitely not. It was a long process actually letting the world go and even now Im going through a lot of things so thats why I will never point my finger at anyone who was where I was. They all have respect for me, because they know where Im coming from and we can talk to each other. They respect me but they dont understand, theyre interested, they just dont understand how Ive done it. To tell you the truth, its only God.

    My consistency has been good as a Christian, Ive been striving. The way I can explain it is Ive come out the blocks in a race and Im jumping hurdles. I clip hurdles sometimes, Ive even hit the hurdles and ended up stumbling and falling sometimes but Ive never stayed on the floor, I just get back up and keep on jumping those hurdles. Once theyve hit a hurdle, hurdlers stumble and they cant get their rhythm again, but its only by the Holy Spirit that I keep my rhythm and Ive got that same rhythm that I started off with. Its just like a race to me and the finish line is ahead but there are a lot of hurdles that I still need to jump. Its not easy and athletes need composure, skill, speed and agility. As a Christian Ive got to use prayer, fasting and reading the Word of God.

    I never really knew what a father was but once I accepted God into my life, I dont know how but I knew in my heart what a father was and it changed me. Before, I didnt want kids but my whole perspective has changed and Im going to be the best father for my children one day. Its given me that peace of mind that everything is going to be alright and if I die tonight, Ill be with my Father God in Heaven. Ive just got that peace.

  • I go by the name of Lox, my government name is Karl, my stage name is Mr Cmon. Ive lived here all my life, but I didnt live directly on the estate, I lived just on the edge of it.

    My first major influences in life were my dad and my older brother and I would just watch the gangs that were around. There were people my age who were already involved, but because I had so many restrictions I never really had a chance to become acquainted with everybody like that. When I left primary school and went to secondary school, my eyes opened to more and I started looking for different people as role

    models and I doubt I picked the best ones. In year seven I had one hundred per cent attendance, I was in the top set for every single lesson, they put me in the gifted and talented programs, they labelled me a young genius - I was a very, very good boy. Then that ship sank at a fast rate! From year seven summer holiday I started flir ting with the other side.

    Growing up here was educational, but not the sort of education that you can get from a book. It showed me the harsh realities of life, and that people can do some foul things and foul situations can make good people do foul things as well.

  • I was in a gang before I was in OC, but I joined OC when I was in year nine which would make me fourteen. I got involved in gangs because I was getting victimised, its a dog eat dog world. I used to see boys from the estate, theyre friends now obviously, but back then they were just the bad boys from the estate and Id have to hide my phone. I would bring home a friend from school and theyd rob him because he wasnt a local. Id be riding my bike and theyd punch me and take my bike, I wouldnt get peace. When I became a gangster my brother didnt have to be because now what I was doing was covering us all. My brother was getting oppressed as well but when I became a gang member that stopped. My mums car was getting broken into before but when I became a gang member around the estate it never happened. There was the normal financial gain as well and it was like a family, there was a sense of belonging.

    It was very hard to leave old relationships behind, some of them understood, but most of them didnt. If they had looked carefully a change was inevitable because before I left I was starting to talk about Christ and say that what we were doing was wrong.

    It was hard because we lean on each other, we dont call ourselves a gang, we call ourselves family and when a family members in trouble you feel obliged to step in, but now I was unable to. That hurt them, and it hurt me that it hurt them.

    The first person to change from OC was Nicholas. He changed and that had a huge influence on me because although gang activity wise I was more involved than he was, on the crime side of things he taught me how to de-barrell peds, my first break and entry - he taught me everything. For him not to be doing that anymore had a big influence on me and after that a few of us came to church to see what was going on.

    I started coming to church a lot more and it was changing my thought pattern, how I perceived and saw things. I saw that I was stuck, I was trapped, I was bound. This had become more than a habit, this was my lifestyle and it was a lifestyle that had a lot of issues surrounding it. It got to a point where I just had to put my life totally in Gods Hands, because just because I found a new ideology didnt mean my enemies would.

  • I gave the road like five, six years of my life and all it did was give me scars on my face, chest and back, emotional scarring from losing friends, trust issues plus a whole lot of rage and paranoia. Now Ive given my life to Christ, these three y