30th November 2016
De'Niro Murray is an adult volunteer cadet Instructor for the London Fire Brigade Fire Cadets programme, having been a Fire Cadet himself after joining the Bexley cadet unit in 2014 at 17 years old. Currently studying Public Services at college, De'Niro also dedicates much of his spare tome to sharing his inspirational life story about the difficulties of growing up in south London and how the London Fire Brigade Fire Cadet programme has completely changed his direction in life.
He aims to inspire hope in young people and help to give them the confidence to be successful in society through his knowledge and experience, especially those affected by gangs and anti-social behaviour. Recently, De'Niro was invited to speak during a parliamentary reception for the Anti-Bullying Week. His speech (below, in full) not only shines a light on De'Niro's journey, but also shows the positive impact being involved in one of our member organisation can have on a young person.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is De'Niro Murray and I'm a trainer for the LFB Fire Cadets programme and also a Public Services student at college, whose dream is to become a London Firefighter; but it didn't start there.
So I grew up in an area called Brixton in south London where I was faced with gangs, killings, crime, drugs and every type of anti social behaviour you could possibly think of. I never had a good experience in my younger days in education, I really struggled feeling like no one understood me. I started being disruptive in lessons, not knowing it was because I have certain learning needs, my teachers didn't make the effort to find out the reasons for my behaviour, they just labelled me as a bad child. I started fighting a lot and at that time my mum became ill and her appearance changed dramatically, the children at school would make fun of her which made me 10 times worse.
I left primary school an angry child and my parents thought it would be a good idea if I went to a secondary school in a different borough. Secondary school had lots of different gangs and it was much easier to become a gang member than not to be one. In these years I wasn't really a talker, I kept everything I was feeling and thinking to myself. At this time, because I lived in a different area and was associated with my friends, I was seen as the enemy within the school, I had lots of serious fights due to this. I don't know what it was but trouble always found me and I didn't like the way my life was going. Where I lived, it was mainly only young boys, so from the beginning the pressure was extremely high. For example it was seen cool to be in a gang, disrespectful, getting involved in violence, drinking and smoking, etc.
Growing up on my estate where there are less opportunities, there were young boys selling drugs, shooting and stabbing people and other gangs from different areas doing drive-bys and fighting each other. This resulted in serious injuries, including a young girl being caught by a bullet which has made her blind. Every minute of the day these situations would occur. As I was from Brixton, my area had conflict with the majority of areas within London, I remember the Peckham boys all riding bikes with guns coming through my estate and looking for anyone to attack. The issue is you don't have to be involved in the war, but you being from a certain area you have a high chance of being attacked. Up to this day there's still gang war between my area and every other area, which are no longer than 5mins away from each other.
My parents thought it would be good for me to attend after school activities in the area to limit my time with my so called friends; so I started martial arts, which really improved my concentration and self-discipline and changed me into a better person. I am now a martial artist and still participate up to this day. My parents made it more and more difficult for me to interact with the guys on my estate, who I believed at the time were my true pals because we understood each other.
My parents saw they were heading in the wrong direction and they didn't want that for me. Most of my friends were deeply involved in gangs and would often want me to get involved but I didn't because I knew it was wrong, I knew the difference between right and wrong , I wanted to change. I sadly say most of my friends are either dead or in prison serving long to life sentences. Growing up I never had a vision of a career, the only thing ahead of me was prison. I wanted to hurt any and every one!!
So a few months after leaving school I got accepted on a youth working course where I gained all my qualifications in youth work, then on a LFB LIFE course and that's where my darkness became light as they signposted me onto Fire Cadets, which was the best thing they could have ever done for me.
Since I joined the Fire Cadets, my outlook on life completely changed. They welcomed me with open arms and now I feel a sense of belonging here. The respect they gave me, made me feel so important and made me want to keep making them and my family proud.
Cadets has been an outstanding journey for me, I've met some of the most amazing people who I consider my family. Cadets is really fun, you’re involved in fire safety, drills, community and fire brigade work and the best part for me was having positive, inspiring role models. I left Fire Cadets with so much knowledge about the fire brigade and operations. Fire Cadets grew me into something really special and still are. The feeling to help the community is a great feeling which the LFB certainly make me feel.
This led me onto getting accepted to study Public Services at college and being put up 3 levels before due to my knowledge about the brigade. It's so rewarding to be told you can, than to be told you can't, so that young people feel they can achieve their dreams. I'm also now a trainer for the LFB Fire Cadets, teaching operational drills, about the fire brigade and helping young people achieve their BTEC qualification. I'm also a part of the London Fire Brigade Youth Board Meetings, discussing various important matters with the Fire Brigade and their work with young people and the community amongst many more. I'm very grateful to be so active with the London Fire Brigade. Throughout my good and bad experiences, I want to educate young people regarding the decisions they make in life and consequences it has on them and their family and I want to help those on the urge of getting into the gang life.
I want to say a huge thank you to the LFB LIFE team and the Fire Cadets team for moulding into the man I am today I really appreciate you all, in fact I love you all for changing my life; I don't think you understand what you have done for me.
I want to become a London Firefighter one day - it's my one and only goal, my passion for the brigade is like no other... it's a big part of me and always will. I will fight my way into becoming a Firefighter and show everyone what you can achieve, you just need to believe and work hard.
I also want to mentor those who have been bullied and help rebuild them as great individuals within society. We need to work together to prevent bullying and be those, who young people can turn to in times of need. I was in a place full of crime/gang war. Today I speak to the youth, I never really thought the gang life will spread and the age of my young people get younger. I deeply hate the legacy that it left behind, it left a legacy of hate, a legacy of genocide... Black on black genocide, I speak to many ex gang members and they tell me they are sorry for their part in it but I'm deeply encouraged to see people support me which tells me I'm not alone in deeply hating this legacy and seeing it for what it really is.
No one can have a better influence on gang violence or gang culture than gang members themselves and therefore the best position to reverse this course of violence is we must do work, we must get out there and forge peace. We must stop exterminating one another, we must stop all this madness because at the end of the day we only have ourselves to blame. You must have a do or die attitude, as street warriors to rebuild our culture and to create a new lasting legacy, a legacy of peace. Our young people are the future - we must invest in them.
Thank you for your time,