Burning Responsibility: Young Lives and Media Projects

Just over a month ago I attended the funeral of a 24 year old young man who tragically took his own life. His death and its circumstances shook the whole community, especially his peers.  12 years ago I was teaching him how to edit – me working as a facilitator on a community media project, working with colleagues I still work with today.  About 5 years after that he worked as a music producer on another community media project we were running.  We managed to bring him in to be involved after realizing he was ‘not around much’ lately. His sister had become heavily involved in the media project, and we kept asking how he was.  A couple of years after that, after spending some time ‘away’, he started to get involved with a weekly media club we ran, again it was great to see him sharing his talents – he was a natural editor and music producer, but he never boasted.  He was a very humble guy.

Why am I writing about this?  One of the reasons is to remember, to acknowledge, and the continual need to realize.  At his funeral two video youth workers gave speeches about his life.  Everyone who knew him knew of his skills, but as a laid back guy no one realized the urgency of that need for him in his life, or how vulnerable he was.

I am also writing this as I know I was also once a bit like that 24 year old, but my epiphany came earlier and in a less chaotic manner.  At the age of 19 I had a moment of depression and realized I needed to do something more constructive with my life.  On Christmas Eve I decided to apply to college and study media production.  I haven’t looked back since, I dare not, as I fear turning into salt like Lot’s wife.

Media and creativity was my lifeline, and true to the ‘wounded healer’ archetype I have gone on to work with other young people who seek creative ambitions possibly for similar reasons.  I am of course oversimplifying the past 20 years, but this distilled interpretation is still valid. 

I don’t want to go to any more funerals like this, though I also know I cannot save anyone, and that would be an arrogant claim and thought.  I can continue to work with others to try and provide opportunities for young people and spaces for their skills to be nurtured and witnessed, and from a pastoral perspective their emotional needs to be supported also.  Ultimately however I also know my own limitations, and realize I am no longer the best person to be working in intense youth community contexts any more, as vulnerable young people need time, attention and continuity from facilitators that I know I can no longer personally provide.  This is not a grumble however, as mentioned before, I know my limitations.  There are better (and younger) community media youth workers than me, but I can continue to help create the projects to put them in place.

So with the year ahead and the challenges for young people with regards; cuts to the community sector for arts funding; raising university tuition fees; harsher penalties for being unemployed; and all the other general stuff of life that makes being a young person today like swimming against the adult tide – to young people all I can say is if you have a talent, then don’t hide it, bring it to the surface.  Work towards getting your talents recognized and pursue your ambitions with all your heart, as that will generally make you happy.

When all said and done, the 24 year old young man took his own life because he was not happy.  So do whatever makes you happy, share your ideas with other people and find good people to work with, and keep on doing it.  It’s the difference between participating, and not participating, in your own life destiny.  If this sounds like a gross oversimplification, maybe that is what is required.

At the funeral his uncle spoke in a heartfelt way about how people should not be whispering and criticising the family and friends of the deceased, as God forbid the same can happen to anyone.  He advised rather to spend time with family and friends, to make sure in this busy hectic world we are not missing vital signs.  He is so right.

A related musical interlude, listen to the lyrics (and read them below) of ‘The Fire’ by The Roots featuring John Legend.  Inspiring stuff!  Keep your heads up, no matter what!

The Fire Lyrics – The Roots feat. John Legend

[John Legend]
Ohhhh, the fire, the fire
Ohhhh, the fire, the fire

[Chorus: John Legend]
There’s something in your heart
and it’s in your eyes
It’s the fire, inside you
Let it burn
You don’t say good luck
You say don’t give up
It’s the fire, inside you
Let it burn

[Black Thought]
Yeah, and if I’m ever at the crossroads
and start feeling mixed signals like Morse code
My soul start to grow colder than the North Pole
I try to focus on the hole of where the torch goes
In the tradition of these legendary sports pros
As far as I can see, I’ve made it to the threshold
Lord knows I’ve waited for this a lifetime
And I’m an icon when I let my light shine
Shine bright as an example of a champion
Taking the advantage, never copping out or cancelling
Burn like a chariot, learn how to carry it
Maverick, always above and beyond average
Fuel to the flame that I train with and travel with
Something in my eyes say I’m so close to having the prize
I realise I’m supposed to reach for the skies
Never let somebody try to tell you otherwise


[Black Thought]
One love, one game, one desire
One flame, one bonfire, let it burn higher
I never show signs of fatigue or turn tired
cause I’m the definition of tragedy turned triumph
It’s David and Goliath, I made it to the eye of
the storm, feeling torn like they fed me to the lions
Before my time start to wind down like the Mayans
I show ’em how I got the grind down like a science
It sounds like a riot on hush, it’s so quiet
The only thing I hear is my heart, I’m inspired
by the challenge that I find myself standing eye to eye with
Then move like a wise warrior and not a coward
You can’t escape the history that you was meant to make
That’s why the highest victory is what I’m meant to take
You came to celebrate, I came to sever great
I hate losing, I refuse to make the same mistake

[John Legend]
Ohhhh, the fire, the fire
Ohhhh, the fire, the fire


[John Legend]
Ohhhh, the fire inside you
The fire inside you
The fire inside you
The fire inside you


3 thoughts on “Burning Responsibility: Young Lives and Media Projects

  1. In reviewing our lives and the decisions we took to get here, we wonder what it’s about the journey that has changed in many ways. It was then that the mother of a cousin-in-law hit the nail on the head when he said at a meeting of the family (after learning we were all over the world) that the trip is the best training you can get. “I saw many things and learned a lot about things I would never learn in school or on television. Continue the journey, while they still have legs.

  2. Pingback: Burning Responsibility: Young Lives and Media Projects « Lifelong Learning

  3. Pingback: Burning Responsibility: Young Lives and Media Projects « Firstborn London

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