A leading Birmingham community activist has called for more than “a plaster over a gaping hole”, in response to the death of 14-year-old Dea-John Reid.
Bishop Dr Desmond Jaddoo, organiser of Birmingham Empowerment Forum, has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the funeral of the schoolboy, who was stabbed to death in College Road, Kingstanding, Birmingham on 31 May.
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‘How many more mothers will have to mourn for their sons’
He told NationalWorld that the grief felt in the community is “profound” and said those who felt the media coverage of Dea-John’s mother’s grief was “intrusive”, needed to wake up to the “harsh realities of gun and knife violence”.
Joan Morris sobbed as she pleaded with to the media: "How many more mothers will have to mourn for their sons for this to stop?” Some felt she should grieve privately, Jaddoo claims.
Jaddoo told NationalWorld: “Dea-John went to play football with his friends, it was the beginning of half-term and he was enjoying the break.
“He said goodbye to his mother and did not return home. His classmates went back to school on Monday and he was not there. We are yet to find out the circumstances leading up to his death, but we do know it was racially aggravated.”
Jaddoo has close links to Dea-John’s family, and led the ‘Shine the light’ vigil on College Road on Sunday 6 June.
He said that while the community is shocked by what has happened to the child, there is also a sense of numbness around gang violence and the consequences of cultural segregation within the community.
‘They need to get a grip’
He is now calling for the government to “wake up to the extent of the impact” and support communities to tackle knife and gun crime on the ground.
Jaddoo told NationalWorld: “Politicians, academics, professors - they all want to be seen as leading on this [gang crime], but they need to get a grip.
“Instead of commentating, action must be taken within communities - it is much bigger than a public health crisis, it's a socio-economic issue which comes about from cultural tension, mass unemployment, failing education systems and families with no support.
“Stop pointing the finger, there needs to be leadership, not putting a small plaster on a gaping hole.”
Five males have now been charged in connection to Dea-John’s death.
‘Far more reaching questions need to be answered’
Two 14-year-olds, a boy aged 16 from Great Barr, Michael Shields, 35, and George Khan, 38, have all appeared in court charged with his murder.
Dea-John was a year 9 pupil at Harborne Academy, who was described as “incredibly talented” by his family.
Jaddoo said there appeared to be no motive behind his killing, other than his race. He added that there are “clearly far more reaching questions which need to be answered, why two 30 odd year old men were involved in attacking a teenage boy.”
At present, all claims are alleged and the five men will face trial on 28 February.
‘The government needs to stop being immune to what is happening around them’
Asked what measures he would like to see taken to target knife crime in Birmingham, Jaddoo said: “We need to ask how we can better support families in socially deprived areas without them feeling like we are taking control of their lives.
“These youngsters need to be educated about the consequences of knife crime and what it does to the victims, their families and their neighbourhood.
“A good start would be workshops, bringing youngsters together to identify why they become involved in gangs and what this could lead to. At present, I also think we need education around first aid - bleed control demonstrations to react in the case of knife crime.
“We can’t keep ignoring it, our communities and the friends of Dea-John are scared of what this means for them and we cannot go on like this.
“The government needs to take action, they need to stop being immune to what is happening around them and face reality. The hundreds of people at the vigil are a demonstration of the calls to actions we desperately need.”
The GoFundMe set up to support DeaJohn’s family has now raised over £19,000.