Why black boys continue to kill one another and how to end it.

by Femi Akomolafe

In another episode of what has become a menacing trend in London, on the 20th of January, 2017, a business studies student, Djodjo Nsaka, 19, was found collapsed with a knife wound outside his university halls of residence near Wembley Stadium. He died at the scene.

In the summer of 2000, two black juveniles, Danny and Ricky Preddie, stabbed 10-year-old Damilola Taylor to death on the street of London. Damilola’s family had moved just months before from Nigeria to London in search of a better life – only for him to meet his untimely death.

The killings of black teenage boys have since become a norm in the capital city. The chief peril to black boys’ lives is fellow barely pubescent black boys. In London, hardly a day goes by without seeing black families weep at the grave of their teenage boys. The focus of this article is to offer insightful analysis that is lacking in most discourse on this crisis.

On the 23rd, three days after Djodjo Nsaka’s death, a black schoolboy, Quamari Barnes, was stabbed to death outside the gates of a flagship London academy. His alleged murderer is a 15-year-old boy. Quamari was the second teenager to die from stab wounds in the capital city this year.

Fola Orebiyi, 17, died after being knifed in the neck in Notting Hill last July. His 15-year-old killer (named withheld for legal reason), was convicted on the 24th of January at the Old Bailey. In an emotional statement, Fola’s mother, Yinka Bankole said: “I was in labour for 23 hours with him, yet it took less than four minutes to stab him to death, while several youths stood there”.

On Thursday 26th of January 2017, Aaron Gaiete, 17 (a black boy), was convicted of the murder of another black teenager, 16-years-old Charlie Kutyauripo. The young murderer was sentenced to indefinite detention with a minimum term of 14 years. Charlie’s mother, a nurse from Zimbabwe, stated that her family moved from Zimbabwe seeking a safe environment for their children; “I brought my son from Zimbabwe to the UK for safety only for him to be stolen away,” she lamented.

The sheer volume of violent crimes committed by black youngsters in the UK in the last decade is staggering. A statistics report released under Freedom of Information laws in 2010 shows that 67% of those indicted for gun crimes were black. Out of the 2,882 male victims of shootings from 2009 to 2010, 832 were black. Shaun Bailey, a British Afro-Caribbean conservative politician and former Prime Minister David Cameron’s Special Adviser on Youth and Crime said: “The community has to look at itself and say that at the end of the day, these figures suggest we are heavily – not casually – involved in violent crime. We are also involved in crime against ourselves – and we regularly attack each other.”

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So, why do “we” [blacks], especially black youths, “regularly attack each other”, and commonly, kill each other? As many studies have shown, lack of strong family structure is the primary cause of criminality in black youngsters. Many black kids in Britain today are growing up without fathers, father figures (mentors), or any male authority figures in their lives. And because of lack of love, acceptance, and security that a stable family offers, many black boys and girls join gangs to fill the void of belonging. Gangs provide self-worth, along with “security”. Gang leaders and members are often youths from damaged backgrounds themselves. Hence, they often influence one another into criminal behaviour.

Furthermore, many black parents are at the bottom-rung of the ladder in the UK, especially in London. And because of the exuberant cost of living in the capital, many take on multiple jobs to survive, resulting in a lack of time for their children. As a result, countless black children end up growing up without parental guidance.

I pointed out in my book, Black Damage: Why Africa and its diasporas are plagued with poverty, conflicts and crime, and the ways forward, that in trying to ‘make ends meet’, many black parents, especially African migrants in the West, often “neglect their families.” Africa is broadly a collectivist society in which people are not only responsible for their nuclear families, but often, are responsible for their extended family as well. After paying mortgage/rent, utility bills, and family expenses, many African migrant families still send money home to their extended families in Africa. They are usually under increasing economic burden as a result of this sacrifice; hence take on multiple jobs; leaving them with little or no time to supervise their kids.

An uncle of mine and his family rarely spend two hours together a day. He works in a local store as a customer service officer during the day and as a cab driver at night. His wife works as a nurse in the British National Health Service (NHS). One fateful night, my uncle fell ill while at work and decided to go home to rest. His wife was at work at this time. His 17-year-old son was the only one left at home. According to his account, he heard voices coming from his son’s room as he opened his front door, but ignored them, thinking they came from the television – his son usually slept with the television on. After about five minutes, he realised that the noise wasn’t from the television and tiptoed to his son’s room. He nearly passed out with what he saw as he opened the door: seven semi-naked youngsters were crammed in the room. From their bleary eyes, it was obvious that they’d been taking drugs, and bottles and cans of alcohol littered the floor.

This incident made my uncle and his wife realise that their son was no longer the ‘baby’ they assumed they knew. He gave up his cab-driving job and his wife requested an extra day off work so that they could spend more time together as a family. But for providence, my cousin would probably have become a UK crime statistic.

Family is one of the most important social contexts for children’s expression of self-esteem. Due to neglect of parental love and guidance, many black children lack self-worth. I highlight in prior blog post Questionable History: Consequences of black history not being engaged properly in the British curriculum of education that people with low self-esteem will make “anxious predictions” about their “bottom line”. For instance, a black British teenager whose “bottom line” is “I’m unworthy” or “people like me don’t really matter in the society” will make “negative predictions” about the result of challenges and opportunities he or she is yet to pursue. Hence, many of black youths “exclude” themselves from the society, and avoid taking on challenges or pursuing opportunities – even when presented on a gold platter. Because of this, school dropout rate and youth crime is rife in black communities throughout the UK.

The UK black community can longer fold its hands while the streets of London continue to be awash with the blood of young black boys. Yes, the British Government has a role to play to bring an end to this troubling trend; however, the black community has a greater role to play; expecting otherwise is tantamount to irresponsibility. The Africa American scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois advised in his book The Souls of Black Folk, that for sanity to reign in black communities, men and women of good conduct and character from all social classes must provide discipline, leadership, and guidance for the emerging generation.

Written by Femi Akomolafe, Research Associate at NIAS and author of the book Black Damage; why Africa and its diasporas are plagued with poverty, conflicts and crime, and the ways forward.


About the Author


Femi Akomolafe

Research Associate


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