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Teen knife victim Harun Jama was an ‘angel now in a better place’

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Devastated friends and family have launched fundraising appeals in memory of a Birmingham teenager found stabbed to death near a children’s playground .

Harun Jama, who was 16 and from Sparkhill , was knifed in the stomach, leg and chest in Oxford on January 3.

His childhood friend and neighbour, Jamal Madar, described Harun as a “teenager with the biggest, whitest smile”.

Jamal, who is studying a Masters in Pharmacy at Keele University, is behind a fundraising drive to build two wells in Ghana in his memory.

More than £500 has been donated so far.

Posting on his JustGiving page, he said: “At such an innocent and tender age he had his life snatched away from him.

“He’s a local lad who lived in Sparkhill, the people who know him only speak highly of him.

“Our community lost an angel. An angel by the name of Harun Jama.

“A 16-year-old Somali teenager with the biggest, whitest smile unjustly taken away from us.

“Our little bro is in no doubt in a better place.

“We are raising money to build wells in Ghana in a community that is suffering from water poverty.”

Jamal said his friend was a “kind, respectful and humble teenager who was loved among the whole community”.

He said: “He would always help his mother with whatever she asked of him and he had the best of characters towards his friends and especially elders. Harun Jama was unjustly killed at such a tender age.”

Further tributes were paid by Harun’s friend Amelia Coates who urged well-wishers to help pay for his funeral.

The heartbroken teen took to Facebook to ask friends and relatives to donate to a GoFundMe appeal.

More than £1,000 has been raised to date.

Amelia said: “I’m aware a lot of my friends and family took him in as part of their family too and loved him as much as I did.

“It’s so horrific and everyone who knew him knew he didn’t deserve this in the slightest.”

Harun had previously helped with a golf charity fundraising day and Amelia praised his generosity.

“He helped caddie during the Macmillan Golf Day and also came to the auction where he dressed up as a Ninja Turtle and ran around handing out prizes.

“Not knowing the people we were doing this for, he still wanted to help and shortly after he quickly became a part of the family.

“Anyone who meet him smiled or laughed after having a conversation with him because thats the way he was.

“He was a clean-hearted, bubbly young boy who had his whole life ahead of him.”

A host of further tributes posted on social media were paid to the much-loved teenager.

Mark Coates said: “Such a kind-mannered and intelligent youngster, with a promising life ahead, taken way too soon.

“Can’t believe there is such hatred and cruelty in the world. The last time I saw him, he was playing football with my brothers, cousins, and nephews. Rest in peace Harun.”

Louise Waldron added: “He was such a lovely natured boy. Rest in peace Harun x.”

And Chan Morris posted: “Nice lad. So polite. Gone way too soon.”

Craig Ford, 33, of Luther Street, Oxford, has been charged with murder and has been remanded in custody.

He is also accused of robbery, possession of a bladed article and two counts of possession with intent to supply class A drugs.

Alice Ashcroft, 25, also of Luther Street, has been charged with two counts of possession with intent to supply class A drugs.

Both defendants will appear in court on February 9.

Arts & Culture

Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri named young people’s laureate for London

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THE GUARDIAN — The 24-year-old Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri, who has been chosen as the new young people’s laureate for London, is hoping to spend her year in the role convincing young people “to see poetry as part of their every day, rather than in some dusty tome, or academic niche interest”.

Mehri, who has a background in biochemical science and wrote the poetry chapbook sugah. lump. prayer, has been shortlisted for this year’s Brunel African poetry prize and won last year’s Out-Spoken Page poetry prize. As laureate, Mehri hopes to encourage young people to voice their concerns and experiences through poetry.

The poet, from Kilburn in north-west London, was selected for the role by a panel of arts organisations and poets, and is, according to Spread the Word’s chair of trustees Rishi Dastidar, “an inspired choice” and a “poet to watch”.

“For young people to have an artist who is an ambassador for them, who brings their concerns, struggles and joys to those in authority, and the wider world, is vital,” Dastidar said. “Her poetry is precise and powerful, and rich with images that are haunting. She is not afraid to tackle the biggest of subjects, which, combined with her talent, is going to give the role a renewed sense of purpose and visibility.”
Mehri said she was exposed to oral forms of poetry by her family when growing up, but only began writing for publication around four years ago. “Over time I honed, or found, my voice, and that allowed me to feel comfortable, finding the poetic voice I felt was most suited to me. Obviously at the beginning you’re very much inspired by your influences,” she said. “I think the poetry I write is interested in questions or ideas around disruption or movement, whether it’s movement of people or places, movement between different ideas, between how things change over different generations, and in themes of migration and urban spaces.”

During her time in the role, Mehri will be looking to amplify the voices of Londoners aged between 13 and 25, “to let them lead conversations, to be as inspired by them as hopefully they can be inspired by me”. She will work with writer-development agency Spread the Word on youth-focused residencies across London, head a tour to six outer London boroughs, and co-host a special project for young London poets called The Young People’s Poetry Lab.

According to research from the National Literacy Trust, 84% of teachers who participated in a poetry programme for disadvantaged children in London schools over a five-year period said their writing skills had improved.

Outgoing young people’s laureate for London, Caleb Femi, said that “poetry has the potential to play a vital part in self-expression and artistic enjoyment in the lives of young people”.

“We need a dedicated person who can assist in integrating the joys of poetry into the everydayness of young Londoners,” he added. “We are extremely lucky to have a talented and dedicated poet such as Momtaza Mehri appointed as the new young people’s laureate for London. Her tenure is sure to be an extraordinary one.”

Mehri said that she wanted to: “Reach everybody, to allow people to see poetry as part of everyday living in London, and all the different poetry traditions that people bring to London.”

“I am very much aware of the fact that I came out of a very different poetic tradition, and what that’s brought to my writing of the English language. So I want to be aware of the fact that people are carrying different poetic influences, whether they consider themselves poets or not,” she said.

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Food

Bristol’s Somali Kitchen: Empowering women through cooking

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Suad Yusuf set up the Somali Kitchen in Bristol to bring women together to share recipes, promote healthy eating and to support and empower one another.

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UK

London lawyer acquitted of forcing daughter to undergo female genital mutilation

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LONDON, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A London solicitor accused of forcing his daughter to undergo female genital mutilation was acquitted on Thursday, increasing pressure on police and prosecutors who have yet to secure a conviction for FGM more than 30 years after it was outlawed.

The prosecution was only the second to be brought under FGM legislation introduced in 1985.

During a nine-day trial at London’s Central Criminal Court, the prosecution alleged that the defendant had twice arranged for someone to come to the family home to cut his daughter as a form of punishment when she was around nine years old.

But the defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said in an emotional testimony that the allegations were fabrications arising from a very acrimonious divorce.

He said his wife had repeatedly threatened to destroy him and had turned their children against him.

“I didn’t cut my daughter. I would never hurt my daughter,” he told the jury. “I would give my life for my children.”

A medical expert confirmed the girl’s genitalia had been cut but said the scars were unusual and could not say when the injuries occurred.

The 50-year-old lawyer, who comes from West Africa, said FGM was not practiced in his community and he had no idea who had cut his daughter. He was also cleared of three counts of child cruelty.

Police and prosecutors have faced mounting pressure in recent years to secure a conviction for FGM as part of broader efforts to eradicate the practice, which usually involves the partial or total removal of external genitalia.

An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM, which affects immigrant communities from various countries including Somalia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt.

Politicians and campaigners, who believe thousands of girls in Britain are at risk of FGM, have said a successful prosecution would act as a deterrent.

Prosecutors were criticised over the first FGM trial in 2015 when a doctor was accused of performing FGM while treating a woman who had given birth. He was acquitted.

A leading obstetrician branded the trial a “ludicrous” travesty of justice which would leave doctors on labour wards terrified of touching women who had been subjected to FGM.

A second trial involving FGM – but brought under child cruelty laws – collapsed last month. (Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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