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He is young, articulate and dedicated to social inclusion. His aspiration is to get all young people, all over the UK involved in helping their local communities – as he believes this will prevent many from falling into crime. He held office as the Vice Chair of Hackney Youth Parliament (HYP) in 2008, finally taking up the Chair’s position for the last twelve months. He’s the winner of the Hackney Youth Award and the Special Youth Award of 2008.
Rhasan’s articles have been published extensively in Contrast – a youth magazine that looks at the challenges and achievements of Hackney’s young people. All this and still only fifteen, he displays all the hall marks of a future leader.
We met on a brisk sunny Sunday morning in October last year, outside Hackney Town Hall and immediately headed off to the Corner Café, where we found comfort and space in the window seating.
He recapped on his ever changing lifestyle and community work. Most significant was his time at St Matthias Junior School, where he experienced his first public speaking event as well as receiving peer recognition.
Cardinal Pole School brought new challenges and along with family support, he actively changed his trajectory, engaging with youth activities and participating in youth clubs and theatre groups rather than the ‘which ends you at’ street life. His appetite for his community work has not wavered, and he continues to be an active member in HYP and also at the Hackney Volunteer Centre.
We discussed in detail some of the benefits and losses to the community as a consequence of the Government’s cuts and he suggested a clear idea of how to plug the gap, “All people need to help in society. It’s not the end of the world if a few rich people have to loose one of their many houses – they can afford it.” His views are evolving and are informed by his youth, his education and by the many alternatives to the spending cuts which are currently being discussed in communities and voluntary organisations up and down the country.
Of the many options available, Mr Brunner found the 2% Wealth Tax for the richest 10% of the population, as being most attractive. Such a proposal is likely to raise as much as £78 billion in just one year, and in eighteen months it would address the Spending Review’s objective of needing to raise £81 billion over four years.
The full potential consequence of the Spending Review is too grim to explore over coffee and hot chocolate and we both recognised the need for a wider debate. Although young people’s views have largely been absent from these discussion, Rhasan promised to address this by taking the Spending Review to Hackney Youth Parliament’s Residential weekend.
As we parted, I remind him to lend his support to Hackney Unite and he pledged his commitment to get involved and to encourage other young parliamentarians to attend future meetings – to give their support and views.
Mr Brunner is a strong believer in social inclusion and his views are reflected by many other young people in Hackney. The Spending Review attacks not only our lives but the life chances of the next generation; especially with the increases in university tuition fees.
One of the many unintended consequences of this Spending Review is that these cuts may become the catalyst that join Hackney residents, young people and community leaders closer together, bringing the younger generation and their voice to the table, to negotiating a better community for all.
Rhasan Brunner will be joining Lee Jasper and other community activists on Sunday 23 January at a round-table discussion and workshop on the impact of cuts on Hackney communities. A joint event organized by Hackney Unite and BRAC (Black Activists Against Cuts) will be at: Open the Gate Black Cultural Cafe, 33 – 35 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 8BJ.