Big names gathered in Bogotá to talk about making the world a better place for future generations.
Kenny Imafidon tells the packed crowd that in London, where he grew up, as a black man he is six times more likely to be stopped by the police. When he was a teen, he was an intelligent person stuck in an environment dominated by crime, drugs and what he believes to be a system of systematic racism.
Aged 18, he was arrested and charged for a murder he didn’t commit. After his acquittal, the charismatic activist dedicated himself to becoming “known for something bigger than his circumstances.”
His story reflected a common thread that played through a number of speeches at the conference – exclusion and isolation. Regardless of the delegates’ creed, colour or nationality, it was often overcoming hardships that had pushed them towards activism.
Taffan Ako Sharif, a stateless Kurd who fled Saddam Hussein’s regime with her family when she was two years old, was one example. Growing up in Sweden, she experienced discrimination and hatred directed towards her as a Kurd and felt like an outcast from other Muslim communities.
She is determined that other children should not face the same isolation and has created a project where children of members of ISIS and civilians can play together “so these children will less likely adapt an extremist ideology and feel excluded from society – unlike me, once.”
One of the speakers that touched the audience the most was Hyppolite Ntigurirwa. The son of Tutsi parents, he said that aged seven, “I saw my father being killed and fed to the dogs to eat.” Members of his family were killed by people who had been their friends or neighbours.
He started a theatre group for children from both sides, beginning a reconciliation process between people of different ethnicities whose parents were against inter-ethnic friendships. His message on stage was one of forgiveness. “What was killing us Rwandans was not the people, but that hatred that was taught for generations before the genocide.”
For me – and if the tears, cheers and standing ovations in the auditorium were anything to go by, I am not alone – these moving tales of people who turned isolation into inspiration and discrimination into determination were the unforgettable part of One Young World.