Jake's Story

My story begins when my mummy got a house in west Belfast and we all moved with her. I started making loads of friends in the area. And then when I got into Secondary School it was alright for about two, three years and then my Granda died and I went out with my mates and smoked loads of cannabis.

Jake's Story

My name is Jake, I’m 15 and I’m from West Belfast.

R: Okay, so Jake where does your story begin?

My story begins when my mummy got a house in west Belfast and we all moved with her. I started making loads of friends in the area. And then when I got into Secondary School it was alright for about two, three years and then my Granda died and I went out with my mates and smoked loads of cannabis.

I ended up getting onto different drugs and doing something stupid and I was getting in and out of stolen cars. And when my mummy found out, she went mad at me and threw me out of the house. I had to go and stay with my Granny. But when my Granny found out about it, she threw me out of her house and I had to go and live with my Auntie. My Auntie just let me live there for a bit.

I was doing bad at school and I wasn’t getting nowhere. I was saying ‘fuck off’ to all the teachers and getting suspended a lot and then I was only thirteen, but it got good at the end of the year - I turned fourteen and it was in the summertime. When I was in fourth year, I was being better than what I was in the third year. I put my head down and starts to work, staying in the class instead of walking out. But I was still smoking cannabis and I was still doing my own thing you know. And it was hard. But I got over it in the end. And then a couple of months later down the line, I went out with my mates one night. I’ll never forget this night. It was about eight o’clock, we were all standing at the flats just all talking and having a laugh.

We went for a wee dander and there was a car - a stolen car- we were all just talking, and I was sitting having a smoke, talking with one of my mates. The stolen car was flying up and down. We were all just focused on the stolen car and then the next minute we heard footsteps from behind and then I turned around and there was four gunshots fired into the crowd which hit one of my mates. Everyone (but me) scattered through all the alleys. They were scared. I was scared too. But I was left there by myself with a person lying on the floor and I had to do something. I had to phone the ambulance. So, I got him in the ambulance and I went with him to the hospital and then when we got in to the hospital he started talking and he started coming around a bit.

R: And how did you feel at that time when this all happened?

It sounds like a lot to take in. I was scared. I didn’t know what to think at the time. I didn’t know if anything was going to happen to me, but I still stayed there with him. He turned around and said to me “Kid, I thought you were going to run like the rest of them”. I says no, no I wouldn’t do that and if someone needed my help I’d be there for them. And he put his hands out and he shook my hand and he said to me “They’re all associates kid, you - you’re my mate now. You’re one of my mates”. I’ll never forget this night.

R: Yeah it sounds traumatic to go through. To experience that - to witness that.

And then after, I went out with one of my mates, but he had nothing to do with it, so I just stayed in his house. I was stressed out that much I said to him “Listen I need a bit of cannabis, I need something”, so he grinded up a bit of green and then he give it to me and I got the fuck out of it and then we just watched a film. It was still stressing me out in my head. Some nights I still see it in my head. I still dream about that night and it’s hard to go through at my age like, but things just happen, and you don’t know what’s around the corner.

R: And what is it like growing up where you live in Belfast?

It’s hard, so it is. You get stopped by the cops a lot, they search you, and find nothing on us. And that’s good because I didn’t want any of my mates to go inside. We just went on and forget about the cops. Blanked them out, and just got on with our lives.

R: And what about the car crime and stuff then?

Did you ever get back involved with that or just stop it when you moved to your Aunties? Yeah, I stopped it when I decided to do boxing. If I’m going to do boxing then I can’t do that, I can’t do certain stuff. Like I can’t go and smoke a bit of grass because the boxing coach is strict, so I had to stop the grass. I had to stop it and just move my life forward. Just start thinking about what I want to be, where I want to go and what I want to do

R: And what do you want to do?

I want to be a boxer, but I want to have a job on the side too.

R: It’s good to have a back-up plan. And what would be the job on the side?

 Either a bricklayer or a roofer.

R: Cool. Do you want to talk any about the Troubles? Have your family been involved in the Troubles before in the past? Have you heard stories what it was like where you live in Belfast during the Troubles?

Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of stories about where I live. My Granny told me a story about my Granda. He wanted to fight for his country. And the only way he saw that he was going to get it was through fighting, through guns, and so he got into the paramilitaries. When the Brits came into the area, my Granda and my Granny switched all the lights off and my Granny put the guns into the pram and put a pillow on the guns and put a blanket over the pillow and set my mummy into the pram and she wheeled it to her sisters and not once was she stopped. So that’s how they moved guns about.

R: And what way do you think it is now with the whole peace process?

I think it’s completely different. All the better like. You wouldn’t see riots nowadays the way you’d see back then. You just wouldn’t. And I don’t think there’s that much sectarianism in Belfast. I know people who were murdered and people who actually had their legs blown off because of the Troubles. But they’ve told me their story and it was pretty bad. They said to me if it kept going on and on and on there was never going to be peace in Ireland, so the two biggest parties had to come to an agreement to end the Troubles. They had to put an end to it to make the peace process and it’s going good, it’s working good like.

R: Yeah, it’s a lot quieter and more peaceful now. And what about like refugees and asylum seekers coming in to Belfast now? How do you feel about that?

I mean the refugees in my school are all right. They come over and talk to me. There was maybe only about twenty, thirty in the school, and now it’s sort of becoming like a multicultural school. Um I don’t have nothing like against them or anything. I think they’re all right because most of their countries have been at war exactly the way Ireland and Britain have been at war with each other. That’s the way their countries came to war too.

R: So, you have an understanding then. Is there anything else? This is only obviously the first recording. You will get a chance to read over it and add to it. You can take stuff out and put stuff in but is there anything else that you feel you want to say now which you haven’t had a chance to say yet?

Um, there was a street gang I was becoming part of. It was about two years ago when I was thirteen and it was called Hoods Liberation Army, that’s what it meant. And you had to prove yourself, you had to do things you didn’t want to do. You can change, you can change big time. You can turn your whole life around. R: And have you done that? Yeah. I’ve done it because the person who got shot, I’ve stayed in contact with him, but the people who he was hanging around with - yeah now he’s stayed away from all of them. I kept myself to myself because I thought that was the best thing for me and just started being around my family more. And that helped me. I could have ended up in jail but in the end, I wasn’t stupid. Everything I did I knew exactly what I was doing, and I knew what way to do it.

R: What did you do?

I took drugs, I smoked cannabis, I took glues, when I did feel the hit it was almost like I was floating in the air, like I didn’t know what I was doing and of all the poor people who I was hanging around with, it was just me and him. He says to me “Come on into the town”. I said right. He started hoking and poking at cars and he managed to get one.

It didn’t open so I was just looking around, I didn’t know what was going on and he just grabbed a stone and smashed the window. The alarm went off and he says, bounce on the car. I put my foot at the steering wheel and he twisted it round so he could snap it and he pulled all the wiring out of the casing and he got the car started and we were driving about just basically doing our own thing, just breaking the law, doing crime and he dropped me off and I told him to watch himself, just in case something happens or you get caught. I was like ‘what did I do there? What was going on’? But when I got home, tears were rolling down my eyes coz I remembered he said, “You helped me do that”. And I was like “What do you mean - helped you do what?” And he said, “You helped me steal that car”. I was like “when was this”? - “the other day - on Friday.” And I goes I didn’t even know what I was doing, I didn’t even know where I was. But the person I was with obviously had took hits of this drug several times, so he knew what he was doing but he didn’t see or know what I was doing because I had only took them once. I felt really really bad about it - the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing and the fact that I even done it. Yeah it was hard like, getting over it. But I ended up getting over it in the end. I’m staying in school and keeping my head down.

R: It sounds like you’re trying to turn your life round, and you’re focused. And you want to do well, and you’ve been staying out of trouble.

I mean, like if I would have took them drugs again, if I went down the same path of what I did, I wouldn’t even be sitting here, I wouldn’t even be in school or I wouldn’t even be going to my Granny’s, my Uncle’s, my Auntie’s, or my Mummy’s. I would have been probably sitting locked up in Hydebank or any Young Offenders, Prisons, whatever. Yeah, I’ve turned my life around.

R: And why do you think so many young people from like, say, where you live, get involved in gang culture or get involved in crime?

Because, I mean, sometimes there’s nothing to do. So, first day I heard, about the boxing club, I ran straight over to it and I joined up. Yeah, I’ve been keeping at it and I’ve been trying to get fights sorted and buy stuff for it so that I can like try to get out of this country. Coz, I feel like I can do it, I believe in myself that I can do it.

R: Would you not want to do it in this country?

I would, but I would like to travel and fight. It was hard, and my family just kept me going, kept me strong. When my Granda died, hurt me bad. And then I started doing drugs, stealing the car, and fighting a lot. And when one of my mates got beat up, we all fought them, and we ended up hurting them. Sometimes you don’t mean to do anyone wrong, but you end up doing it anyway. And you have to live with it. I didn’t make good memories on the streets. The night when my mate got shot I thought that I was shot too, his legs were pouring with blood, his blood was all over my hands. I was like what the fuck is going on here? But you have to get over it.

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