In films for C4 and now BBC London, Yinka Bokinni tells the story of the young people who had little support
Twenty years have passed since 10-year-old Damilola Taylor was stabbed to death walking home from the library after school. For his childhood friend and childhood neighbor, Yinka Bokinni, who couldn’t bring herself to talk about his death, it was this grim anniversary that made her finally break her silence and return to the place she once was had called home.
For much of the country, all that was known about Damilola, who was attacked by two teenagers with a broken bottle, was the hour that led to his death. Ricky and Danny Preddie were convicted of manslaughter in 2006.
But Bokinni says that Damilola’s story always has so much more to offer. He was the adventurous one in their friendship group who rode his bike down the biggest hills and, despite complaints about the winter cold, was excited about moving from Nigeria to London and making new friends. He had lived in London for four months before he died.
It’s the boisterous boy she knew, not the violent killing, who is the driving force behind her touching Channel 4 documentary Damilola: The Boy Next Door, which was released last month. Bokinni returns to television screens at 6 a.m. on Friday in an anniversary special on BBC London’s Damilola Taylor. 30 on BBC1.
She created the documentary and the anniversary special not only to honor her friend and community, but ultimately to investigate the effects of his killing on the children left behind.
Bokinni admits she was afraid to return to the area she grew up in, the North Peckham estate in south east London. She hadn’t returned since 2001 when she was 11 years old and struggled for a long time to face her childhood trauma.
« I’m still scared now, » says Bokinni. « It’s one of those things that it’s not the kind of fear, like highs, spiders or something that happens, and it scares you. It’s like an underlying kind of cold. ”
Damilola’s murder, which set off shock waves across the country, had destroyed Bokinni’s community. She describes her childhood as idyllic to the point where children played on the estate, ate together, and hung out in each other’s houses. They treated each other like one big family on the estate. She vividly remembers that when Damilola moved in, a woman she called her aunt (but was not related to her) told a group of children hanging out together to play with her son.
« Channel 4 gave me the freedom to really tell my story the way I wanted to tell it, the story of Peckham, the people who live there and the people who lived there and the people who went to existed a time, « she says. She was also determined to remain honest about the deprivation of the region and the challenges the community faced.
As she made the documentary, not only did she feel the power to tell her own story, but also came together with a community to anticipate a tragedy that had drawn her. After Damilola’s death, the children in the region received little support. The first time she spoke at length about his death was in front of a camera for the BBC Panorama documentary.
« We weren’t seen as children . . . For example, black boys are babies when they are eight, nine, and ten years old, and in an instant they’ll get scary in the public eye, « says Bokinni. « Well, because we lived in the ghetto, in the hood, in the sticks . . . they said, « Tell us about it », as opposed to the fact that you are children and something terrible has happened around you. ”
She criticizes the media’s focus on the broken windows around her and the urine-stained sidewalks, as opposed to the devastating effects his death had on the children who knew him. « It felt like my pain, our pain, wasn’t valid. And I think hopefully part of my film shows that it’s valid and that it is important and that it is important. ”
The documentary received widespread praise but Bokinni, who airs a daily program on one of the UK’s largest radio stations, Capital Xtra, refuses to embrace the idea that she and people with her background are in her industry create, they are « rough diamonds ». She says, “There’s something about this church education that I think really gives resilience and strength to those who just want to do well in their chosen area. « . ”
Despite her fear, she is glad that she broke her silence. Since then, people across the country have contacted her to say how deeply they have got the documentary. « It’s a story of modern Britain and that’s just the truth. Regardless of whether we put « black » in front of it, it’s still a British story. ”
Killing of Damilola Taylor
World News – UK – The Children Marked by Damilola Taylor’s Murder: « It felt like our pain was not valid. »
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