During my childhood, I had a dream to one day become a writer and a journalist. When relating my childhood to others, my mother often told them that one thing you could be sure of was that her eldest son (me) would always have a pen and notepad in his hand or a reading book as young as three years old. Even today, now as an adult, that remains the case. Often, we become a product of our environment–mine was surrounded by books, trips to the library with my mother and younger brother and attendance at my mother’s creative writers’ group sessions where she wrote and recited from her poetry. The writing process, the feel and motion of the pen on paper, was and still is both calming and liberating. Growing up, I had a few written pieces published here and there, but they were not as regular and consistent as I would have liked.
An opportunity to further develop my craft came when I was invited to join Children’s Express (now Headliners UK) – a charitable programme of learning through Journalism for young people aged 8-18. I joined at age 16, and it was perhaps the best two years of my life so far as learning what it truly meant to be a journalist, albeit an extremely young and inexperienced one. After graduating from university with a degree in English Literature and Media Studies, I would return to Children’s Express (Headliners UK) as an employee in the role of an Outreach Journalist, offering young people a space to share their own stories and life experiences using Journalism as the creative tool.
In 2018, I enrolled on the South England Conference Creative Writing for Evangelism Course under the tuition of Divinia Reynolds, a gifted writer and published author. During that time, my dream of becoming an established writer came to fruition. It was the 25th anniversary of the racially aggravated murder of the teenager, Stephen Lawrence. I had written and shared a poem in memory of Stephen’s life which I was encouraged by my fellow writing students and tutor, Divinia, to send to Stephen’s mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, which I did.
To my surprise, Baroness Lawrence replied, expressing her thanks, and encouraging me to “use your talent to support and educate others.” From then on, God would take me on a writing spree beyond my wildest dreams. With my decade-long experience as a Teaching Assistant facing redundancy due to severe cuts to the school budget, I wrote about the unfair treatment I felt my colleagues and I was facing by the system, which was published in The Guardian and resulted in parents’ fundraising for the school with some staff also retaining their jobs. This was followed by a double-page feature published in The Voice about the work being done by teachers and youth workers in addressing knife crime amongst young people, including a Pathfinders-led March against youth violence, which was given the front page in Messenger.
After graduating from the SEC Creative Writing for Evangelism Course in June 2018, I was invited to become an assistant tutor on the course as well as a Trustee of Headliners UK, where through the divinely orchestrated hand of God, I have been placed to use the talent He has given me to support and educate others, having overcome a speech and language barrier, childhood bullying and career rejection along the way. If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.
Darell J. Philip is an Academic Mentor and a Freelance Journalist