Updated: May 5, 2021
How would you describe your life, especially growing up in this last decade?
I’d be lying if I said I grew up in a broken home, because till now as we speak my parents are still together. However, my home life differs a little because not only was I born in Ghana, but when I was young, my parents moved to the UK and my siblings and I were raised by our relatives in Ghana until we were around early teenagers.
We never struggled, we always had whatever we needed. However, I found that our relatives were quite overprotective. So, from young, I was sneaking out to be able to do the things I wanted to do and have fun. My parents did the work needed to make sure that my siblings and I could get the paperwork and passports needed to come to the UK and stay. So, when I moved to the UK, because of the restriction that I had when I was growing up, I made sure I did whatever I could to have fun.
I have had different friends in my life, friends that get into trouble and others that don’t. I’ve had situations where I have had to defend my friends, even if I didn’t do anything, because we’re more than friends, we’re brothers. It’s like being in a village in Africa or in the Caribbean and going to fetch water; if my friend is carrying water and halfway through the journey, he gets tired, I’m going to take over and help him complete the journey. It’s like a relay, and that’s the mentality I’ve grown up with.
By Year 8, I had started at my third secondary school, and by the end of the year, that secondary school kicked me out because I had a knife with me at school. Not only did they ban me from that school, but also the schools in the surrounding areas, which meant I had to go to Centre. Going to Centre, I met a lot of people like myself and a lot of people who were much worse. So, my environment from that age was often filled with violence and negativity. However, I did also have some positive experiences and outcomes like passing my Art GCSE.
“What was the turning point that made you decide you wanted to leave the life of gang violence? Was the decision easy?”
I won’t lie, even though my life experiences easily fall under that, I really don’t like the word ‘gang violence’. I had a group of friends that I spent a lot of time with, from playing football to making money together, so to me, it wasn’t really a gang, but that is the stereotype that we get.
What initiated the transition was the fact that I lost a very close friend of mine called Fico Dougan, who was fatally stabbed, and he died. For me, I felt stuck in between positive and negative. My friends and I questioned ourselves saying, “What do we do? Do we carry on and risk going to jail? Or have our parents crying over our bodies going in the ground”. It was a tough question for us at 17/18 to answer. We had an opportunity to retaliate, but Fico’s older brother told us we shouldn’t go down that path because his brother is already gone.
My friends and I wanted to put our energy into something positive, so started a group called “Fico’s World”, where we would meet in the community with members of Fico’s family and we could talk be honest about what was going on. It was here where we learnt to adjust our mindset, that we weren’t stuck where we were at that moment, but that there so much more that we could reach for. Being able to talk helped me realise I kept a lot in while I was younger, we kept a lot of words in and this new environment in “Fico’s World” helped us to express ourselves better and also listen to each other more.
” What was it about fashion that interested you? How did you go about starting Fortune Wear?”
I'm not really a fashionista, or into the styling much as others in the company, but where my line started, it was due to my need to get out of the space I was in and transition into a better one. The word ‘fortune’ for me covers me journey, it’s like going from zero to hero, from growing up in Ghana to where I am now. It’s more than money to me, it’s more about how you grow and develop because we learn and do better every day. My dad always used to tell me I always used to read the word fortune on my books exercise books from school days from Year 7, so this word has always been on my tongue.
I wanted to bring something different to the community, because I felt that some of my friends were still stuck in the space that I was trying to transition from. Instead of talking the talk, I walked the walk and did so with my own clothing line. It definitely sparked a lot of conversations with the youth in the area, asking about what it means. I got a lot of my friends involved, because I know that for my business to succeed, I need a team. I still do all the designs myself, but I have friends who help me with the styling and financial aspects to make sure that my business would succeed.
“What would you say has been the biggest struggle since turning your life around? How do you overcome it?”
I would say the biggest struggle would be staying away from the lifestyle and money I was used to. There are times where I have literally spent my last or taken more losses than my wins and that struggle sometimes makes me miss the old lifestyle. I have to remind myself that the easy money isn’t going to last, like it’s all fun and games till you get caught. So, even though I miss it or may struggle, I will never turn back because no matter what I experience, because I made a promise to God that I definitely want to keep.
“What advice would you give to your younger self? How would you suggest that young men stay out of the gang violence life?”
I would tell my younger self to be more cautious of your friends and be more cautious about who you’re around, because no matter your morals or beliefs, if everyone your around doesn’t have the same mindset as you, they will bring you down. Know what, or who, you want to live for. There is no point living for the block when you don’t own the block, or even a staircase on that block.
I won’t be cliché and say don’t do this or that, do whatever you want to do. However, be aware of who's around you and the impact they have and what you're doing and the belief and the support and the help. I say this because I don’t regret my past or what I went through, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I believe my journey led me to my purpose.