Marina Cantacuzino, The Forgiveness Project
“Tracey Ford is both a compassionate individual and powerful speaker. What I most admire about Tracey is that she is able to tell her story with honesty and humility rather than bitterness and anger”
My only son, then aged 17, left home at approximately 8pm to attend a friend’s birthday party – he never returned home. At Streatham ice-skating rink on a busy Saturday evening, my beautiful son, James Andre Godfrey Smartt-Ford, was shot in front of over 300 children and adults – he never lived to see his 18th birthday.
This was the catalyst that changed my whole being as I came face to face with an epidemic that was to shock the nation: youth on youth murder. In London alone, James was one of 27 teenagers, all under the age of 20 who lost their lives to gun and knife crime in 2007.
Youth murder devastates families. The suddenness of losing a child through this violent act is indescribable. JAGS Foundation, an acronym of James Andre Godfrey Smartt-Ford, was founded as a Community Interest Company in July 2012, to raise awareness of the consequences of youth murder and works to address issues affecting young people in the hope that we can create a society where young people have a right to life.
With the support of the Home Office, JAGS provides bereavement support to families and friends affected by youth murder. As the work of the organisation continues to gain momentum, JAGS has delivered youth awareness and restorative justice based programmes in partnership with a number of schools and organisations including Norbury Manor Business & Enterprise School, The Forgiveness Project, Croydon Youth Offending Team, Safer London and a number of grassroots and community organisations.
In the last six years, my awareness has been heightened as to how deeply affected young people are by the trauma and conflict that exists within local communities and how very important our work as affected families help to change mindsets and lives one day at a time.
Losing my son to youth murder has made me determined not to allow this tragedy to be the norm for other families, and that we work in unison to raise the aspirations of the youth and ‘keep hope alive in young people’