Review for Prisoner to the streets by Robyn Travis
In the summer of 2011 I was on my way to Holly street with Janette Collins (project manager for The Crib) to deliver the Consequences and Trading places workshop to some of the young people in that area. As we were driving Janette stopped the car asked Robyn where he was going, we were all heading in the same direction. This was my first time meeting Robyn, Jan asked him what he was up to these days, and he mentioned he was writing a book. Jan said snap, and mentioned I was doing the same thing. On the short ride to Holly Street, Robyn gave me a small insight to what his book was about and the purpose behind it, from then on I was eager to read it when it was done.
Just over a year later the book was completed, I know what type of satisfaction and relieve Robyn must have felt the first time he actually held the finish article in his hands. No more editing, but actually holding the book in his hands, knowing all the hard work and scarifies you have put in to a project like this.
Robyn called me to invite me and Janette to the Book launch on the 17th of October at the Bernie Grant centre. I was really looking forward to it, and I was not disappointed because I left there feeling inspired by the poets, speeches and by the humbled and comfortable atmosphere. So I left feeling good and now I have the book time to get reading.
I am not person to promote something just for the sake of it, so I decided I will not recommend the book to anyone until I do it justice by reading it first.
I can honestly say Prisoner to the streets had me experiencing a wide range of emotions, from, laughter, to sadness, to anger, also of relief. The book is an honest portrayal of Robyn Travis who takes you on an emotion journey right from his infant years to him becoming a young man aspiring to achieve greatness. The book talks about his childhood growing of on the fringes of Hackney and Tottenham, the hard times he faced with his older brother and his mother. The transition from living in Tottenham and moving to Hackney (Holly street), the impact of the change and what was to follow as he grew up in Hackney and still had ties to people in North London. Taught from an early age to defend himself and those that he cared about, Robyn took pride in doing just that, at times he was ready to use his knife and gun to defend himself and his people, even though at times the sentiment was not returned by some of the people he called friends at the time.
Growing up in Holly Street but having gone to London field’s primary school, things got more complicated as Robyn transcended into his teenage years. Those early friendships at primary school, no longer counted as the beef between Holly Street and London fields began and took to new heights with weapons being introduced.
For me the pages seem to be turning by themselves as I found myself engrossed in the struggle as I went on this journey with Robyn. Growing up in Hackney myself I could understand and relate to some of the things he spoke about, but other times I could not imagine what he was going through.
The pain he talks about in the book would be unbearable to most, but true to himself and the will to carry on he put it upon himself never to cry or show emotion, as this could be seen as weakness. As I continued to read this book, I sometimes just paused to think, about the situation our young people find themselves and wonder if we are doing enough to break this cycle of learnt idiotic behaviour that has us burying children before they have lived. The pain of seeing mothers bury the children is not the way mature should run its course.
Robyn was a young man who did not want to fit into the stereotypical position of a drug dealer, even when times were hard, he opted to look for work and he did. Working as a cleaner in restaurant it was an escape from the realities he faced on the streets. An ambition to become a footballer and a boxer were fading as he got older. Throughout the book he had to overcome so many barriers , as things heated up between Hackney and Tottenham, at times Robyn didn’t feel safe in either side, even though he had ties on both sides.
“For me this book has an uncompromising message for all, this book is the undiluted truth to some of danger and realities young people face on the streets of London”
This book is also about social relationships he had with the people he had in his life, understanding what friendships mean when you’re a prisoner to the streets, asking yourself do I have any real friends? Also a message about betrayal, people he trusted or did not trust, overcoming months in prison In Jamaica, overcoming grief after grief, from friends who fell victim to the streets, overcoming getting stabbed numerous times and being shot at. The loss of his grandmother, the relationships he had with his brother and his mother and what he was missing by not having a father figure.
Most importantly this book is about redemption, finding a purpose in life and going for it, regardless of what struggles he went through, he managed to find a way to not let it be an excuse. That emotion inside I believe is what drives him to succeed and to become a good father for his children. The message is also about change and forgiveness how it is possible to achieve both. I will not say too much but you can get the full story if you buy and read the book.
One of the greatest gifts I was given was when I was younger was a book, to fill me with knowledge, so this is a great gift to give to your young people, words are powerful and you never know who will be affected in a positive way. So please do not just read and leave it on your bookshelves for it to catch dust, share it and keep sharing it.
Some say it is best when you learn from your own mistakes, but the brutal truth is on the streets all it can take is one mistake to destroy two sets of lives (victims and perpetrators). We cannot afford to let young people fall in too deep and make their own mistakes, when they can learn from others.
So READ READ READ and SHARE SHARE SHARE.
Prisoner to the streets by Robyn Travis.