Through a tragic quirk of fate, Mark Prince has become the ‘accidental’ figurehead and Britain’s most high-profile spokesman in the fight against knife and gun crime in the United Kingdom.
With every passing month new statistics and figures are released on the knife and gun epidemic and wave after wave of ever-more extreme measures are taken to protect the youth on the streets.
But make no mistake about it; the reality of the situation is that the violence is getting worse.
Tackling the problem cannot lie solely with increasing police presence, introducing knife amnesties or setting up gun and knife search arches. All are vital measures but the problem MUST be tackled at the root of the cause.
The mindset of the next generation has to be changed.
The government continues to commit substantial resources to new educational initiatives, greater engagement with parents, mediation work between gangs and tougher enforcement programmes but still the problem persists.
The message is not getting through because time and again it is being delivered by people that are not respected by, and do not resonate with, the young people on the brink of following in the intimidating footsteps of those around them. In their world, respect is everything.
There has always been an absence of role models for the youth to look up to who have “been there, done that”; role models who can set them on the right path, having learnt the hard way that the easy way is so often the wrong way.
Until Mark Prince.
Homeless at 15, two children by 21 and on the road to imprisonment after a life of criminal activity, Mark found his escape through boxing.
Fast forward another two years and with a new focus on hard work and training, he turned professional and signed a five year contract with legendary boxing promoter Frank Warren in 1995.
Twenty fights, nineteen victories and fifteen knockouts later, his career included two international belts and a bruising, single loss in a World Title light-heavyweight fight.
Prince was on the cusp of superstardom when a terrible knee injury prevented him from fighting again.
And yet his biggest challenge was yet to come.
In 2006 his son Kiyan, a promising young talented footballer signed to Queens Park Rangers Football Club, was fatally stabbed outside his school in North London.
It marked the beginning of a journey and a commitment to use Kiyan’s legacy to help inspire, challenge and educate the youth embroiled in the downward spiral into urban violence.
Mark’s success in boxing was built on his core strengths of being a natural fighter and being able to bounce back positively from adversity. It equipped him with the resilient attributes needed to turn his huge personal tragedy into the catalyst for establishing the Kiyan Prince Foundation.
Created to help and support a growing number of projects and individuals looking to deter children from becoming part of gang cultures, the Foundation instead gives them a new sense of purpose and direction in life.
It is a project that has seen Mark become THE visible role model for those wanting to escape the cycle of misery; from appearances on the ITV documentary “Put The Knives And Guns Down” and The News Of The World’s “Save Our Streets” campaign to being a panellist at the NBCPA National Black Crown Prosecutors Association Annual Conference and speaking for the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Trident programme.
In short, he has become synonymous with the nation’s attempts to make its streets safer.
He offers authentic, real-world advice and genuine ways on how to get out of the situation so many people find themselves in. After all, it’s not your circumstances that dictate your future but how you deal with it.
Hardship and setbacks can always be overcome if sacrifices are made and change is embraced.
From small groups or individual mentoring to large gatherings and major corporate events, Mark’s unique story and emotive, charismatic public speaking style have allowed him to make a compelling difference to those around him.
Put simply, he breaks down and challenges the imbedded beliefs of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and once again gives them permission to believe.
He’s made the mistakes. He’s given the excuses. He’s witnessed the terrible consequences.
But that has given him an unparalleled connection to the troubled youth that have become both the aggressors and the victims in a crime explosion that has unpicked the fabric of our city communities.
It is a connection that deserves to reach the right and difficult platforms to help save lives; a golden opportunity we cannot allow to be wasted.