A mother stood up in front of Northamptonshire's youth today and told them how her son died in hospital due to fatal wounds to the chest - and urged them to rethink carrying knives.
Rosann Taylor is the mother to her only child Azaan, affectionately known as AJ, who died last year, after he was stabbed in the street by a gang in Luton.
The group rounded on him while he was walking with his girlfriend and friend after they had left a funeral, The Luton Today reported.
He did not retaliate throughout the 22-second attack, despite being stabbed multiple times and hit with what experts believe to be a knuckle duster.
Today, Azaan's mum Rosann spoke bravely to a group of teenagers about the death of her boy, and told them that this is their time to take a walk away from gang violence and carve a different pathway for their futures.
She told the Chronicle & Echo that her son was the victim of a previous attack a year before whereby he was struck with a screwdriver, had broken his nose, suffered two black eyes and was kicked in the head repeatedly.
It was after that attack she took her son to the police for help but after his attackers found out he was labelled a snitch Azaan carried a knife with him to protect himself as he lived in fear.
She told the Chron: "In hindsight, which is a beautiful thing, he was probably suffering from PTSD and I did not know.
"He is not going to come to me and say I’m going to carry a knife.
"We reported it to the police and no charges were brought forward because witnesses didn’t give statements so my son was labelled a snitch. So he became very frightened so he felt that the best way to protect himself was to carry a knife and my message is that carrying a knife doesn’t protect you it makes you more vulnerable. And my son, arguably, paid his price for that."
Rosann spoke frankly at County Hall today in Northampton not just in front of young people but a senior politician, the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable of Northamptonshire Police.
The courtroom was packed with 30 Northamptonshire school children who are being encouraged to engage positively with CIRV (the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence).
It has been operating in the county since February 2019 and since then, the team having taken over 500 referrals from agencies across the county, relating to people who are either on the periphery of gang involvement or already immersed in gang-related activity.
"It’s happening up and down the country, children are arming themselves because they are in fear," Rosann added.
"It’s not the kids that are involved in gangs or violent culture, it’s normal every day kids that are carrying knives.
"For some of them it’s a status symbol, it’s a cultural thing now.
"They are born into this - it goes right back to it takes a village to raise a child.
"Simple things like telling our male children to 'man up, don’t cry, you’re a big boy'.
"This is big stuff - we are pre-programming our male children that they have to be tough that they are not allowed to be vulnerable and they can’t be weak when in fact they are just children.
"I have to take responsibility as well because I was actually one of those parents who was desensitised.
"Knife crime didn’t affect me. My son didn’t have a criminal record, he was not affiliated with a gang, it was really other people's problem.
"So I have to take ownership of that and I think that’s where society has gone wrong.
"We are all responsible for what’s going wrong."