Farah Mohommoud: You Press

Farah Mohommoud is the Founder and CEO of You Press

 

1. What is your connection to Paddington Central?

We are based in West London and we got connected to Paddington Central through our community partner: Young Westminster Foundation back in 2018. Since that time we have worked with Paddington Central’s team to deliver incredible projects that have included Elevate (an employment training programme for recent graduates) and a short creative writing project (during Black History Month in 2019) for community members and their families.

2. Can you provide a little bit about your background?
 

My name is Farah Mohammoud and I am a passionate social entrepreneur, with over six years’ experience of training people, managing volunteers and turning a social action campaign into a social enterprise called You Press.

Growing up in London, I have developed an interest in social entrepreneurship and personal growth, as a result I have been active in my community since 2009.  In the past I have been on a self-development journey to make myself an effective leader for You Press and my community. This journey of self-development and growth has had a profound impact on my outlook on life.  I have developed an incredible desire and passion to help young people and communities through the creative arts, media, training and writing.

You Press is an award-winning social enterprise based in London. Our mission is to empower young people from underrepresented communities to find their voices and contribute to sustainable community development. From our formation in 2009, we have grown significantly in the sharing of expertise and wisdom.

Our initiatives incorporate elements of the creative arts, media and business training. To this date, we have grown a huge network of musicians, theatre centres, journalists, advocacy groups, photographers, writers, trainers, educators and hundreds of community activists. Through these partnerships, we share expertise and derive inspiration from the expertise of others.

3. What does Black History Month mean to you?
 
As a grassroots social enterprise founded by and led by young people from BAME backgrounds we are committed to working with young people and communities from varied social and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, Black History Month is very important to us and each year we explore (creatively) how we can learn from the past to help us create a better future. This year we are excited to be collaborating with Paddington Central and our young people to deliver special events during Black History Month. 

4. Would you like to make any comments on the BLM Movement?
 
We are committed to equality, honesty, and accurate representation of our diverse communities. But we have seen and experienced the barriers and the systems created by racism and inequality that affects our communities and young people.  In these challenging times we stand in solidarity with the Black communities around the world who have experienced systematic racism. We must remind ourselves that police brutality and racism is also happening in the UK.

Enough is enough with racism and hatred. We will continue to fight for equality alongside the Black Lives Matter movement. As we grow, learn and explore how we can better support our diverse communities, we welcome new ideas for collaboration and for a better future.  Please feel free to get in touch with us (contactus@youpress.org.uk).

5. What change would you like to see?

There are many changes that we would like to see but if we had to choose, we like to see more accurate representation of our diverse communities and more inclusive opportunities for young people from varied social and cultural backgrounds.
 
6. What does Representation mean to you?

That’s a good question, because You Press started out as a social action campaign to tackle the negative perception of young people from BAME backgrounds in the mainstream media. Therefore, accurate representation is at the core of what of we do. 

Our first media partnership to provide accurate representation of young people from BAME backgrounds in the mainstream media was with the Guardian (Comment is free). Together we launched a series called “Youth Tell Us” (an online column) that provided young people the chance to offer their perspective on the issues that affect them as well as on current affairs. 

“The opportunity to express our ideas and in a sense, ‘set the record straight’ about youth representation is something that reaches people on a macro scale. Additionally, this campaign can inspire others to be ambitious and creative and unite to make a change” – Olivia Heath – young writer. 

"This is a sensible and helpful article, from a perspective that most Guardian readers do not have."  - Guardian reader. 

Here is the link to the Youth Tell Us series that began our journey: Youth Tell Us
 
7. Have you been surprised at anything lately?

This year, we have seen many challenges and uncertainty experienced by everyone but at the same time we have seen the power of community support and spirit in times of difficultly. To give you an example from April, we have been working with our partner; Barking & Dagenham Giving, to capture and tell the stories of volunteers, community members and organisations that have gone above and beyond to help their communities during COVID-19. Working with our partner, we have handpicked seven young creative writers and graphic designers to document the community stories and produce a series of illustrations on Barking and Dagenham’s response to the crisis. 

What surprised us with this project is the powerful stories of bravery, kindness and solidarity that came through. We believe these real stories will inspire people to reach out and make a difference for their community.  You can read the stories via this link: Barking & Dagenham Community Story Project

8. Do you have an unusual talent?

I don’t have an unusual talent but one of the aspects that I love about our work is that I get the chance to work with talented creatives from all disciplines. As a result, they have inspired me to explore other forms of storytelling, that has enabled me to realise that I have a unique way of telling stories that are real and relatable. To give you an example, in the last couple of years I wrote two powerful spoken word pieces that reflect my own experiences and society. You can view one of the stories via this link: https: Truth on the Roof 

9. Do you have a favourite charity you wish more people knew about?

One of our favourite charities that we work with every year (except this year due to COVID-19) is Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest (QVSR). They do incredible work to help homeless people and provide accommodation for merchant seamen and former members of the Royal Navy. Their aim is to provide a caring environment where individuals will be helped and encouraged – physically, mentally and spiritually –to meet their full potential regardless of ethnicity or religious background. 

Every year we host a free community dinner at Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest, with aim to bring community members and homeless residents together. We believe a free community dinner is a great way to show support to the residents fasting during Ramadan as well as to promote community cohesion. All that we ask from our guests is to bring any food that they would like to share with everyone.

Here’s a short video with more info on Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest and our yearly community dinners: Queen Victoria's Seamen's Rest - We encourage you to support this incredible charity.

10.What inspires you?

What keeps me motivated and inspired is my family, especially my mother who left a worn-torn country to start a new life in a foreign country when I was 9-years-old. The struggles and challenges that she faced to make sure that we (my siblings and I) had food on the table and got a good education is what inspires me to never forget where I came from and to never give up on my goals.
 
11.What are you most proud of?
 
I am most proud of our social enterprise and my team. We never give up and we also work together to find solutions to problems and challenges. This has helped us to build a respected reputation in our communities (locally, nationally and internationally). 

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