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'Moss Side's Views Have Changed - Have Yours?'

I lived for four years on the edge of Moss Side in Manchester and came to love this place and the people I got to know for whom it is home.  Granted, I was curb crawled within days of moving in, saw drug deals take place outside my front door (and shocked my middle class friends by not phoning the police - I quite like being alive!  But that is about drugs not Moss Side) and was a victim of the postcode trap that meant my household and car insurance were astronomical at a time when my dependable income was £0 pcm; at least I had the reserves to pay for them.

I have been saddened and irritated by the way national media have handled the tragic death of Jesse James - only yesterday I flicked round ceefax localnews and found numerous murders in other regions.  Of course it is a tragedy when someone is murdered, and from the comfort of middle class, middle England, easy to ask what a lad of that age was doing out in the wee small hours.  But I was annoyed at the whole portrayal of Moss Side - and maybe even Manchester - as gang-land; annoyed that a gang (or was it actaually two gangs?) in 'South Manchester' (i.e. cannot have been Moss Side) with guns brazenly flashed for the camera was presented as normative; annoyed that the reporter was a nice white woman (how brave! not) whizzing through on an arterial road.

Moss Side and Hulme are areas of Manchester that have changed dramatically in recent years, enough so that the slogan 'Moss Sides Views Have Changed, have Yours' was used by the council in 2001 to celebrate the fact that at a time when, away from media glare, violent crime decreased old through routes were openned up, older houses refurbished and new ones built.

Karline Smith's book 'Moss Side Massive' is set in Moss Side/Hulme around 1990.  It is not a happy story, but it gives a perspective on the experience of young black men caught up in the drugs/gun culture.  I guess I was attracted to it as parts of it were set literally in the street where I lived.

Page 194 says ‘Drug gangs and gang warfare.  Guns.  Extortion.  Violence.  Intimidation. Some people compare Moss Side to hell.’  Sadly, this week the news reporters seem to be saying the same thing.  Perhaps the one saving grace was an article in that lesser read publication the Baptist Times.  Here the local Baptist minister gave an honest inside impression that showed that while there is much to mourn, Moss Side is also a place of hope.  I guess it strikes me that the majority of the ministers in the Moss Side area (with the obvious exception of the Catholic Priest) are women - something not unusual in inner cities and so-called 'tough pastorates'. 

I have many happy memories of Moss Side, and some great photos of people of all races enjoying life together.  If Moss Side is on your mind, please pray for Edith, Sarah and Genny, and indeed for other ministers like them, who live and minister in areas where violence is portrayed as the norm.  As time passes, Moss Side's views will continue to change - the question is, will ours?

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