Prologue

“This is BBC News, Saturday, May 1st 2012.” The blonde reporter aimed her serious blue eyes at the camera, mouth held in a thin line. “Breaking news; the popular youth activist Yusaf Awil has been shot dead today at a press conference in South London.”

Zion’s’ eyes widened in shock. “Dad! Ines! Come see this – now!” Her eyes never left the screen. As the reporter continued she could hear the heavy thump of feet running down the stairs. The front room door swung open, two concerned faces peering inside. She pointed a finger at the television screen. “Look.”

“At twelve noon today, twenty-four year old Yusaf Awil was killed by an unknown gunman while he spoke to a crowd of his supporters and critics in the heart of Brixton.

“Awil was known for his radical views on youth culture and the changing face of society and politics today.” The screen cut from the news office to a clip of Awil speaking earlier that year to crowds of people in the heart of London. Zion remembered that day well, he was so passionate, so emotive – she was completely swept away by his words. But what she loved even more was that he sounded just like her – common, young and unrestrained by the farce of being an adult.

“Fifty one years ago,” said the character on screen, “one of the greatest men of our time made a speech. He told the world that he had a dream. A dream where equality would prevail against all else. Where it would no longer matter who you were, or what you looked like, or even where you lived. We would all be the same, brothers and sisters in arms.” His words were met by soft murmurings and agreements from the audience.

He continued, “Today I stand, seemingly a free man, seemingly allowed to be who I am – but alas the war of inequality is not over yet.” There was a pause in his speech, holding the crowd in suspense. “I now live in a world where I cannot put my foot to the left or to the right. I am unable to move forwards in life, not because of the colour of my skin, but because my age doesn’t grant me the privilege.” The claim was met by the glorious uproar of agreement.

“I’m here to tell the county, to send a message to young and old alike. To the young – dream big, nothing is impossible. Dreams are attainable, but sometimes you need to rebel against the world around you. To the old – make way for us, for it’s our time now to make a stand. How can you expect us to grow if you keep us down? This country needs renewal, the principle is Biblical – just as the walls of Jericho fell, so will your time of control fall around you, and we will take a stand for our power.” The crowd became wild and unruly. The camera cut to shots of young men jumping and hollering in agreement, the crowd making an almighty sound. Out of the chaos rose a chant – rebel, rebel. The words that became the pinnacle of Awil’s campaign.

The speech faded away into rounds of rapturous applause and the glossy, orderly newsroom appeared again. “Police warn supporters of Awil not to take action against rival group Activism Against Youth Culture, with whom the gunman is assumed to be involved. In other news…” With a switch of the remote the screen turned to black. No one said anything. Zion’s face was slack, shocked. Her father was the first to break the silence.

“And the cycle continues,” He sighed, “a saviour arises and is shot down by those who disagree.” Turning his head away from the blank screen, he shuffled out of the room leaving his wife and daughter to watch the ruin unfold.

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