The last 48 hours have seen wall-to wall coverage of the historic victory of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, deeply moving and inspiring. Amidst the emotion I want to pay tribute to the role played across those 27 years by my friend, Phil Scraton, who, among many contributions to the cause, wrote the book, Hillsborough : The Truth. Now Phil is likely to be embarrassed by this singling out of his endeavours, but I want to do so in a challenge to all of us, who claim to be committed to social justice. Within youth work references to social justice are obligatory, but they risk being empty and tokenistic. They become real and meaningful only when we speak truth to power. And how often do we really do that? Phil argues that it is the responsibility of social scientists to bear witness to the experiences of those they study and analyse, to chronicle their stories and in doing so confront the official discourse and its deceits. Surely too it is our responsibility within youth work to criticise and challenge the injustices heaped upon young people by continuing anti-social, neoliberal policies. At this moment there’s much talk about creating fresh alliances across the youth sector. Against this back ground it’s timely to renew and live up to the claims that youth work is an emancipatory practice, opposed to the precarious society. To do so will be uncomfortable and risky. However isn’t it time for youth work [workers and young people], drawing strength from incredible struggles such as that of Hillsborough, to speak truth to power?
Here’s an excellent video of Phil, a true organic intellectual, speaking in 2013 on ‘Recovering Truth, Informing Justice- Researching the Hillsborough Disaster’.
PS I should add too that Phil was especially supportive in helping IDYW and this blog get off the ground. Thanks and solidarity.