IT’s a rare and special kind of person who can take unimaginable personal grief and turn it into a message of hope and unity.
But that’s exactly what Sarah Lloyd is doing.
The 42-year old mum lost her son Kieran Butterworth, 17, in a street stabbing incident four years ago.
But rather than being consumed with anger, she has channelled her energies into becoming a campaigner and street crime educator, working with the authorities to try and deter youngsters from being lured down the route of violence and carrying weapons.
Now, Sarah is teaming up with other mothers and community campaigners in Harehills to spearhead a new peace parade in the city, which will be held in July.
It is hoped the day will eventually become an annual event in Leeds, showcasing Harehills as a beacon of community and unity, despite its acknowledged challenges.
Sarah and her fellow organisers - among them many local young people- were spurred into renewed action following the tragic death of Harehills teenager Irfan Wahid just two months ago.
The bright and popular youngster, 16, died after a street stabbing on his way home from school.
A 16-year old will stand trial in July for his murder.
“Too many youngsters are losing their lives,” Sarah told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“That’s what worries me. That’s why I do the work I do [to stop other people’s sons dying needlessly].
“I lost my son to knife crime, and I have seen what it’s done to my family and his friends.
“I didn’t want my son to be another statistic. I wanted something positive to come out of it for the sake of my family.”
She added: “Irfan’s death brought it back to me really badly to be honest.
“If I can promote peace - with this event and by going into schools - and try and stop children from carrying knives or deter them from violence, then I feel I will have achieved something.”
Speaking of the peace parade, she said: “I think this event is massive, and I think it needs doing.”
Sarah currently spends much of her time going into schools, as well as talking to youngsters who have been convicted of carrying knives.
She is full of praise for the community of Harehills, which she credits with supporting her and her family through its darkest days - and with helping steer her into the community work which is now her focus and her passion.
“I didn’t even know there was a ‘community’ in Harehills until my son died,” she said.
“It was when they pulled together to help me and my family that I realised there was actually a community in Harehills.”
The tragedy of Irfan Wahid’s death - which came just days after the fatal shooting of another teenager, Raheem Wilks, 19 - shook the community to its core, but also led to introspection and a renewed focus on reclaiming and celebrating all that is good in this inner city Leeds suburb.
Kauser Jan, an assistant headteacher at a local primary school, who is co-organising July’s peace parade with Sarah, said the aim of the event was to “re-frame the narrative [about Harehills] to a positive one”.
Ideas already in the pipeline include a city-wide non-uniform day to raise funds and awareness, and an expansion of youth sessions on non-violent conflict resolution.
On the day itself, there will be a variety of speakers including Sarah Lloyd and friends and family of Irfan Wahid.
MPs Richard Burgon and Fabian Hamilton, and senior representatives from various faith communities, will also address the crowds, which organisers hope will number in the thousands.
Young people who are involved in youth activities in the area will be taking a key role in organising the peace parade.
“The children are the leaders of tomorrow, and it is very much about them taking ownership,” Kauser explained.
“Hopefully this will be very much about what they want for this community.
“You and I can say whatever, but we are not walking in their shoes.
“It’s about getting them to understand what peace actually looks like. And, when you come up against conflict, what are your options, how do you actually de-escalate and resolve it peacefully.”
Kauser is still realistic about the circumstances and events that have led to the need for the parade, and for such a strong statement of community unity.
“We have had a shooting around the corner from my school, we have had stabbings, we have had all sorts of things,” she said.
“The idea is that, whatever your background, we want to portray a message of peace and harmony.
“And it’s about sharing that message with the children, and with the community.”
Speaking of the community meeting where the idea of the peace parade was first born, she added: “What I found refreshing was that when you usually have meetings like this, you have a lot of men there, and ‘spokespeople’.
“This was different. Because we had a lot of women there.
“And the mothers were the ones saying ‘we don’t want our children involved in this, we don’t want our children carrying weapons’. That’s a very powerful message, and that’s what we are trying to build on.”
A MESSAGE OF UNITY IN THE COMMUNITY
The first ever ‘Unity in our communities Parade for Peace’ will be held on Sunday, July 16 from 1.30pm.
It will start in Harehills, winding through Chapeltown and ending in the city centre outside Leeds Art Gallery.
It will be preceded by a host of build-up events. Ideas already in the pipeline include a city-wide non-uniform day to raise funds and awareness, and an expansion of youth sessions on non violent conflict resolution.
On the day itself, there will be a variety of speakers including anti knife campaigner Sarah Lloyd and friends and family of Irfan Wahid. Politicians and representatives from faith communities will also address the crowds, which it is hoped will number in the thousands.