Culture vulture

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
Examples of realised potential are all-important for Rakin Fetuga

Best books ever

The Autobiography of Malcolm X and White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I relate to Malcolm X's struggles because he went off the rails but learned a lot about himself and used his intellect. I use his story in self-esteem groups in school. I want to help troubled children because when I was at school I could be naughty but I had a brilliant English teacher who saw the potential in me and got me through my GCSEs. I hated her at the time, but now I would like to do the same for others. I also appreciate White Teeth because it's about young Bengali boys, and explores problems they have growing up torn between cultures. I can see all that in the Bengali children in school.

Although Alex Haley's Roots is about Afro-Caribbean slavery, it's also about the history of our respectability before slavery. Again, I use this a lot in self-esteem classes, where I am constantly encouraging black boys to think about careers in law, about teaching; that life is more than football and the music business. I also use the lyrics to a song called "I Know I Can" by the rapper Nas (pictured below) because it's about doing the best for yourself and not throwing your life away.

Best film ever

Boyz N the Hood (directed by John Singleton, a challenging film about black boys growing up in a violent neighbourhood of eastern Los Angeles) is important for me. Although the boy in this film gets involved in gangs and street life, he steers clear of real trouble because his father, who brings him up, provides a positive role model. Positive male role models are crucial for young people. We need more black men working in education.

Treat in store

I've helped set up a studio at the City University Open Learning Centre next door to the school, and take groups of students there for rapping and DJ clubs I run. I'm hoping that next year some of my students will be involved in performances.

Rakin Fetuga, 32, is a full-time learning mentor at South Camden community school for 11 to 16-year-olds. For 10 years he was a rap artist with the band Cashcrew. He gave up music to go to university, but has a new band, Mecca 2 Medina, and sings about being British and Muslim. He was talking to Elaine Williams

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