iON Presents CompassiON
"So I was like what?!"
Adult life has a way of making us so concerned with our own progression, that we can forget to consider those who are less fortunate, especially those right on our doorstep. We met with UK Artist Lord HBK, the initiator of ‘The Give Back’, and discussed the importance of finding time to give back, talks with the homeless and how the best gifts are often virtues.
iON: So what is The Give Back?
LH: Giving back to people less fortunate during the holiday seasons, food clothes and beverages on Christmas eve and News years, especially New Years Eve as a lot of shelters are closed.
iON: How long has it been running and what inspired you to start?
LH: 5 years, and I started because I was in west end shopping for NYE and I saw a lot of homeless people on the street. I thought, ‘this is surprising, I’ve never really noticed them before, it’s not the first time I’ve come to west end on the same day’ but they stood out that day. I noticed that as it got busier, they got more and more ignored so I thought, next year I want to make a difference. I didn’t have much the first year as I did it alone. I had a lot to carry and I asked for help, but I was the only person that turned up. I didn't mind because that's not who or what I'm doing it for.
iON: What’s the most memorable conversation you’ve had with a homeless person?
LH: There was one year where I was walking down Bond Street, and saw two homeless people and I handed him some sandwiches. As I was walking off, one of them said “I’m not a drug user like everybody else” so I was like "what?”. I came back and he said he was saving up to become a tattooist and social services said they will help him once he’s cleaned himself up. His ultimate goal was to get back his daughter, because he lost her, his house, and his wife due to lack of finances. As I was leaving I remember thinking, if I come back here next year I don’t want to see this guy, not because he wasn’t cool but I wanted him to achieve so much.
iON: 3 words to describe how you feel after volunteering?
LH: Proud. Not because of the gesture but because I actually followed through. It’s easy to get caught up in NYE and not have time, so I was proud that I proved people wrong.
Reflective. This is a situation that you never want to be in, and I doubt they saw it coming. It made me reflect on my life, my decisions, and where decisions can put you.
Grateful. I’m grateful for the knowledge and support system that I have. All of that was in year one. Year two onwards, I was less proud, a lot more people came so I felt Accomplished. I was able to put something together and unite a bunch of people to want to do something.
iON: I think there’s something really special about giving to others, especially those who can’t return the favour. What is the most valuable gift you have been given?
LH: In life? Chances. There’s nothing more valuable than getting a second chance. For me, there’s nothing I’m more grateful for, I’ve pushed people away, I’ve hurt people, and never really believed in giving people the 3rd chance. As I grow through my own experiences and have people give me chances, especially when I’ve needed people so much, it has helped me become a better person. Sometimes things are bigger than yourself, everyone deserves another chance.
iON: Unfortunately society has negatively generalised black men. The fact that you run an initiative like this demonstrates the opposite. What black male misconceptions irritate you?
LH: Nothing irritates me. Just because I give to the homeless, people are still going to see me as aggressive, anti-social, intimating and I’m not going to go out of my way to change that. I believe in being who you are, in autonomy, freedom of speech and expressing myself as well; if that intimidates you, I will continue to do that. What defines me is the good I do, who I’m looking after, being a man of my word, my principles and my faith.
iON: What’s the long term vision for The Give Back?
LH: Just to continue doing it. Ideally instead of walking out, we'd have an apartment with showers, barbers, nurses just anyone who’s willing to help from all around London. Just stuff that we take for granted, that I don’t feel they get to do. Letting them hear stuff from the Bible or music, just a different kind of vibe.
iON: Finish the sentence, “To me, being Black British is…”
LH: Power. We hold so much in our hands, if we want someone to become famous for the most niche things, we have the power to facilitate that. We are creators, the influencers, we define what happens next. We’re unstoppable.
For more information on The Give Back, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Socialise with Lord HBK too - Instagram: @iaintprettytony | Twitter: @LHworld_
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