A young man who turned his life around after being violently attacked has described the ‘honour’ of winning an award named after his friend who was murdered.
After his horrific experience as a victim of violence in Nottingham last year, Akil Johnson-Richards chose to channel his focus into a cooking project.
Akil teaches young people how to cook and also provides meals for vulnerable people, and gives surplus food packages to low income households.
He does this via a project called International Flavours, part of a social enterprise Akil founded called Go Vision.
It is for this reason that he has been recognised by Nottinghamshire Police’s Live Our Best Life Awards programme, launched as part of its Stephen Lawrence Day celebrations.
Akil has won the Lyrico Steede Award – named after the Bulwell teenager who was murdered in 2018. The category was created to recognise a young person who may have been involved in gangs, knife crime or any other forms of criminality but has made significant progress and is inspiring others to make positive decisions and better life choices.
He was surprised with the award on his 22nd birthday, along with a cake made by one of his mentors.
Akil said: “I felt overwhelmed to have won the award as I knew Lyrico personally and I’m sure he’s proud of my achievements and aspirations.
“I was inspired (to become a chef) after seeing people who do not have adequate access to food. I wanted to cook meals for people to show them they don’t have to limit themselves on their quality of dietary choices.
“I’m very creative and like to explore with food and flavours.
“It helps to know I’m supporting others in their time of need.”
Lyrico’s mother Keishaye Steede selected Akil as the winner of the category.
She said: “I decided to choose Akil because I see beautiful potential. I love how he decided to take his experience and pour into himself and bring out the best of his ability in providing a solid healthy foundation for himself.
“He could’ve decided to go down a dark path, but instead he chose light. That is how I always saw my son Lyrico Steede.
“So in his honour I am blessed to have the opportunity to stand by and witness Akil exemplify such great, heroic character.
“God bless young man, keep up the good work.”
Nottinghamshire Police launched the Live Our Best Life Awards programme as part of its Stephen Lawrence Day celebrations.
The awards aim to recognise the talents and achievements of young people across Nottinghamshire.
The Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation is supportive of the awards and Stephen’s brother, Stuart Lawrence encouraged people in Nottingham to nominate their friends and family.
Stephen Lawrence was murdered on 22 April 1993 and following a public inquiry into the handling of the investigation, the Macpherson Report accused the Metropolitan Police of institutional racism in 1999, leading to police forces across the country making changes to their practices.
The launch of the awards formed part of the force’s celebration of Stephen Lawrence Day on 22 April, with six categories open for prospective nominees.
The categories included:
- The Lyrico Steede Award
- Rising Above Adversity Award
- Young Leader of the Year Award
- Young Performer of the Year Award
- Bringing People together
- Young Inspiration.
Akil was nominated for the Lyrico Steede Award by his friend and mentor Dominique Carver-Smith.
Dominique said: “Akil has never used what happened to him as an excuse to retaliate and nor has it deterred him from achieving his life goals.
“He deserves this award as he is actively encouraging young people who are living in deprived communities and may have been involved in criminal pasts to increase their career aspirations and develop new skills.”
Youth outreach worker Romel Davis masterminded the Live Our Best Life Awards and has praised Akil for the work he’s done.
He said: “Akil is an incredible person. He went through an horrific ordeal last year but he has not allowed that to stop him inspiring others to raise their aspirations and learn new skills.
“He fully deserves this recognition. It is so important that we recognise when our young people do something special and this is just one way the force continues its commitment to working with young people in a positive and engaging way.”
Akil has also shared advice for people who may be struggling or have gone down a dangerous path.
He said: “My message to young people is for them to focus on their futures and positive outcomes but I appreciate that is easier said than done.
“I’d also recommend people look to change their group of friends if they are bad influence on them but again, that is easier than it sounds.”
He added: “I would like to give thanks to Keishaye Steede, Lyrico’s mum for choosing me to win this award.
“This gives me motivation and willpower to do better in life. It really is an honour.”