Describing his early life as ‘colourful’, Siddiq knew his life would not follow a set path from an early age.
Although born Muslim, he retook shahada (testimony of faith) whilst serving a prison sentence. Now working with young gang members at the organisation Pathwaze, he helps them change their lives through counselling, workshops, and inspiring them with his story.
In addition to this, he is co-host of the podcast Blacklisted, centred around current affairs, controversial topics and issues that affect the black community, listed in the Top 100 podcasts on ITunes.
Halimat Shode of TBMT-UK sat down with him to talk about his life story.
H: Thanks so much for speaking with me. Can you tell our audience about yourself and your story?
S: I’m from an aristocratic Nigerian family; my dad’s family were one of the founding families of Lagos that built the first masjid. My mum’s side is Yoruba royalty, so I come from a family of good pedigree.
Born and raised in London, I lived most of my life in Brixton. My parents split when I was young and family life was unsettled, constantly moving around school until I was 8. I was a quiet child, I had to be forced to play outside but I had no interest as I would rather immerse myself in books.
I had quite a temper and attracted negative people to me due to adopting a negative mentality at a young age; by ten years old, I knew that I wasn’t going to live a normal life.
Even though I had a natural ability for school , I got bored quickly because I wasn’t challenged and started causing trouble. I stopped giving effort to my studies and started gaining interest in the streets.
I wasn’t raised in Islamic surroundings even though I was given a Muslim name, which is common with many Nigerians and so I was quite carefree. But I did have a wider perspective as I had read the Bible from a young age. I didn’t know much about Islam but what I always knew was that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the last prophet of Islam.
By 19, things had changed drastically. I was on the run for murder. I came back willingly because of police pressure on my mum. I had faith that it wasn’t going to be my whole destiny. I got charged for murder and was placed in an adult prison even though I was a young offender for 6 months, before I was taken to the young offenders’ prison.
I took a plea bargain and was sentenced to 6 years for manslaughter. Midway through my sentence, I started practicing the deen again and took shahada. This was a time when a lot of reverts were coming to Islam. It was an influential movement that helped to keep the unity amongst us.
Even though I gained a reputation and struggled with maintaining my deen, I got married. It also had challenges, but I saw it as Allah’s desire so that I could sort myself out.
I was also involved in the music business at the time; I helped put together the group Section Boyz.
H: From this journey, you have gone on to do important work with the youth involved in the life you used to live. Can you tell us about your work at Pathwaze?
S: I am specialised in the gang rehabilitation aspect of the programme. I started out assisting colleagues in the assessments with the clients, and at times even ended up taking over the assessments because I had their mind-set so my line of questioning is completely different to my colleagues.
I don’t wear my past on my sleeve, so with clients I let them speak. Then when I let them know what I’ve been through, their eyes widen because they would never know. Some of the clients are familiar with me, I love that they respect me for who I am and not my past; I used to do what they do and it inspires them to see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve changed. They also know that they can’t pull the wool over my eyes.
Despite their reputations on the streets, when they’re with me they are the most humble and gentle people, talking with me and having a close relationship.
Seeing the influence I have over them, it makes me want to do more to help them.
H: You have also gone on to create and co-host your podcast, Blacklisted. How did you get started in podcasts?
S: I sent voice notes to a friend of mine who has a podcast called ‘Three shots of Tequila’. He would play my voice notes to his other friends and would ask me to come on to his show as his friends really enjoyed everything I talked about. I was initially snobbish as I didn’t believe podcasts were that cool, but I did eventually go on, and the reception was great. I was sent several messages asking me to come on to the podcast again, so I went back on 4 or 5 times before I started my own.
It has a bigger result than I expected. It’s about trying to have a balance between the secular and religious topics.
H: Who is your target audience your podcast?
S: The target audience is for people like me, or people who have someone in their life that is similar to me, but it’s even bigger than that; it’s those that are a part of the black experience in the U.K and the urban scene.
H: What are your proudest accomplishments with the podcast so far?
S: I would say doing the podcast is a big achievement for me because of the challenges I had starting it; people were opposed to me doing it.
Another achievement was charting in the top 100 podcasts in ITunes the first time we put it up.
H: Do you have advice for those that want to start a podcast?
S: Yes, just do it. Try and find the demographic you want to target. A co-sign is very important if you want to get into the top end of it. Artwork is also important for your podcast. Be consistent with the material you offer. Be as realistic as possible and do it for the love first
To listen to Siddiq's podcast, visit the link: https://soundcloud.com/blacklisteduk .
Follow @BlacklistedUK__ on twitter and instagram and @Puff_Knight for Siddiq's twitter and Instagram.