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Amani Simpson: Let It Shine

Updated: Nov 18, 2023








Amani Simpson. Now that’s a name of a special person. I had been looking forward to interviewing Amani for some time because his story is pure and inspiring. It is one which has been told and retold in several mediums and on multiple occasions by him and third parties, not least Amani’s short film and filmmaking debut of the same name back in 2019. Amani accumulated a staggering million views in four days, and that figure has more than quadrupled since then showing its obvious resonance and profound impact with young people especially. The film chronicled Amani’s origin story, giving an insight into why he does the things he does. Him growing up shy, getting involved with bad influences, getting stabbed seven times, being at death’s door and, as a phoenix, rising to blaze a trail for others who may be vulnerable of having their lives derailed by socio-economic and environmental circumstances. Amani’s story is intriguing, one of depth and substance. You should definitely watch ‘Amani’ on YouTube to give you a little insight into his life. But for now, let’s get to it…





Storytelling…

Amani got into filmmaking organically. He had always loved watching and rewatching classic movies growing up, but his foray into filmmaking came from conversations with his friend Joivan Wade, an actor, who eventually helped write the script for Amani and worked with him and the likes of Richard Kattah in making it. The ensuing success of the film, watching his story on the screen and seeing it move and impact people, working with fantastic people on set, all these things unlocked something in Amani. ‘I told myself, I need to do this again’, he said.

Amani has always been a storyteller. When he was younger, he used music in particular rapping as his medium of expression and although he enjoyed it, filmmaking seemed to fill a hole he never knew was there and he found it a more wholesome medium for telling a story. But you see everything Amani does is linked and delivered through his Social Entreprise Aviard Inspires which recently released a new short film this summer, ‘Save me’, a social impact project commissioned by Enfield council which deals on topics like grooming and contextual safeguarding.

It’s a powerful piece that takes grooming and the world of gangs beyond the stereotypes to raise awareness of what’s often hidden in plain sight. ‘I’m a commentator and I try to amplify those narratives to reach people who may not have the insight to understand what’s happening in underrepresented groups or people who are overrepresented stereotypically’ Amani said, commenting about the film and the difficult issues he deals with in filmmaking but also as a Youth Coach and Speaker.



Source: Enfield Council(enfield.gov.uk)





Aside from filmmaking, Amani has gotten involved with several initiatives having been creative director of the Mayor of London’s commissioned ‘You’ve Got this campaign,’ leading the #ourlockdown campaign, and also being actively involved with Apprentice Nation, founded by one of his mentors Stephen Greene CBE, which provides training for young people to improve their career prospects and promotes internship and apprenticeship opportunities. Amani is no stranger to galvanising support for notable causes, and I wondered how he’s been so successful at doing so.

‘Working out what you want the outcomes to be then working backwards is crucial.’ He started, ‘then you find people who are aligned with those outcomes, key persons and organisations who need to be involved with the project to ensure its success.’ Amani made the point that by identifying relevant targets you avoid the common mistake of spreading your focus in every and no particular direction.

‘Sometimes it’s about seizing the moment’, he admitted, ‘I’ve met people at events who are influential, and you only have a few minutes with them. In those moments when you have their attention, you need to make it make sense… You need to have what you need to have the conversation.’

‘Getting sales experience helped me prepare for those moments. It’s good to know what makes people buy. Tap into the thought leaders, learn from them.’




Growing up Shy…

Looking at all the things Amani has done; one would hesitate to believe he was shy growing up.

‘Yeah, I was very shy growing up and getting bullied didn’t help. But it’s been a journey’, he said. ‘I still get imposter syndrome sometimes when I look around in some rooms I’m in or think of some of the work the team at Aviard Inspires has done. But confidence comes from experience.’ He continued, ‘It’s all about having a reference point. Getting bullied at school, being shy, getting involved with negative influences, being isolated from people. That was my reference point. But gaining new skills later on in life, making new friends from fresh experiences, speaking at events to thousands of people, these things became my new reference points. Having that reference point gave me the courage in my competency, in my abilities… it’s crucial.’





He took a moment to think before continuing, “We often think people will say no to our ideas, so we don't share them, we don't push them out... No is the default answer if you never ask the question."




Making an impact…

The kind of issues Amani tackles in his campaigns, short films and speaking engagements, the people he encounters through his coaching endeavours, their stories, are often heartbreaking. Amani knows kids who’ve been victims of knife crime, he’s lost friends to prison who’ve committed murder, he’s seen kids in situations where you’d have to really stretch your eyesight to see a glimmer of hope in their lives. I wondered how it all impacts him, and how he wakes up every day with optimism that he is making an impact.

‘It’s been heartbreaking yeah. But when I was at the back of the ambulance, I made a promise to God. I said, ‘if you’re real give me another chance and I’ll live to steer young people away from darkness’ he paused, ‘You have to go into the darkness to shine light…to reflect light from God. It’s difficult yes, but you have to stay optimistic.’

Amani recognises that he can’t do the things he does alone, ‘you need a good team of people around you. I have a great team around me. My family, friends, colleagues, coaches. You can’t do it alone.’

On Amani’s website, he writes that he wants to leave this earth having impacted the mindset and lives of millions of people. This goal drives him, propels him, pushes him, pulls him.

Amani Simpson… now that’s a name of a special person.

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