Lennox Rodgers is next up for the More Than My Past podcast, which offers the chance for ex-offenders and people who are in recovery from addiction to tell their story in a bid to smash the stigma that threatens to hold them back.
Lord John Bird told his story to host Hollywood actor Jason Flemyng earlier in the series, sharing how he went from a life of homelessness and imprisonment as a youngster to founding The Big Issue and becoming a crossbench peer.
In the latest episode, author and motivational speaker Rodgers tells his tale of how he put an early life marred by physical and sexual abuse as well as racism, criminality and drugs behind him to co-found the Refocus Project. Now he mentors young people who are in the same position he was in and he tells Flemyng just how vital it is to have that authority figure: “The power of early intervention is massive, if someone would have intervened early in my life then I could have had a different life”.
Rodgers also reveals his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and the racism he suffered as a youngster. The key is forgiveness, he says. “Not everyone in the country is racist – we’ve come a long way, we’ve got a long way to go and we might never stamp racism out completely […] but we have to let go of the past and see how we can create a new and better future.”
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
The Forward Trust’s More Than My Past campaign launched last year, featuring legendary Arsenal footballer Tony Adams and ex-Big Issue vendor-turned-London’s happiest bus driver Patrick Lawson as poster boys.
The new podcast builds on the online campaign to celebrate stories of people who have overcome the barriers which prevent people with difficult pasts from finding and work and reaching their full potential.
Mike Trace, CEO of The Forward Trust, is interviewed in the podcast’s introductory episode and explains the intent behind the podcast. “The cliché of evil criminals who have just decided to live that life doesn’t hold – a lot of people in prison, with drug and alcohol problems or homeless are struggling to turn their lives around. We have lots of events within Forward Trust where our community gets together and celebrates those who have done well. We’re just trying to replicate that online and take it to a wider audience.”
The More Than My Past podcast is available now on all major podcast platforms.