Stephen Lawrence Day

Stephen Lawrence Day

April 18, 2019

 

When Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993, I was 8, just old enough to understand what had happened, just old enough to have the ideas of racism and injustice crystalised.  Having grown up with the repercussions, ripples and repairs that have stemmed from this tragedy Stephen Lawrence’s case has shaped my personal opinions on society, justice and privilege; I think it feels personal to anyone who grew up with it. Now, 26 years later we are holding the first Stephen Lawrence Day on 22nd April, focusing on the lessons we can learn and how to ‘Live Our Best Life.’

 

As the programme manager of Find Your Voice in Birmingham, which engages 16-18 year olds through filmmaking, it struck me that this happened long before they were born. In the group we discuss issues that are important to them and the topics or discrimination and knife crime come up often, so we decided to run a discussion group to compare their issues and concerns with Stephen’s story and think about what has changed and what work still needs to be done.

 

Firstly, we found out what they knew about the case,  which for about half of them was little to nothing. We discussed what was known: that Stephen was 18 at the time of his death, just a little older than everyone in the group, and that he was stabbed in a racially motivated attack by a group of white men who evaded justice through systematic failures in the police force and wider society and that there were no convictions until nearly 20 years later.

 

“It’s eye opening to see what changes need to be made regarding discrimination and even safety in general” offered Tehmim, thinking of the case in regards to not just racism but violence in general, such as knife crime which is spiking lately. Some of our participants had recently been invited on local radio to talk about how it’s impacting them and how safe they feel, so it’s a particularly pressing issue for them.

 

Connie, who had learned details of Stephen’s case previously on YouTube chimed in with additional information, quoting Duwayne Brooks, the friend that was with Stephen on the night of the incident, taken from an interview with The Guardian in 1998. “At the scene the police treated me like a liar, like a suspect instead of a victim, because I was black and they couldn't believe that white boys would attack us for nothing. They tried on the night (of the murder) at the police station, to get me to say that the attackers didn't call us n****r. They described me as violent, uncooperative, intimidating. They were stereotyping me as a young black male. They didn't care about what I told them. They weren't bothered that Stephen was lying there dying."

 

“That’s terrible, you shouldn’t treat people differently” says Courtney, shocked at the detail.  Talking a little about the changes that have been made since the incident they spoke about what they think may be important to continue to improve understanding, “I think it’s important to have diversity and inclusivity in society, because when you don’t understand different cultures you become ignorant,” says Lauren. “I know that sometimes they look at what’s being said in the media when you should just meet the person instead of using stereotypes against them.”

 

We hope that Stephen Lawrence Day will help to foster these conversations and help us to engage in honest dialogue and open relationships, and ultimately #LiveOurBestLife

 

We asked some of our Find Your Voice group how they intend to live their best life?

 

“Try to be the best version of yourself” Lauren

 

“If you want to do something just do it, it doesn’t matter what other people think” Connie

 

“Don’t let people stop you” Courtney

 

“Be kind to others” Zeyad

 

“Be self aware and learn from your mistakes” Tehmim

 

“Making time for people that make you happy” Venandah

 

By Cassie Smyth and FYV Participants