Baroness Doreen Lawrence has talked about what the anniversary of the murder of her son, Stephen Lawrence, means at a time when conversations around race and violence are louder than ever.
Today (22 April) marks Stephen Lawrence Day, 28 years after the teenager was murdered by two men in a racially motivated attack at a bus stop. The day is an opportunity to celebrate Stephen’s life, educate young people about the significance of his legacy and highlight the ongoing work of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation – the charity founded by Stephen’s mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence.
In an interview with Channel 4 News host Jon Snow, Baroness Lawrence has shared heartfelt reflections on her continued efforts to highlight issues of structural racism. She has also discussed the meaning behind Never Forget Stephen Lawrence, a film that has been made with people including Idris Elba, Ian Wright and Maya Jama to mark the day.
“My thing is always around the education,” she says. “However we can bring people together to talk about it and talk about inclusion. I think our country at times is so divided and I see Stephen as bringing people together and that inclusion – whether or not they’re children or adults.”
Reflecting on what happened to her son, Baroness Lawrence continued: “At the time, after Stephen’s death, I was so angry that nobody was interested. Nobody cared and there were so many more Black boys who had died. From the prime minister going down to the justice system, nobody cared that these young men were losing their lives. And I felt Stephen was worth more than that.
“I will always highlight the injustice and the structure of racism that exists in this country – that needs to change.”
Sharing what she thinks is the reality of being a young Black man in the UK today, Baroness Lawrence said: “When we think about how society is [today], the fact that we have something like the foundation and a name like Stephen’s that can help bring people together is more important than ever.
“I was out the other day and saw two of my nephews who were with two others. And I looked at them and they were just going to get on a train. Had they been out on the street just standing like that, they’d have attracted more attention from the police, because they were a group of young Black men. They’re not doing anything and that’s our fear for them because they’re not free to be themselves because society doesn’t allow them to.”
Baroness Lawrence said that education at school is one of the key ways of making change happen among the next generation, especially the teaching of this country’s history. She also said she fears for her 10-year-old grandchildren who will soon be starting secondary school, and the danger that she thinks this potentially puts them in: “We should live in a society that protects them, and society doesn’t.”
Sharing her final thoughts on what today means, she added: “As far as I’m concerned, we should only think about the human race. We should not be in a way that we’re segregated or separate or think we’re from this minority or that minority. I want to see the foundation bringing together everybody…
“All young people [should] feel valued and respected, able to make friendhsips right across the board, without having to think ‘Oh I can’t talk to that person because they’re a different race’. But to reach their hand out to a fellow pupil and say, ‘You’re important, I value you and why can’t we just be friends.
“It’s about respect, value and seeing everyone as one human race.”