Today, 22 April, is #StephenLawrenceDay where we remember and celebrate the life of this young man whose life was tragically taken. It is one of the most high-profile racial killings in UK history – the resulting investigation and Macpherson report led to significant changes in attitude surrounding institutional racism, police procedure and to the partial revocation of double jeopardy laws.
I am currently reading Baroness Doreen Lawrence’s book ‘And Still I Rise’ which details the family's own experiences of being treated with suspicion from the outset, rather than with compassion, and of being denied the highest level of professional competence to which they were entitled. Along with the stereotyping and racial profiling by the police of Duwayne Brooks, who was with Stephen Lawrence at the time of the murder.
Stephen’s legacy has had an influence across Britain and even locally; my fantastic friend Pepe Hart was a teacher in Radstock. She was the only Asian Primary Head in Bath & North East Somerset and she introduced an Anti-Racist Curriculum long before anyone was talking about it.
She invited Baroness Doreen Lawrence to her school. Pepe says in her blog “she educated our children in a beautiful and unique way. We saw first-hand how the evils of racism can destroy lives. Our children were captivated and wanted change to happen. They wanted to be part of stamping out racism.”
The school set up Stephen Lawrence room and a statue (pictured) in honour of this talented young man who wanted to be an architect but was needlessly killed before he could fulfil his full potential.
The sensitive way they delivered the story through poetry, dance, art and drama meant the whole community shared the experience.
Pepe has worked with the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation and helped to develop an anti-racist package of learning which can be rolled out to other schools. She says “Stephen’s death is a tragic reminder of the vital need to challenge injustice for the greater good. We should all remember all that Stephen would most certainly have brought to the world. A talented teenager murdered for the colour of his skin. Celebrating Stephen today and always means that out of darkness comes light.”
Stephen Lawrence Day - A Legacy of Change – this short video says it all.
Pepe and I regularly talk about Stephen on our lockdown walks and I really admire how she creatively used his tragic story to deliver an anti-racist message to young children in a majority-white rural school.
This week has also seen the conviction of Derek Chauvin who killed George Floyd. These high-profile hate crimes are not the only ones, but we must make sure they are the last ones.
Alongside all this the recent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report argues that institutional racism is no longer an issue in the Britain, but we all know in our hearts that this is not true… yet.
So; let’s commit to using the opportunity that Stephen Lawrence Day gives us to think about the part we all play in creating a society in which everyone can flourish.
At Curo, we must think about how our own systems and processes can create inequalities or unfair advantage and make changes whenever we can. Every Curo colleague should have received hate crime training which gives us all a chance to discuss this issue and ask questions. Please remember language is not the problem – I know it feels like terms are changing every five minutes – it’s the intention behind what you say. If you see or hear anything that is discriminatory ‘call it out’.
Curo’s new customer service plan and the review of how we conduct equality impact assessments (EIAs) give us all at Curo an opportunity to deliver transformational services to our diverse customers. My message to every Curo colleague is: the next time you need to make a decision which affects people ‘check yourself’, as my mum would say, and question those unconscious biases.
This is a journey, but we can get there.