Schoolchildren visited De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) today to learn about the legacy of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, ahead of the first national ‘Stephen Lawrence Day’ later this month.
More than a hundred secondary-age pupils from six Leicestershire schools were welcomed by Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Stephen’s mother and Chancellor of DMU, who told them about her son’s story and its historic significance.
The pupils were then given a first look inside the new Stephen Lawrence Research Centre on the DMU campus, which officially opens on 9 May and will support groundbreaking research to promote social justice and foster inclusion on a local, national and global scale.
Baroness Lawrence explained how they can shape the future by inspiring positive change. She said: “My aim is to make sure everyone understands about Stephen and his story. Stephen was so much about life, he was very positive and he wanted to make a difference.”
Stephen was just 18 when he was tragically killed in a racially motivated knife attack in South East London on 22 April 1993. Last year, on the 25th anniversary of Stephen’s death, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that a national day of commemoration in his name would take place on 22 April every year.
“It is really exciting that something we have been campaigning for for such a long time is now happening,” said Baroness Lawrence. “We want to take the opportunity to encourage young people to think about how they can live their best lives and get what they want out of life.”
In the 26 years since his death, Baroness Lawrence has campaigned tirelessly to promote a positive legacy in her son’s name and in 1998 she founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which encourages children to build a safe and inclusive society from an early age.
“I have not spent my years focusing on all the bad things, I don’t think I could have carried on if I had done that,” she said. “Instead I look forward and work to make change - and that’s what I hope the Stephen Lawrence Day will inspire others to do too, especially young people.”
Pupils from the City of Leicester College, Madani Schools Federation, Babington Academy, Bosworth Academy, Winstanley School and Judgemeadow Community College, had the opportunity to speak with Baroness Lawrence about the Trust’s campaign for social change.
They also took part in group activities which got them to think about how they can best represent themselves in society and consider the role they can play in making history.
“Being a black person myself it is very upsetting to know that Stephen Lawrence was killed in a racist attack,” said Anotida Nyatsanza, aged 13, from Bosworth Academy. “We got to meet Baroness Lawrence and she told us all about the new research centre here at DMU. I think it is going to help a lot more people to speak out about issues they face and that’s really important.”
12-year-old Reuben Dowthwaite, from Winstanley School, said: “Even though it was a long time ago, Stephen Lawrence’s murder is still very relevant today. The issues of racism and violence are so important and if children learn about them from a younger age, they will know that they are wrong sooner.”
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The new Stephen Lawrence Research Centre will research the histories of black and minority ethnic communities in the UK, the politics and practice of institutional racism, denials of justice and the psychology of racial violence.
A dedicated exhibition space details the journey towards justice in the aftermath of Stephen’s death, while a dedicated Stephen Lawrence Archive, situated in the university’s Kimberlin Library, houses artefacts donated by Baroness Lawrence.
“I am very proud that my son’s life has helped change society for the better and helped other young people,” added Baroness Lawrence. “I hope that the national Stephen Lawrence Day will empower people to talk more openly about important issues.”
Posted on Thursday 11th April 2019