The Stephen Lawrence Research Centre has appointed three new research fellows to take a national lead in helping to better understand the complexities of race and racism in contemporary Britain.
The centre, based in the Hugh Aston Building of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), was officially opened in May last year by Stephen's mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence.
Baroness Lawrence opening the research centre last year
It was stated at the time that the intention was for the centre to be a place where national conversations on race and social justice should start.
Now three Legacy In Action Research Fellows have been appointed to lead the way and bring to the fore perspectives on race and racism that are too often overlooked in academia, while addressing the lack of BAME representation in higher education.
Dr Lisa Palmer, Deputy Director of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, said: "We are not claiming to be the first research centre to do this, but we are definitely taking a national lead in helping us all better understand the complex make up of African Caribbean and South Asian and African communities.
"We want to be a centre for academics who have the time and energy to answer vital questions about race and racism.
"The launch of the programme is happening when the world is talking about these urgent issues of our time, while race and racism is being played out in everyday politics.
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"It is so important to have people who can cast a critical eye over how these politics affect communities and the people who are living through such important moments in our lives."
The issue of representations of race in higher education are also being addressed.
Dr Palmer said: "There is no doubt that there are disparities along the lines of race in Higher Education and, over the past decade, we have seen important questions being asked about race and racism in our curriculum.
"Student led campaigns have asked "Why Is My Curriculum White?" and "Why Isn't My Professor Black?" and this is all happening while there is a continuous change in the demographic of the student population in UK higher education.
"There is a need to not only inform research through this work but to also look at teaching practices.
"We need to look at what we teach, how we teach it and understand why we need to teach a different understanding of British culture, society and history. Students are pushing for this and we see the Legacy in Action programme as coming out of these movements.
"We have a responsibility to respond to the critical questions of our time."
The three new research fellows are Dr Fatima Rajina, Dr Karis Campion and Dr Yusef Bakkali.
Dr Fatima Rajina
Dr Rajina will start her research looking at the relations between Bangladeshi and Somali people in the East End of London, Dr Campion will be studying the impact of the Black barber shop on its communities in Brixton and Dr Bakkali will be looking at 'Road Life', or Black street culture.
Dr Karis Campion
Dr Palmer said: "What they can bring to the centre is to expand the centre's research and what we can do is support academics that are showing a clear trajectory in terms of working with communities.
Dr Yusef Bakkali
"The three academics have demonstrated that at the heart of their work is a focus the complexities of different communities that we too often don't see or understand."
Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death in 1993 in a racially-motivated attack and the Lawrence family's long fight for justice brought about cultural changes in attitudes of racism and the police and led to changes in the law. Baroness Lawrence is a previous Chancellor of DMU.
Dr Palmer said: "I certainly hope this is something Stephen Lawrence, and of course Baroness Lawrence and her family, would embrace.
Dr Palmer (left) with fellow Stephen Lawrence Research Centre team members
"From my perspective I take the responsibility of having Stephen Lawrence's name attached to our centre incredibly seriously.
"In doing so I want to be able to work towards honouring the struggle of his family and honouring his life - not only what that life meant but also what Stephen's life could have meant had it not been cut so tragically short.
"We need to be in tune with, and critical of, the current state of politics in the UK."
Posted on Monday 26th October 2020