Hundreds of school pupils and students are joining De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) to mark the third national Stephen Lawrence Day this Thursday.
And DMU’s Stephen Lawrence Research Centre is calling on communities across Britain to join in remembering Stephen and take time to consider the part we can all play in creating a society that allows everyone to flourish.
Stephen was murdered by racists in South London in an unprovoked attack on April 22, 1993, when he was just 18 years old.
It took his mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence – the former Chancellor of DMU – and lawyer Imran Khan QC, 18 years to get a conviction against two of Stephen’s murderers.
A subsequent independent inquiry by former High Court judge Sir William Macpherson concluded the police investigation into the killing had been “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership”.
Like most 18-year-olds, Stephen had a passion for sport, particularly athletics, loved art and dreamed of a successful career, which in his case, was as an architect.
Since then Baroness Lawrence has used Stephen’s legacy to encourage young people to be inspired about what they can achieve in their own lives, create the kind of community they want to live in and have a strong voice in building a fairer and more inclusive society.
Part of that legacy exist through the creation of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre (SLRC) at DMU, which overlooks the campus’s Hawthorn Square.
While Theresa May, when Prime Minister in 2018, announced that every April 22 will be a national Stephen Lawrence Day.
Due to the pandemic many physical events have been cancelled but the SLRC is working with schools across the county, as well as other UK universities, to continue to tell Stephen’s story.
Hundreds of pupils at secondary schools across Leicester and Leicestershire are taking part in Stephen Lawrence Research Centre ‘classroom takeovers’ in which DMU academics will hold virtual education sessions covering subjects such as Sport, Protest, and Racism, Race and Islamophobia and UK rap music, and the police and media’s responses to the art form.
They will also ask vital questions such as ‘Why do we need Black history?’.
Baroness Lawrence at the first Stephen Lawrence Day at DMU
Dave Bennett, head teacher of Winstanley School in Braunstone Town, which is involved in a SLRC takeover this week, said: “Stephen Lawrence Day is important because we are on a journey to help young people understand about race and enable them to celebrate their identity, while moving the whole school on to stage of speaking out and working together.
“It is one of our key events of the school year and we want the effects of Stephen Lawrence Day to run right through the school year.”
Year 10 pupil Reuben said: “It is really important for the SLRC to come into our school with all the facts about Stephen which will help the students remember Stephen’s legacy.”
Year 11 pupil Shalom said: “Stephen Lawrence Day is important because it educates people about the story of Stephen and gives us the opportunity to use our voice to create equality in society.”
Fellow Year 11 pupil Vanessa added: “It is important that we educate pupils and teachers about the effects race and equality has on families and other people around them.”
A statement from City of Leicester College, which is also part of a takeover this week, said: "Baroness Doreen Lawrence has always said young people and education are the key to eliminating racism in the UK and talks frequently about “the three C’s” – classrooms, community and careers.
"Stephen Lawrence Day is focussed on giving young people a voice to help create a society which treats everyone with fairness and respect. We at the The City of Leicester College (TCOLC) feel we are responding to her 'call for action'. We vow to 'make a difference '.
"Every child that walks through the doors of TCOLC deserves to 'thrive not merely survive' being part of an academic programme that focuses on promoting equality of experience and opportunity. We are privileged to support the programme and students like Kanisha."
Dr Kennetta Perry, Director of the SLRC, said: “Baroness Lawrence has always said that young people and education are vital to help change society.
“So we understand the huge responsibility we have leading a centre bearing Stephen’s name at DMU which gives us a tremendous opportunity to use our research to engage with wide ranging audiences including young people about pressing social justice issues.
Baroness Lawrence opens DMU's Stephen Lawrence Research Centre
“We also recognise the responsibility the centre has to reach out and work with schools and colleges in our local community. Stephen Lawrence Day gives us all the time to focus on his story and understand how it brings into view the persistence of racial injustice and how it can inspire young people to use their voices and be the change society needs.”
Sherilyn Pereira, Public Engagement Manager at the SLRC, said: “We want to introduce a new generation of students to Stephen’s story, help them explore the historical significance of the case and highlight the Lawrence family’s fight for justice.
“Learning from Stephen’s story helps young people consider how they can live their best lives and fulfil their dreams and ambitions.
“It is wonderful that so many schools and colleges are taking part this year - despite the challenges the current pandemic has created – and we are confident Stephen Lawrence Day will continue to be a significant part of every school and college calendar for years to come.”
Posted on Monday 19th April 2021