A Memorial Service for Stephen Lawrence
It has been announced by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, that an annual Stephen Lawrence day is to be held on the anniversary of the teenager’s murder. May announced this at a memorial service held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the hate crime left the nation horrified and which ultimately was the cause of his death.
Who was Stephen Lawrence?
If you are unsure of the details of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, he was a Black-British teenage boy living in south-east London. Stephen was murdered by five white youths in a blatantly racially motivated attack whilst he was waiting for a bus on 22nd of April 1993. The case became one of the highest profile racially-motivated cases in British history and led to the Metropolitan police being described as institutionally racist.
The police have been held accountable because there was a clear indication and evidence to suggest a hate crime was going to take place, with faces to put to suspects – but nothing was done to prevent the murder. Furthermore, only two members of the group of five that murdered Lawrence were convicted and this took almost two decades to do. Their names are David Norris and Gary Dobson.
In consequence, changes and amendments were to take place in terms of the conduct of the Policing system as well as other areas in the legal system. His unjust murder sparked positive change in the justice system, something which he has been remembered for.
The 25th Anniversary Memorial
Before the service started, Doreen Lawrence, Stephen’s mother, and her son Stuart greeted the guests at the entrance of the church.
The memorial service held in honour of Stephen Lawrence was heavily attended, and many of those people were wearing the orange ribbon badges of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.
Of course, the Prime Minister, Theresa May was present as well as the leader of the opposition (labour), Jeremy Corbyn. Tributes were sent by both May and Corbyn, as well as the home sectary Amber Rudd. Corbyn read directly from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, ‘Long Walk to Freedom.’ Mandela actually met the Lawrence family at his request whilst he was on a trip to London.
Royalty also attended the memorial in the form of Prince Harry and soon-to-be princess Meghan Markel. Both stopped to talk with the Lawrence Family and offer their gratitude. During the service, Prince Harry also read out a letter of support which was written by his Father the Prince of Wales. The letter read I remember vividly the profound shock that I felt at [Stephen’s] senseless murder, a feeling shared by so many people across this country and beyond. I remember, too, just how deeply moved I was by the determination of his family to build something positive from the tragedy they endured and to ensure that Stephen’s story did not end with despair, but continued with hope.”
Other attendees included the London mayor Sadiq Khan, actor Sir Lenny Henry, singer Beverly Knight and the current Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick.
Stephen Lawrence Day
Doreen Lawrence, the mother of the late Stephen, stated she was thrilled with the Prime Minister’s announcement of a national holiday being held in honour of her son. Doreen said “I feel honoured [May] has recognised the changes that have been made in Stephen’s name and the changes that are still needed,” She then added, that Stephen Lawrence Day would be “an opportunity for young people to use their voices and should be embedded in our education and wider system regardless of the government of the day”. The first Stephen Lawrence Day will be held on the 22nd of April 2019.
Doreen expressed her hope that Stephen would not be defined by his murder but “by the mark he has left on this country and the wider world and for the role model he was and continues to be for many young people today, even though the majority of them would not have been born at the time of his death.” She went on to say that “It has been a long journey that is not over yet, for there are many injustices that are still taking place today.”