In 2018 it was announced that Stephen Lawrence Day will be celebrated every year on 22nd April to commemorate Stephen's life. We wanted to give dotdigital employees a space to reflect on thoughts and feelings stirred up when thinking of Stephen and the fight his mother has been on since 1993 when her son tragically lost his life.
Here’s what some of them thought about, and what they would like to share with you
Justin Broomes, Strategic Partnerships Manager
Stephen Lawrence’s murder and the story has been prevalent throughout my life. It’s taken me through all sorts of emotions and has certainly had a powerful and lasting impact on me.
I was 8 years old when Stephen was murdered. I don’t remember where or when I learned about it but I remember the feeling like it was yesterday and I’ll never forget it.
It was gut-wrenching and I was truly scared. I remember watching the news, the footage of the bus stop and feel sorrow seeing the heartbroken faces of Stephen’s parents.
That emotion changed to fear when I saw the faces of the men that had been accused. I’d learned for the first time that there were people out there who beat and kill people and who would kill me potentially for my mixed heritage. I didn’t have any understanding of that reality before then.
I was in my teens when I learned that the police had deliberately failed to carry out the investigation properly due to institutionalised racism and that this contributed to the accused not being found guilty.
Inevitably, anger was my next emotion. I was incensed at the injustice. I still am. I’d learned a second reality, the world isn’t quite what I thought it was, what I’d been told it was and that it certainly isn’t the same for everyone.
Despite everything, not all my emotions about it are negative ones.
I feel happy when I see how people of all ethnicities have united behind this campaign and that change has and is happening.
I feel proud of Stephen’s mother Doreen. A strong black woman that’s fought for justice for more than 25 years and successfully changed legislation for the benefit of others.
I still feel sadness and anger that the world hasn’t changed as much as I want but mostly I feel grateful that this experience although awful has opened my eyes and made me more empathetic and willing to call out other forms of discrimination particularly sexism and religious discrimination.
For me, Stephen Lawrence’s legacy although tragic has had a positive impact on the world.
Amber Robertson, Principal Product Manager
I can’t remember exactly when I first learned about the racist killing of Stephen Lawrence, but I do know I would have cried. Today when I think of Stephen, my eyes still fill with tears of sadness and frustration. I find it so hard to believe that we still live in a world where people are discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, and like Stephen, killed because of it. It’s incomprehensible.
Stephen was a Londoner, and his city failed him. When I think about my own experience in my adopted home of London as a white, Australian immigrant, I’ve always felt welcome. I’ve never been made to feel like an outsider. My white privilege is never having my right to belong being questioned. Stephen never got that.
Infuriatingly, racism is still alive and well in London and the UK today. When Stephen died, his life was not only lost, but his family lost theirs too because they’ve had to dedicate their lives to this fighting against a wall of racism to get justice for him. There aren’t many positives in what happened to Stephen and what his family have had to do and are still doing to get justice. But there is one for me because Stephen’s mum is an inspiration. For me, she embodies the kind of Londoner I want to be. One that stands up and never stops, despite what must feel like insurmountable challenges, until we live in a London – a UK – where Black Lives Matter.
Sharon Bugden, Senior Digital Creative
I have nothing but huge admiration for Doreen Lawrence as a woman, a mother and as a campaigner. I work part-time at a charity also founded in memory of a murdered child and I’ve seen first-hand how much determination, bravery, strength and drive are needed to persevere through grief. It takes a phenomenal amount of courage to talk about and repeatedly relive the loss of a child in order to build something positive from such a tragedy.
Doreen Lawrence and her husband Neville Lawrence have, for years, been tirelessly campaigning, unfaltering with incredible composure, despite the terrible circumstances of the case, to ensure their son’s legacy is one of change and that no other family has to go through what they have experienced. Doreen Lawrence deserves our utmost respect and support. No one should face discrimination because of the colour of their skin. Stephen should still be alive and through his memory change must happen. We will no longer ignore the racism we all deplore.
Amie Lane, Head of Partner Marketing
‘One thing that infuriated me about the conversation that I had with the studio owner over the BLM movement last year was her saying ‘I feel awkward asking, but….’
The ‘I feel awkward’ bit was like: *eye rolling emoji*. It would have been better if she had said ‘Can I ask…’
The above was part of a text conversation I had with my black British friend and it struck a chord.
‘Can I ask….’ – three little words could make a lot of difference!
What does Stephen Lawrence Day mean to me?
The murder of a young black boy should have the power to send tremors through society and incite change. 28 years have passed since Stephen Lawrence’s death, and with what’s going on in the world right now, it makes it even harder to digest.
From reading around Stephen Lawrence Day and what it is about four words keep re-appearing for me:
Community, Friendship, Respect and Difference.
Each of these words resonates with me but one that seems to particularly stand out is community.
Community matters now more than ever. Just look at the last year we have had.
Every single one of us shares common ground, but no two of us are exactly alike. Some are taller, some are shorter. We have different tastes in music and art; some of us love yoga, others maybe boxing, some are dog lovers, some prefer cats or both or neither. We worship in temples, churches, mosques, or in our own way. We love sushi, curry, paella, roasts, or all of it. And the list goes on and on, and yes these are very baseline differences, but you get the picture.
But what makes us different including race, beliefs, traditions, language & appearance, can create misunderstanding, fear or even hostility.
Now more than ever we need to conquer this fear, confront it and talk to each other.
We can conquer the fear by removing the unknown, clearing up misunderstandings, learning what we don’t know, asking the questions ‘Can I ask….’ (because there is so much so many of us don’t know, and that’s ok).
It can begin as easily as meeting the people next door, speaking to a colleague you haven’t spoken to before, saying hello when we pass others on the street – we can offer to help when we see a need. We can have the courage to step outside of our comfort zone of what’s familiar and speak to people who don’t look or sound like us – to learn about each other’s lives, experiences, and cultures ‘Can I ask….’.
Making mistakes and not getting it right straight away is okay, we aren’t all going to be perfect and we definitely have a lot to learn ‘Can I ask….’.
Being kind to each other and allowing the growth to happen is also crucial in this. Support in a community is the key to lasting change.
Recognizing our similarities, respecting our differences, allowing mistakes to be made and corrected, and making any effort to bridge the gap will be a giant step forward in the right direction; creating communities in which everyone can flourish and pull together to create real, meaningful change.
So, this year in Stephen’s memory I am going to listen more, ask more questions, learn and understand better. Maybe we all can.
It is not as simple as the below sentence, but I think this is a good place to start…
One person, one conversation, one smile at a time can take down the walls that keeps us separate.
Dil Haidari, Customer Success Team Manager
The tragic death of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 and the events following it was something I have spent the last few days learning about. It is heartbreaking to learn about the innocent death of the young man. Even more harrowing is how Stephen’s family were treated by the authorities following the event.
Unfortunately, it is not surprising that racial attacks and injustices like this are still happening. Rather than being on the decline in many places, I fear it’s on the rise.
I cannot imagine what Stephen Lawrence’s family must have gone through and still are. However, the fact that we have Stephen Lawrence Day proves that his purpose on this planet was more significant than most of us can ever dream of. In keeping his legacy going, we can continue to shine a light on ‘taboo’ topics. Make people talk about uncomfortable subjects to educate everyone and hopefully build a better future.
Jenna Paton, Content Executive
The worst thing about social change is the acts that it takes provoke it. Why do the calls only come AFTER something horrendous and tragic has happened?
Stephen Lawrence – his tragedy, his legacy – is a part of every single one of us. I was a baby when Stephen was murdered, but I know his story. I’ve grown up in a world shaped by the events that took place on April 22, 1993. His mother’s actions, her struggle, her fight for justice have helped create a better society for me and future generations, but there’s still so far to go.
Education and community are essential for social change. We don’t need the death of innocent people of incite change. As Stephen’s mother and so many other say, we have to be the change. Enough is enough.
I want to live in a world where social change isn’t an afterthought following the death of an innocent human being. Sadly, as with the “war to end all wars”, Stephen’s case wasn’t last of its kind. Tragedies like his continue happen every day. It’s deplorable.
It’s so important that we take the time to commemorate days like today. To stop, think, and use every channel and every platform we have at our disposal to make our voices heard. Because the more our voices come together, the louder we are. I’m skeptical by nature, but I believe that even through this blog, we’re helping to make a change.
Devin Sudra, Head of Finance Operations & Credit Control
The 22nd April 2021 will mark the 28th anniversary since Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racially motivated attack while he wated for a bus in Southeast London. This subject still to this day brings mixed emotions to me and many worldwide. Also sparks debates around recent headlines condoning behaviour within the police as we still have a way to go to reach the end goal of being treated fairly.
We mustn’t forget some of the good which came from a devastating act. Such as the partial revocation of the rule against double jeopardy which ultimately led to two of the perpetrators which were convicted of the murder in 2012.
Out of something so tragic we have seen some positive change around attitudes on racism and to the law and police practice. It’s also important we continue to keep Stephens legacy alive and stand for justice together. I am also very proud to work for a company that embraces positive change and highlight some of the past issues which are difficult to address.
Isabel Munoz, Events Marketing Manager
As an American, I’m a little ashamed to say that this was the first year I had ever heard of Stephen Lawrence Day. Upon reading up about Stephen’s story, and how his parents endlessly campaigned for justice I read the following that really stood out to me, “the investigation of Stephen’s murder had been “marred” by institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police. It wasn’t until 2011 that a trial of those accused of his murder”. This hit me hard because this story resonates with what we see happening here in the United States every single day, systemic racism that’s rooted deeply in our police system.
On Tuesday, I cried tears of joy as I saw how Americans reacted to the Derek Chauvin verdict as he was found guilty on all charges in George Floyd’s Death. But then I was quickly reminded of this stat: Chauvin is only the 7th on-duty cop to be convicted of murder since 2005, out of around 15,000 police killings in that time. There is still SO much work to be done. Justice was rightfully served, accountability was finally upheld, but we can’t forget the countless others who have lost their lives at the hands of the police without wishing the same justice for them. The fight for justice is far from over but there is a sense of hope with stories like Stephen Lawrence and George Floyd that though we may never be able to bring them back, that we’re taking long-overdue steps towards justice.
Gavin Laugenie – Head of Strategy & Insight
What were you doing when you were 18? I know I was thinking about Uni, binge drinking, going out with friends and handing in assignments only hours before they were due because I was having too much fun. That’s what Stephen Lawrence should have been doing too. Dreaming big and thinking about what he was going to do with his life. Instead, we’re here some 28 years later, remembering the day a young man needlessly lost his life.
I was only 11 myself when the news broke, but I remember thinking why, why did this happen? Why him? What had he done wrong? The simple and hard to swallow truth is nothing. Stephen didn’t know his killers, and his killers didn’t know him.
It’s hard to be optimistic about this day. There’s so much sadness and pain connected to it. Of course, if the tragic event never took place, it would be better for us all. Doreen wouldn’t have had to battle for years to have her son’s killers brought to justice. But it was through that battle that we’ve had laws changed, reports of institutionalised racism within the Met Police brought to light, and one day dedicated to remember and reflect on the part we all play in creating a society in which we can all flourish.
So today, I say thank you, Doreen. I have the utmost respect for you. Thank you for not giving up and fighting to have justice served. The world we live in might not be perfect, but Doreen’s fight helped to make sure young men and women who look like her son can dream big and enjoy what every 18-year-old dreams of doing.
If you’d like to learn more about Stephen’s story and what you can do to support the cause please visit the Stephen Lawrence day website and share the video below.