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Anthony Walker: A life that left a legacy

REMEMBERED: Promising student Anthony Walker was killed in a racist attack on July 30, 2005

IT WAS eight years ago today, that the racially-motivated murder of A-level student Anthony Walker shocked Britain.

The star pupil was attacked with an ice axe by Michael Barton – cousin of footballer Joey Barton – and Paul Taylor in a brutal and unprovoked assault close to his home in Huyton, Liverpool.

Judge Mr Justice Levison called it “racist thuggery of a type poisonous to any civilised society".

The 18-year-old’s tragic death shone an immediate spotlight on the state of race relations in one of Britain’s most culturally diverse cities and home to one of the country’s oldest black communities.

But despite the dark mark the events of July 30, 2005, a legacy that Anthony could be proud of lives on.

The Merseyside port city has always held a special place in the history of black Britain.

Many residents of African heritage are able to trace their family history right back to the slave trade, when their ancestors were brought from regions like the then Gold Coast and Yorubaland to work for their owners.

Since then, a significant stream of African and Caribbean immigrants have moved to the city to find work dating as far back as the 1950s.

Though their numbers are relatively small compared to cities like Birmingham, London, Manchester and Leeds, (the black and mixed race population is 18,945, or 4 per cent) people of African and Caribbean heritage have made a significant contribution.

There are numerous black-owned businesses and community centres in and around Granby and Toxteth, which experienced race riots in 1981.

But in order for Anthony’s death not to have been in vain, his mother Dr Gee Walker set up the Anthony Walker Foundation (AWF).

Shortly after his death, Walker said she would not succumb to “anger and hatred, because that is what killed my son".

The charity works across Merseyside and the UK to promote equality and diversity with communities.

AWF uses a variety of sports and arts events, as well as educational workshops to support the police and law enforcement agencies and local communities to reduce hate crime.

STRENGTH

The people of Liverpool are widely known for their strength in unity during times of tragedy, and have consistently turned out in large numbers to back the AWF.

No example is more apt than the public response to AWF’s annual festival which takes place each summer.

At this year’s event, more than 1,000 people turned up to Toxteth Fire Hub – more than any previous gathering.

Local school children put together a dance demonstration, people of all ages mingled and spectators were treated to several basketball matches – a sport Anthony used to enjoy.

Even Gee Walker couldn’t hide how pleasantly surprised she was to see so many local people willing to take time out of a gloriously sunny day to support diversity in Liverpool.

“The pain of losing Anthony is still there. I’m just so thankful for the weather, the turnout and that people still hold Anthony in a special place in their heart,” the AWF patron said.

The legacy has also been influential from a cultural perspective.

In 2007, National Museums Liverpool dedicated a state-of-the-art learning facility in its newly-built International Slavery Museum to Anthony.

The hi-tech suite has hosted thousands of visitors of all ages and backgrounds in specially created education sessions which explain the legacy of the racial intolerance left behind by the transatlantic slave trade.

Museum boss Dr Richard Benjamin told The Voice: "In 2007 the Museum approached Gee Walker and asked permission to name our education space the Anthony Walker Education Centre.

"It was a significant step for the museum to gain the support of the family. It seemed the right thing to do, especially when the museum enthusiastically claims that we are not neutral. We are a campaigning museum, and engage with local and national issues.”

He added: "The International Slavery Museum promotes social justice and the fight against racism and discrimination.”

OPPORTUNIYY

One of the most poignant aspects of Anthony’s death was that he was an intelligent and ambitious young man who dreamed of becoming a lawyer.

His story bears striking similarities to that of teenager Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993. The 18-year-old was a talented artist who longed of having a career as an architect.

In 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) set up a legal scholarship in Walker's memory.

It offers one trainee solicitor – three starting this October – the opportunity to undertake work experience, financial support and be given professional mentor.

Dale Simon, the CPS’s director of public accountability and inclusion, explained that the scheme is targeted at applicants from black and ethnic minority (BME) or under-privileged backgrounds, or those with disability, who want to forge a successful career in the law profession.

One of the beneficiaries, Nathan Miebai, was the first to be enrolled on the scheme. He told The Voice it is well-tailored to the development of an aspiring lawyer.

"Mentoring was the key element of the scheme and has been fundamental in aiding my development within the CPS,” the fully-qualified lawyer said.

“My mentor has provided tremendous support not just during the duration of the scholarship but in the years subsequently.

"Her guidance has extended far beyond what is required to become a ‘good lawyer’, but has helped me develop as a young man.”

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