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Doreen Lawrence: 'Stephen has changed so many lives'

REMEMBERED: Doreen and Neville Lawrence stand beside a poster of Stephen Lawrence

TODAY marks the 20th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s death, who was killed in an unprovoked racist attack in Eltham, southeast London.

April 22, 1993, changed the lives of his family forever and rocked the British establishment to the core: exposing the Met Police as institutionally racist and leading to significant improvements in civil rights.

Doreen Lawrence, who is fiercely protective of her memories of him, told The Voice.
“Even though he was an extrovert when he was alive, I think he would be somewhat shy to see how much his name permeates across the world,” she said.

“It’s not just in this country that his name is so recognised. Although he may be embarrassed, at the same time he would still think it was great.”

Back then, the Lawrences, Neville and Doreen, were a hardworking couple doing their best to raise three children: Stephen, the eldest, Stuart and Georgina.

As a young child Stephen demonstrated a talent for art and loved to paint.

Stephen, with his friend Elvin Oduro, used their skills and talent to design and sell T-shirts, caps and jackets with the faces of well-known bands, rappers and political figures such as Malcolm X.

At Blackheath Bluecoat School, in Greenwich, the fun-loving teenager excelled in the subject as well as in Mathematics. It was these strengths that encouraged him to consider a degree in architecture at university.

Stephen even worked as a film extra alongside actor Denzel Washington in the film For Queen and Country.

Doreen, who keeps away from public eyes, said: “If the police had done their job on the night Stephen died, nobody would ever know who I am.”

LEGACY: Stephen Lawrence will not be forgotten

She has, over the years of her family’s drawn-out battle to get justice for Stephen, arrived at a point of acceptance.

“I have a clearer understanding of what his name has achieved over the years. It has made a difference to so many people and has changed so many people’s lives.

“[Moving on] will take time. I am trying as well to make sure that Stephen’s legacy lives on through the Trust.”

In 1998 the family set up The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to help young people and give them opportunities that were denied to Stephen when his life was cut short. The charity has helped partially-fund the tuition fees of young people who want to pursue a career in architecture.

Stephen would be 38 this year, and there is no celebration for his birthday. Instead he will be remembered at a private memorial to be held at St Martin-in-the-fields, in Westminster, on April 22.

An English Heritage-approved memorial, organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, will be unveiled at the Stephen Lawrence Centre next month.

It is one of only three blue plaques of its kind dedicated to individuals who lost their lives in tragic circumstances. The first commemorated Kelso Cochrane and the second honoured the victims of the 1981 New Cross Fire.

Doreen added: “The 20th anniversary is a time for reflection, but also for looking ahead. It’s important that we protect the progress we have made.”

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