Stephen Lawrence Day: The Stephen I Knew
26 years on from the brutal murder of 18 year old Stephen Lawrence, his friend, Duwayne Brooks speaks out on his memories of Stephen and why the legacy of what happened must never be forgotten.
Today is the first annual Stephen Lawrence Day and marks 26 years since the teenager was stabbed to death in a racially motivated murder which shocked the conscience of the nation.
In the intervening years much has been done to tackle underlying racism which at the time was all too prevalent in society and the subsequent MacPherson Report into the police handling of the murder, led to a revolution in policing and race relations.
Today Stephen Lawrence is a symbol of the cost we pay when we allow prejudice to go unchecked within our society.
Stephen though was far more than a symbol. He was a bright, kind, young man with a future stolen from him in a moment of evil, that is difficult still now for us to comprehend.
On this first Stephen Lawrence Day, it is important that we all take a moment to remember Stephen Lawrence, the person and to reflect on what was taken from him that him and from the world which was deprived of seeing the man he would become and the realisation of his dreams and ambitions.
Looking for a greater success understanding of who Stephen was I spoke his best friend Duwayne Brooks. Duwayne was with Stephen when he was murdered and was lucky to escape alive.
After the harrowing ordeal Duwayne dedicated his life to campaigning against racism, bringing about racial reconciliation and ridding London’s streets of knives.
He served as Local Councillor in Lewisham, where he is from and also where Stephen was murdered. As a Councillor he dedicated his efforts towards community cohesion and serving as a bridge with communities of colour and law enforcement, building trust and facilitating a new relationship of understanding. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2015 in recognition of his tireless work as a public servant.
Today, however Duwayne didn’t want to reflect upon those achievements instead he wanted to talk about his best friend, who was stolen from him in the prime of his life.
Duwayne, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. This must be incredibly difficult to talk about and I am sorry for asking such heart wrenching questions but I know you are hoping to give the world an insight into Stephen Lawrence the man, and also, Stephen your friend.
Can you tell us what this Stephen Lawrence Day means to you?
Stephen Lawrence Day means a great deal to me; the 22nd of April will always be a day I count to and from and it’s important that what happened is never forgotten.
What message would you like to send people today?
The media often focuses on the attack and its consequences but not enough is said about who Stephen was. I want people to remember who Stephen was. He was a super-fit athlete who excelled at both the 200 and 400 metres. His temperament was calm and easy-going. He was also always very well dressed.
On days such as this do you ever find yourself reflecting on where Stephen should be today had he not been taken from you?
Stephen had such a bright future ahead of him. Had he not been murdered that night, I am certain he would have gone on to be a model employee. He was the kind of person you’d like to have as your line manager at work. He worked hard and was great with people. He wanted to become an architect and I believe he had the correct attitude to become a very successful architect.
A lot of people ask me about our career plans, but forget that we were only 18, and our adult lives had only just begun. To be honest, I didn’t have much insight into his plans to be an architect, other than he wanted to be one. I wasn’t at 6th form, but instead at college doing a BTEC in Electrical Engineering.
And what can you tell us about Stephen, the friend?
Stephen was the best friend. Like most 18-year olds, we didn’t talk about work when we met up. Serious life seemed a long way off. Instead we spent our time chatting about girls, being successful and music. Steve was a massive fan of hip hop! And that is how I will always remember my friend.
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