A few years ago I decided to take a break from my teaching career and work as a consultant specializing in youth engagement, Equality Diversity and Inclusion and mental health and motivational work. I am also a motivational speaker and like to share my journey with the view of helping others. I published my first book Silence Is Not An Option last year which I wrote for my son and other children and young people as a self help guide for the various stages they are experiencing in their lives. With the support of my wife and son, I feel I have reached a good stage in my work and I do enjoy being my own boss.
However I am also the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered 29 years ago today in an unprovoked racist attack near a bus stop in south London. Our family’s campaign for justice has defined our role in developing the British civil rights in history, especially in relation to tackling racism in the UK. Looking back at Stephen’s legacy, I have to say that although our campaign led to a public inquiry, a change in the law about race relations and the eventual prosecution of some of the perpetrators of Stephen’s murder, a lot still has to change.
I still feel living in this country that I will not be liked or even hurt because of the colour of my skin. This does impact my sense of belonging and at times I feel I don’t belong anywhere. Also I had hoped by now that all public services and institutions would have adopted all the recommendations from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry by Sir Macpherson. It still seems that only some of the recommendations are being adopted by a small number of services and institutions. This has to be looked at again and implemented properly across all four nations of the UK, not just in London.
Racism in the UK is still a problem as much as it was 29 years ago. There has been some improvement in areas like employment with increases in employment and career progression for people from diverse ethnic minorities with the commitment to equal opportunities. But there is still not enough people from these communities visible in senior leadership roles. Racial harassment and incidents still take place today and there are still difficulties in some communities in maintaining good race relations. I think the onus of understanding and tackling racism cannot just lie with services, institutions and politicians, it has to be an individual responsibility too.
On a personal level, how did I look after my mental health and wellbeing after Stephen was taken from me as a big brother? It was important for me to talk about what happened and understand my emotions, working through them was so important. When asked about significant moments from my life so far, there has been the loss of my older brother but then there has also been when I met my wife and then birth of our amazing son. Relationships and the stages we go through impact our mental health and wellbeing. While I experienced a huge and tragic loss, I have also experienced love and joy and that’s why it is important to understand that we can all be at different stages in our journeys but the key is empathy for one another.
This is why it is so important to value and support our children and young people to help make the change that is needed. One of the reasons I wrote my book was to provide some kind of tips and advice for others that would help their journeys through their lives. In light of my own experience I always recommend perseverance, no matter how hard the journey is or how high the wall is, persevere and try and try again. Eventually you will have practiced enough or found another way that suits you to achieve your hopes and goals. Another thing that really resonates with me is the saying “Its not what you know, but who you know”. I often think of the example of what happened after we lost Stephen in 1993, we were looking for answers and actions and it was frustrating. Then just two weeks after Stephen’s murder, we were standing in a room with one of the world’s most well known civil rights leaders, Nelson Mandela. I often think about that moment as his support spoke volumes in raising awareness of what had happened to Stephen. So sometimes who you know whether that’s a family member, friend, professional or even someone prominent can help you go a long way when trying to achieve a goal or outcome.
As someone who supported my family stand up and challenge racism, my advise to others is to remember no matter how lonely and hard it can become, don’t give up, don’t quit and persevere each day to continue the fight for change and for others. So today on Stephen Lawrence Day 2022 it’s important that we can remember Stephen, and what he stood for and his drive to achieve the goals and aspirations he had for his own life. Equally I think it’s important for us all to reflect on our own lives and strive to be the best versions of ourselves. Stephen Lawrence Day is important for us as a society to reflect on what has happened but also reflect on what we can do ourselves to help make the changes that are still needed and how to live our best lives.
– Stuart Lawrence