A life and a legacy: Stephen Lawrence Day

Written by: Deborah Lawson | Published:

April 22 is Stephen Lawrence Day, when schools are being urged to use free resources to empower young people to live their best lives. Deborah Lawson explains

Many of us still remember vividly the shock we felt at the news of the senseless murder of Stephen Lawrence 27 years ago.

Stephen was like any other young person, with dreams and aspirations. He wanted to become an architect – but he was denied his dreams. His life was cut short simply because of the colour of his skin.

The impact of his death has been profound in this country. It led to profound cultural changes in attitudes towards racism, to the law, and to the way our institutions operate. It also paved the way for a greater understanding of discrimination of all forms, and new equalities legislation.

But there are still too many young people who do not have a sense of hope, who just do not get the chance to live their dreams, and therefore more needs to be done to promote tolerance of difference if we are to achieve equality of opportunity.

In the UK, we have the opportunity, on April 22, to celebrate the life and legacy of Stephen Lawrence for the second time. Spearheaded by his indomitable mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Stephen Lawrence Day is an opportunity for school communities to engage in activities that empower young people to live their best lives.

Baroness Lawrence’s belief that the values of fairness and respect are strongest when anchored and embedded into a school’s culture, and explicitly taught through the curriculum, is one that Voice – and I, personally – share.

Such values are especially important given the apparent retrograde direction the acceptance and celebration of difference appear to have taken as the result of recent political change.

As places where those values are promoted and inculcated – through both the curriculum and the agency of staff in their own attitudes and behaviour – our schools have a fundamental role if we are to have a fair and civilised society, free from discrimination, where we all play our part as active citizens.

We all therefore have a role to play to help ensure that those values do become embedded in our society.

To help schools incorporate them into the curriculum, Stephen Lawrence Day materials for secondary schools have been developed. The aim of these materials is to support and inform schools to teach pupils to value cultural diversity, develop the skills and confidence to challenge racism and discrimination, and to embrace inclusion – and they are certainly worthy of consideration.

Stephen’s memory and legacy is to be an annual event and can, using the resources, hopefully become part of the curriculum and culture of all schools.

Building on each year’s events by showcasing and sharing curriculum resources and related activities will strengthen and deepen children’s understanding.

It is deeply moving to see the determination of the Lawrence family to build something positive from the story of Stephen’s life, in order that something positive might come from this profound tragedy.

Baroness Lawrence’s message to young people is: “Be the best that you can be. Live your best life. Go out there and make your community a better and safer place. Start learning to be more tolerant of each other, to be more inclusive. Your small actions can make big changes. Your life matters.”

The memory of Stephen’s life and legacy is a further opportunity to positively influence the lives of children and young people – giving them hope and a positive path to the future.

  • Deborah Lawson is the general secretary of Voice.

Further information

Stephen Lawrence Day takes place on April 22. To access the resources, visit www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/stephen-lawrence-day/resources


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