Hackney marks 30th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence's death
On the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Equalities, reaffirms Hackney's commitment towards becoming an anti-racist borough and creating a more inclusive and equitable society for all:
"Today we celebrate the life of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered at the age of 18, in an unprovoked racially motivated attack 30 years ago, and we remember both the horrific circumstances and inadequate response taken to this unacceptable tragedy.
The profound impact of Stephen’s senseless murder has been felt across the whole UK. While it has shattered lives and brought immense suffering, it has also galvanised many to take action against racism.
On her recent visit to Hackney, Stephen’s mum Doreen Lawrence spoke up against institutional racism and the need for change. Reflecting on her family's loss and the ongoing struggle for justice in a system that has failed her family, Baroness Lawrence acknowledged the effect that Stephen's death has had on the wider community, and how this tragic event has opened people's eyes to the reality of racism in the UK.
Indeed it is the Lawrence family’s unwavering pursuit of justice and tireless campaigning that led to a public inquiry into Stephen's murder and the publication of the Macpherson Report.
The Macpherson Report into the police investigation of the killing found that it had been “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership.” Last month, Baroness Casey published a damning report which once again found that there was institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police.
In response, the Council reiterated our calls for the force to accept that it is institutionally racist. It is disgraceful that, 30 years on from the murder of Stephen Lawrence, "institutional racism" continues to be questioned as a concept, by the Met, by government and journalists, and to be seen as something that needs better "defining" or to be feared as a "political" idea. In doing so, we risk repeating the patterns of failure that have meant that the Lawrence family will never see full justice for their son, with only two of his killers having been convicted after 18 years.
In Hackney we are committed to becoming an anti-racist organisation and have publicly shared the journey we have been on over recent years.
The shocking murder of Stephen Lawrence exposed the pervasive issue of racism in our society and led to an overwhelming mix of emotions - grief, anger, and frustration. Yet rather than succumb to this despair, we are turning our grief into action.
Their journey has been long and difficult, but the Lawrence family's resilience did not falter. Through decades of challenging institutional racism, they have worked towards a fairer and more equal society and they managed to effect significant change in the UK’s justice system and the Race Relations Amendment Act.
At Hackney we shall use Stephen's death as a defining moment in the fight against racism and in the search for justice for victims of racial discrimination. That’s why we are now partnering with LSA and RIBA to mark this moment through the award to create a lasting legacy in architecture and diversity.
We have also worked with other councils to develop a shared statement that sets out an understanding of what racism is and what anti-racism means. The statement is clear that the Macpherson definition is still relevant today. It sets out the challenge for all institutions to focus on what needs to change in their systems, structures and culture. This is forming the foundations of an anti-racism action plan which will be taken to Cabinet and Council later this year and institutional change will be central to this.
We support Baroness Doreen Lawrence in her aim to make Stephen Lawrence Day a reflective and learning experience. I am asking anyone who reads this to think more deeply about what institutional racism is. There is nothing poorly defined or political about it as a concept and we cannot let another generation down by ignoring or dismissing it. "