Brother of Stephen Lawrence teaches students in Stowmarket to ‘live their best life’
- Credit: MARK LANGFORD
Stowmarket High School pupils had an inspirational class with the brother of Stephen Lawrence, the teenager whose murder transformed British society.
Stuart Lawrence is the younger brother of Stephen, who was killed by a racist gang in London in 1993.
Stuart was at Stowmarket High School to speak to sociology students about his brother's case, how his family had fought to change the law and overcome prejudice, and about race and diversity in society.
"I'm here to speak to the kids about the legacy of Stephen and how they can live their best life," he said.
"I love coming to talk to young people because they are the future.
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"If we can start changing hearts and minds of young people then that ensures the world we live in will be left in good hands."
Stuart spoke to the youngsters about his support for campaigns such as #nicetobenice on Twitter and the importance of working together to defuse tensions in a community that could otherwise lead to violence.
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He said: "We need to help young people understand that everyone is different, everyone has something to offer, and even if you don't like someone it doesn't need to end up in violence or hurtful things being said."
He encouraged the pupils to identify what they wanted to be in life and to use their years in education to work towards that goal.
Stephen had dreamed of becoming an architect, but on 22nd April 1993 he was stabbed to death as he waited for a bus.
After the initial police investigation, five suspects were arrested but not convicted.
A public inquiry into the handling of Stephen's case was held in 1998, leading to the publication of the Macpherson Report, which has been called 'one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain'.
It led to profound cultural changes in attitudes to racism, to the law and to police practice.
It also paved the way for a greater understanding of discrimination of all forms and new equalities legislation.
The anniversary of his death is now celebrated as Stephen Lawrence Day, which encourages young people to work to improve themselves and help others, plus work towards driving social change.
It is co-ordinated by the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which was founded by Stephen's mother, Baroness Lawrence, and works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and to create a fairer society.
Stuart said: "We as a family now are looking forward to the future and how the legacy of Stephen can be a driving force to help young people.
"We want them to understand that it's all down to them - what they do with their lives, how hard they work, what they achieve - and we hope that because of Stephen they can achieve all their hopes and goals.
"Stephen was a typical older brother, he was always setting the bar nice and high for me.
"He was well liked by everyone and he was good at most things he turned his hand to. Being that younger brother, I just wanted to be like him."
Stuart's visit was well received.
Grace Allan, a 17-year-old A level sociology student, said: "I found it really inspiring, he lost his brother in such a horrible way and he has come here to talk about it and how he and his family worked to move forward from it.
"The case of Stephen Lawrence is history to people of my age but it is so important that we learn from what happened."
Sociology teacher Marina Dickings said she wanted the students to understand what a profound influence the Stephen Lawrence case had had on British society.
"We did a lot of preparation about the case beforehand so that they knew why Stuart's visit was so significant," she said.
"They are young people, they have no memory of Stephen Lawrence and the events around and after his death.
"I think they have been fascinated to hear from someone who went through a very public trauma and who has worked to turn it into a positive experience, both for himself and to help the country."