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Stephen Lawrence's brother Stuart talks to students at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds



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The brother of Stephen Lawrence has spoken of the importance of changing just one person's mindset in a talk at West Suffolk College today.

Stuart Lawrence, a former teacher, talked about equality, diversity and his personal experience of what happened with his brother, as well as the family's interactions with the police.

Stephen, who wanted to be an architect, was 18 when he was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack while waiting for a bus in Eltham, London, on April 22, 1993.

Stuart Lawrence giving a talk at West Suffolk College
Stuart Lawrence giving a talk at West Suffolk College

Speaking at the University Studies building in Bury St Edmunds, Mr Lawrence, from London, talked about the family's long fight for justice.

He began with a quote by Nelson Mandela: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

Mr Lawrence, who has a son, told students 'I'm just here for one person', adding there was a 'ripple effect' from changing a person's mindset.

The event was a collaboration between the equality and diversity team and the public services team at the college and students from a variety of departments, for example public services and sociology, were involved from Suffolk One, University Studies at West Suffolk College and West Suffolk College.

Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen Lawrence, who gives talks and facilitates workshops
Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen Lawrence, who gives talks and facilitates workshops

Speaking with Suffolk News after the talk, Mr Lawrence said: "My key point [for students] is to take responsibility and to know when they are in those [public service] roles, if they see someone else doing the wrong thing or not the way it should be done, not to follow suit and to call it out - that’s the only way we are going to ensure going forward that we see the change we want to see.”

He added: "I say to people all the time imagine that person you are dealing with is a member of your own family, someone you know and love.

"And then that will always change the perspective of how you treat and deal with that person."

Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen Lawrence
Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen Lawrence

He spoke of 'frustration' that there hasn't been more change since the Macpherson report in 1999, which followed a campaign by the Lawrence family and found the investigation into Stephen's killing had been marred by 'institutional racism'. It put forward 70 recommendations.

But he added: "There have been some changes, some small changes, but for me, like I said, I'm a very impatient person, and I try to be as patient as possible, but there are small things that will make a massive difference that I know can be done."

He said he's been involved with community cohesion work with the Metropolitan Police and he's still waiting for that to be rolled out.

Left to right - Phanuel Mutumburi, Franstine Jones and Stuart Lawrence
Left to right - Phanuel Mutumburi, Franstine Jones and Stuart Lawrence

Speaking just two weeks after Stephen Lawrence Day, Mr Lawrence, who gives talks and facilitates workshops, said he was "super proud" of his brother's legacy.

"Yes my brother lost his life in the most traumatic way possible, but his legacy continues on.

"We are able to still help change young people's lives through what's happened to Stephen," said Mr Lawrence, whose wife Angela is from Suffolk.

Mike Opukah, Ellisha Soanes and Matt Ross, who all work for West Suffolk College and the Eastern Colleges Group, helped organise the event.

Matt Ross and Ellisha Soanes, who helped organise the event at West Suffolk College
Matt Ross and Ellisha Soanes, who helped organise the event at West Suffolk College

It also included talks by Phanuel Mutumburi, director of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), and Franstine Jones, the first ever woman to be elected as the president of the National Black Police Association.

Mr Ross, course director for policing at West Suffolk College, said: "By utilising our own knowledge of our own fields and the contacts we have got, we were able to put together an event that means something to the students and their learning."

He said it also linked to their career goals.

"This is how we effect change in policing," he said.

Ellisha Soanes, equality, diversity and inclusion co-ordinator across the Eastern Colleges Group, said: "Listening to Stuart talk about his brother and actually going back and thinking about how things have changed with time, I had goosebumps just listening to him speak about it; and I think it's having that first-hand experience and listening to it and the students being able to ask those questions."