4  days ago, after 18 years, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of killing student Stephen Lawrence in a racially motivated attack, while he waited with a friend at a bus stop in Eltham, London.

Young women perform a piece for Stephen at
Shake’s event ‘Britain on Trial’, Leeds, Oct 2011
Artist: Pati Bongani

Everyone involved with Shake! stands in support of the momentousness of these judgements. This case has changed the way in which Britain sees itself at a fundamental level. It laid bare a deep, shameful sickness within certain parts of our culture. While this has not gone away, the family’s battle for justice for Stephen has revealed the way in which institutions at the heart of this culture have operated, and how they must change.

Stephen’s father Neville Lawrence said that for him, these two convictions were only one step in a long journey to achieve full justice – the bringing to account the rest of the group of young white men who fatally stabbed Stephen that day.

Stephen’s mother Doreen spoke of being able at last to get on with her life. She has reiterated her criticism of the police for their early appallingly neglectful handling of the case, which among many other impacts, meant that instead of grieving for her lost son, she had to go into battle against the institutional racism which prevailed and disrupted the course of justice.

Anyone involved in the struggle for justice can only be struck with awe and amazement by the fortitude and grit that the family have had to find for each wave of this terrible story. I try to follow this timeline and consider what it must have taken, what it must have cost, for each person who loved and was close to Stephen to reach this moment.

Separately from her legal campaign, Doreen founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust specifically to create a constructive force against social injustice and to combat racism through fostering creativity, especially in design and architecture.  Shake! is proud to have been involved with the work of the Trust and to be able to spread its word.

Performance for Stephen at
Britain on Trial
Artist: Pati Bongani

All of us who believe that art, social justice and activism are intertwined can take courage and learn lessons from Doreen and SLCT: the legal battle, the battle for a change in culture, and the use of culture and the arts to change minds, change behaviour, and rebalance privileges, readdress entitlements to opportunity.

What an incredible act, incredible activism to have put all this into the world.

Thank you Doreen, for changing the course of history for all who are to follow in your footsteps, and thank you to all at SLCT for your dedicated and crucial work.

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