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From Obama to Doreen Lawrence: Quest for justice

world Updated: Jun 16, 2012 00:13 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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When British history is updated years from now, students will learn about Doreen Lawrence.

Doreen is the Rosa Parks of our time - a worthy successor to the quiet and dignified black American who refused to obey a bus driver's order in 1955 to give up her seat for a white passenger. Doreen is the mother of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager who was murdered in 1993 by a gang of racist hoods in southeast London.

A diminutive figure at only 5 feet 1, she is a giant slayer. Her battle to see her son's killers behind bars has led to a sea change in British social attitudes and helped overhaul policing methods following an admission of 'institutional racism.'

Now, months of further campaigning have led the government to order a review of an internal police inquiry into allegations that the original investigation of Stephen's killing may have been marred by corruption.

Doreen draws her strength and inspiration not only from a mother's devotion but also figures such as Barack Obama, making it a point to attend the inauguration of the first black American president.

"I went specially, I was out in the freezing cold like everybody else - one of the two million people. I felt it was really important for me to be there," she told BBC Radio's Desert Island Discs in a moving interview.

She visits Stephen's grave in Jamaica three times a year - on his birthday, death anniversary and at Christmas. "I put flowers on him and stay as long as I can and I talk to him, tell him the news."

Doreen has established a social justice charity named after Stephen, offering bursaries and scholarships. But she says, "My son was special and I think, what happened to him, I just wanted everyone to know and learn about him - but all the other things, the OBE, I'd swap all of that just to have my son back."