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From Obama to Doreen Lawrence: Quest for justice

When British history is updated years from now, students will learn about Doreen Lawrence.

world Updated: Jun 16, 2012 00:13 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times

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."

First Published: Jun 16, 2012 00:10 IST