26th May 2017
Lecture by Neville Lawrence OBE
I would describe Neville Lawrence as gracious, mild mannered, considered and humble. Not somebody who seeks the limelight. No whizzy presentations, gimmicks or eloquent prose. Yet, his presentation at Portsmouth University this week was breath-taking. At the end of the session he received a standing ovation, not just for what he said but I think for who he is and what he has done in the name of his son.
Neville now lives in Jamaica, but visits his son, daughter and their grandchildren in the UK frequently. He was raised by his grandmother who was a Jew, having escaped from Germany during the Second World War and the horrors of the holocaust. Stephen wanted to be an architect and to this day Neville gazes at unusual buildings wishing that he was looking at one of his son’s creations.
He talked about many incidents and issues in his fight for justice. About the influence of the tabloid newspapers and manipulation of messages. One such example was a picture of Nelson Mandela and the Mr & Mrs Lawrence pictured meeting in London. It centred an article about race riots amongst a number of pictures riots and violence; intimating they were to blame. Yet he does not see “colour” just people.
He was asked, “Does it get any easier?” “No, Stephen was my first born and so special to us. What did I do wrong to lose my firstborn? It feels like a life sentence. Its something you never move on from.”
Even now Stephens’s case is referred to worldwide and this is some comfort in that his death was not in vain. He would now be 43. Neville use to dance all the time, he made a vow that he would never dance until there was justice for Stephens murder. In 2012, when finally there was a conviction, he danced again.
We have so much to learn from the experience of others. The death of Stephen Lawrence has had a lasting impact on the criminal justice system but for me, the example of someone like Neville, strengthens my hope and trust in humanity. Even at times such as these where the nation mourns after the tragedy of the Manchester bombing. Neville’s parting words were.
“We have but one world, we have nowhere else to go, so we have to make the best of what we have together.”
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