Focus: The Lawrence Inquiry - Stephen's legacy for Britain

Stephen Lawrence's case has changed society. Prominent members of the ethnic community explain why they support a day in his memory

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BARONESS POLA UDDIN

"We have never had anything to commemorate multi-racial living in Britain. Given that the Lawrence case has caused such debate about the whole nature of living in a multi-racial society a commemorative day as a tribute to Stephen's memory is a wonderful idea, especially if it highlights young people's contributions to society. How we move on is important - the mood in the country at the moment is that racism is unacceptable, and I would never have believed that there could be as much positive awareness around as there is now. We have to learn from it and go forward. I think good will come of it, not just talk - the country will be safer for our children to live in."

PETER HERBERT, Chairman, Society of Black Lawyers

"Anything that acts as a marker for British society is a good idea. We will be suggesting to Tony Blair's office that there should be an annual address to the nation on race and equality. If the day could include that, it would not just be a holiday or a hand-wringing exercise - it needs some political content. The Lawrence case is like anything that impacts on the nation's psyche - it can be a marker for fundamental change or it can be transient. It's like earthquake tremors - every major shudder moves the system along a bit. This has been one of those societal tremors that lead to change - the question is how deep that change will be and how long it will last?"

FLOELLA BENJAMIN, Producer, broadcaster and writer

"A commemorative day for Stephen Lawrence sounds great. But it is not just Stephen Lawrence, other young men have died, too. Every day there is another incident of young men being beaten up on the streets. The case has captured the public's imagination: then so be it. I think many people are just not aware of what happens - unless you see personally what goes on you just don't know. It's about education, understanding, putting yourself in the other person's shoes. As a black person, if I'm Floella [the celebrity] I get the world, but if people don't recognise me I get racism, too."

ANNIE STEWART

Editor, `The Voice'

"A Stephen Lawrence day is a very good idea ... it would keep the issues to the fore. Something positive can come of all this if people are willing to take action and if the main points of the inquiry are taken on board. It has brought awareness to the white community. The important thing is that people are willing to take the debate further - often when racism is discussed everyone gets on the defensive and nothing actually happens."

MICHAEL EBODA

Editor, `New Nation'

"So far nothing has come of the case. No one is carrying the can for the police, no one is carrying the can for the murder. The inquiry report is actually very bland and there is very little that is concrete in it. I know it sounds pessimistic, but nothing has been done. It is a bit too soon for anyone to look at this and say it is a watershed."

HEATHER RABBATTS, Chief executive, London Borough of Lambeth

"Stephen Lawrence is in everyone's hearts and minds because of the coverage of the case. But people forget - they don't mean to, but it's human nature. A day or an event that would commemorate Stephen Lawrence and his family would be a very positive step. Having a day to take stock provides a trigger to maintain a level of reflection and self-assessment as a society. But it would be even more tragic if, in 10 years' time, we mark his death and nothing has changed - it would be a very empty gesture. We have to hope the events of the last few weeks will make a real change in how people, let alone institutions, react to these incidents in future."

KEITH VAZ MP

"A Stephen Lawrence day is a good idea but we must remember not just Stephen Lawrence but all the others who are also affected. This is a kind of watershed, because it has focused our minds in a way that we have not really thought about in years. Stephen Lawrence has made racism very much part of party politics now, whereas before it was a very left-wing issue. What's good is that Doreen and Neville didn't see this report as an end, and that both Jack Straw and Tony Blair spoke more passionately yesterday on this than any other MPs have ever done before."

BERNIE GRANT MP

"If people are in favour of having a Stephen Lawrence day, then I'm all for it. If the memory of Stephen Lawrence means anything then we must see action quickly. A specific unit or structure directly accountable to the Home Secretary that would see the report through would be a good idea and we've got to have people involved who know how to deal with people who avoid acting on things like this. Another option would be to revisit the Macpherson report next year, and on a yearly basis or perhaps after five years to see what progress is being made."

MEERA SYAL

Star of Radio 4 and BBC2's `Goodness Gracious Me'

"The Stephen Lawrence case is already a watershed in Britain in the way it was taken up. For a right-wing tabloid like the Daily Mail to take up the case was really important and shows that things are changing. For the Sun to take it up as well, and the fact there has been so much attention over it, shows there is some progress. A Stephen Lawrence day is a good idea. I can't see that this is something that is going to be forgotten in a hurry. But there has to be more to it than wearing a ribbon once a year. It's got to be about re-education as well."

ROS HOWELL

Stephen Lawrence Campaign, Lewisham Race Equality Group

"The Lawrences have become the Coretta King of Britain, and as such would like to see their son commemorated, with a bank holiday similar to Martin Luther King day. Stephen Lawrence has brought Britain to a watershed. We hope to get the Prime Minister to give a Stephen Lawrence lecture and if he can do that and have an annual lecture then at some point that should lead to a Stephen Lawrence day. We must remember that Stephen Lawrence is the cause. This is the first time the black community has got the Home Office and the Prime Minister to admit there is racism in Britain."

LISA I'ANSON

DJ and TV presenter

"There should definitely be a day. It seems like something good will come out of all this and I think that's all we can hope for. His parents are incredibly brave people, to have lost a son and to continue to fight for justice for all this time when some people would have just left it. When I watched the recent TV programme on the case I was in tears throughout. I have a two-year-old boy and to think that one day when he's older he could go out and never come back is just terrifying. Time will tell if this is a turning point for race issues. These are issues that needed to be addressed, and to have so much media attention is a really positive thing. To have the Metropolitan Police admit this, and papers like the Standard and Sun cover it, raises awareness."

TREVOR PHILLIPS Broadcaster

"I don't think a clever and bright fellow like Stephen Lawrence would want a gloomy commemoration. Rather, why not have a day like Windrush day that would celebrate what West Indians have brought to this country. I support some sort of commemorative act which reminds us of the sacrifice that Stephen's family have been forced to make, but if we want to have a day that is related to minorities then let it be something celebratory. The legacy of Stephen should be one of reconciliation and a joint determination to get rid of racism. The best legacy for Stephen Lawrence would be to have a new set of laws that make it difficult for people to subject minorities to racial bias."

CHRIS MYANT

Spokesman, Commission for Racial Equality

"For the media, the Stephen Lawrence case was when they stopped looking at immigrants as being `alien' people, and began to report on the Lawrence family as just an ordinary family, just as one of us and not different in any way. In fact the `aliens' now are the white racist thugs. What is important is that we have a shared experience, something that we can all come together and in which we can express ourselves."

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