If there are two headlines I hate seeing more than anything it is “mother of murdered teen Stephen Lawrence” and “friend of murdered teen Stephen Lawrence”. These two headlines relate to activist Doreen Lawrence and Liberal Democrat councillor Duwayne Brooks respectively. I shouldn’t have to explain who Stephen Lawrence is so I’m going to continue onward.
I cannot imagine what it’s like to lose a son but I have lost family members and a few good friends to cancer and other illnesses. My experiences can never compare to Stephen’s family and friends that have been left behind. Especially as it took 18 years for two of his murderers to be brought to justice and news of dodgy police dealings surrounding the case are revealed regularly. I think that after 20 years it would be refreshing to see these people referred to as separate from the tragic death that forged them, especially as there seems to be no love lost between them.
Doreen Lawrence is due to be honoured in a ceremony in Lewisham this evening (Friday 14 March). Where she will be officially given the freedom of the borough. She has asked that Duwayne Brooks not be allowed to speak at the event. I guess this springs from the ill-feeling between them and as the event is for her I’m thinking it’s not an unreasonable request. Brooks says she blames him for the death of her son.
On 12 March Brooks tweeted “Someone
@LewishamCouncil needs to tell Doreen Lawrence I will be speaking on Friday and I will be speaking the truth. You can’t bully me.”
According to an article in the Telegraph, Brooks thinks the request was meant to humiliate him. The paper reports the councillor as saying:
“The request by Doreen Lawrence was one to humiliate me in the most hurtful way possible,” he said. “If she wanted to keep our disagreements away from the public she would have made the request via family friends we have in common. She blames me for the death of her son.
“As a councillor I am entitled to attend freedom of the borough ceremonies. I will be speaking on behalf of my party.
“Even though there has been a request by Doreen Lawrence that I should not speak, Doreen Lawrence is to understand that I am an elected member of this council and I will speak when I wish to.”
Now for those who don’t know councillor Brooks hopes to be Mayor of Lewisham. He ran as Brian Paddick’s potential deputy in the London mayoral elections so when that didn’t pan out he thought he’d take a shot at Lewisham. From what I’ve seen Brooks tweet and say in public he hopes to win the hearts and minds of young black voters and mothers of school-aged children.
This would explain why he had made Doreen’s request about him and his mayoral campaign and not about the work she has done. Since the death of her son Stephen, Doreen has campaigned tirelessly to get to the truth of her son’s death as well as campaigning against racism and inequality. Last year the University of York awarded her an honorary doctorate for ‘tireless campaign against racism’. Doreen was also given a peerage, making her Lady Lawrence of Clarendon as well as the Freedom of the Borough of Lewisham.
Brooks asked the Council to postpone the ceremony until after the elections basically because he didn’t want the current Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock to benefit from the event. This is what Brooks had to say about the council refusing his request:
“He is trying to split the black vote. We should cancel the ceremony until after the election.”
Is he saying that because the current mayor puts on an event for Doreen Lawrence black folks are more likely to vote for him? If I lived in Lewisham I would be insulted. I vote on facts not fancy events. Just me?
The announcement to grant Lady Lawrence the freedom of the borough was made last summer and Duwayne Brooks was part of the decision making machine. I think it’s really awful of him to now throw shade over Doreen’s achievements just to bolster his position in the polls and because basically, he’s butt hurt that she doesn’t want him to speak at her special event.
Whether Doreen blames him for Stephen’s death or not is irrelevant. It seems there was a lot of blame going around back in the day.
Duwayne has been gunning for the black vote since he made the announcement that he is running for mayor. It’s disingenuous of him to accuse the current mayor of using the event as a platform for his campaign and doing the same thing himself.
I like to look at a candidate’s competence when voting and when someone says that solving Lewisham’s gang problem is ‘easy peasy’, it raises major red flags.
His first order of business as mayor would be to invite the gang members for tea and talks. He said: “Gang members will be told to come and see me. “There’ll be two choices. One will be to engage and come on board and follow me to help make Lewisham a safer place.
“Or, if you want to continue in this gang stuff, then I’ll get rid of you and your family.”
Yes you read that right, get rid of you and your family. Who sounds like the gang member now? Brooks made himself a laughing stock last year with that declaration. He also earned the wrath of grassroots groups who have been tackling gang violence in London for decades. Seriously fella, if it were that easy, we wouldn’t have a gang problem.
The reason I think this chapter should come to a close is that the bad feeling between Stephen’s family and Duwayne Brooks bubbles to the surface every once in a while and overshadows the work that they have both done.
Doreen is an inspirational woman, one I’d like to see acknowledged for her achievements as a staunch campaigner for justice, not just because she is Stephen’s mother. I’d like to see the media refer to her as Doreen Lawrence or Lady Lawrence but no more the mother of murdered teen… Yes, she got here because of Stephen but now she works for the good of all.
The same goes for Brooks, he sits on several committees and seeks to improve the relationship between the police and the community. However, to link him with Stephen’s murder gets him a cheap sympathy vote from young black men who have faced racism or who are harassed by the police. Brooks should be forced to stand on his merits. His past shouldn’t be allowed to blind people to his faults either, especially when he has the disgustingly bad habit of playing the race card when circumstances do not call for it.
Basically, Brooks got voted off a police consultative group because most of the people doing the voting were labour party members who obviously would vote for their own members, not a liberal democrat which Brooks is. Duwayne insisted it was because he was black. I used to follow him on Twitter but was so embarrassed when I read this exchange, I promptly unfollowed him.
I don’t think the book he wrote about Stephen Lawrence and subsequently got sued over by Lady Lawrence was cathartic enough. It seems he still has issues to work out and who can blame him really? I just wish he would do so in private and don’t send for Doreen Lawrence over a simple request. It’s not like she was asking him not to turn up at all.