OPINION By Marcia Cappiello
When our children are shot or stabbed, the lives of their families will forever be marked by senseless tragedy.
Stephen Lawrence was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack on the 22nd April 1993.
The teenager has since tragically become world renowned not only because of his death but because of his parents’ tireless efforts to get justice for his murder.
Both of his parents have used the media to remind the world what happened to their son. He was a victim, he had done nothing wrong, yet his life was cut short because of racist bigotry.
Both parents have gone on to bring attention to the way young black men are treated by the police.
The Macpherson report, published on the 31 st July 1997, followed a public inquiry into the handling of Stephen’s case. It has since been described as one of the most important moments in the history of criminal justice in Britain.
This victory came some 20 years after the campaign to overturn the Sus Law – which also sought to address institutional racism within the police force.
The Macpherson report led to the abolition of the “double jeopardy rule” which stated that people could not be tried for the same case twice.
This allowed for the eventual convictions of two of the original five suspected for Stephen Lawrence’s murder – Gary Dobson and David Norris in 2012.
Antoin Akpom was brutally stabbed and murdered in Leicester on the 12 th September
Cheryl Armatrading, his mother, told me that the assassination of her son’s good character during the police investigation process just added more pain to her loss.
Antoin was a positive role model within his community, his reputation, however, during the investigation into his murder, was tarnished.
Antoin was wrongly labelled as a gang member and his case became political. Cheryl described the way her family who were victims at the time were treated. They were treated like criminals and the experience was truly despicable.
One person was convicted for her son’s murder – but for grieving mothers just like Doreen Lawrence, how are they supposed to grieve and get closure with so many remaining unanswered questions?
It is sad but evidence that institutional racism still exists despite years of parents like Doreen, Neville and Cheryl continually fighting to address this issue.
Cheryl’s son set up a business at the age of 18 years. He was a fiancé, father and a PE teacher who managed under 11s at the Nirvana Football Club. He also ran his own part-time business.
Antoin was given the opportunity to coach football in America.
The Reverend Jessie Jackson flew over and paid tribute to him at his funeral. Cheryl knows that, just like Stephen, he was a bright gifted young man who aspired to do great things with his life.
Cheryl is now the founder of AAA Antoin Akpom Achievement Foundations and she continues to honour her son’s legacy.
Antoin loved dance and sport and the charity has created a platform for success in performing arts, sports and dance for many aspiring young people.
We are so privileged to have Cheryl supporting our local community initiative and she will be speaking on Saturday 08 th June to help us address so many of the political issues surrounding knife and gun crime.
These issues are prevalent in South London, nationwide and the whole world as already touched upon in previous articles written.
Are we going backwards or forwards? These are just a few examples of parents who fought for the safety and legacy of their sons.
We, as a community, can do so much more to bring about change and so must join them in their fight for justice. The time for change is now.
We must all do our best to help all victim families who have been affected by knife and gun crime – and may their children rest in peace.