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Norfolk Black History Month remembers Stephen Lawrence

Norfolk Black History Month hosted an event on Friday (21 April) at The Forum in Norwich to remember the death of Stephen Lawrence and to celebrate his legacy.

In partnership with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, the event included a mix of music, entertainment, a talking circle and a closing vigil.

The event was supported by a range of community organisations, artists, craftspeople and musicians, side-by-side with Norfolk Constabulary, Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council and the NHS.

More than fifty people from across the community and participating organisations, including Norfolk Constabulary’s Chief Constable, Paul Sanford, and Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Giles Orpen-Smellie, joined in the talking circle, where everyone had the opportunity to share experiences and opinions. The talking circle opened with a bespoke recorded interview with Dr Neville Lawrence, Stephen Lawrence’s father.

One of the highlights was a performance by Brooke Primary School who sang the Stormzy song, Blinded by Your Grace.

Event organiser and Chair of Norfolk Black History Month, Eunice Amon, said: “It has been 30 years since the death of Stephen Lawrence and we wanted to get together with other associations and groups including the police, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Norfolk Black History Month to commemorate Stephen Lawrence. It was important that we sat together to have a real think about how hate crimes and all these inequalities affect the community. So, today is to celebrate his life, what his life could have been and to also see how moving on to the future we can make things better together.”

Treasurer of Norfolk Black History Month, Michael Gyapong added: " We as a community can only learn if we learn from our past. We can only move forward if we learn and make sure we don't repeat these mistakes. We came together to celebrate the beautiful life of Stephen Lawrence and his legacy. We honour the dignity and strength of the Lawrence family."

Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Giles Orpen-Smellie, said: “I would love to say that relations with the black community are perfect but the truth is, I’m not sure we have enough dialogue and one of the things that has already come out of today is an agreement that I’m going to sit down with the black community and go into listening mode to learn more about the tensions that exist. To be fair to Norfolk Constabulary, they are in a much better place than other constabularies. 

“A key part of today’s event is to promote the Independent Advisory Group. We are really keen to have proper representation from all minority communities at this Group. It’s run and funded out of my office but it advises the police on areas where they could do better.  It also provides some really helpful scrutiny functions. For example, we have a Stop and Search Scrutiny Panel, so members of these communities can take part in all those activities and then when we meet, which we do once a month, the police are always well represented.  Usually at Deputy or Assistant Chief Constable level and, if there are issues, they can be brought to the table and the Constabulary do listen and act on the advice they are offered.”

Norfolk’s Chief Constable, Paul Sanford, said: “Where the police have got things wrong in the past, it takes a long time to rebuild confidence and build trust. We have a number of officers who have joined us more recently who aren’t even aware of the Stephen Lawrence case and what happened in those circumstances which is why events like today, remembering Stephen’s death 30 years on, is a good opportunity to remind our officers of the importance of building strong, healthy relationships with all our communities.”

For more information, please visit Norfolk Black History Month's website

For more information about joining the Independent Advisory Group please visit the PCC’s website