by Julz Davis
Today is Stephen Lawrence Day, an annual day of national remembrance to mark his legacy. On April 22nd in 1993, Stephen was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. It took a series of failed trials, the Macpherson Report, a change in the double jeopardy law and 9 years before Gary Dobson and David Norris were finally brought to justice. Towards the end of this article, we have outlined some of the ways in which you can participate and show your respect.
In the meantime, let’s fast forward 28 years to today. Following the coincidental but ironic timing of the conviction of former Policeman Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, today we can breathe again. Let us pause as we take a knee both for George and for Stephen whilst reflecting on what this seismic conviction might mean.
9 and a half minutes is how long it took for Derek Chauvin to squeeze the life out of Floyd whilst he knelt on his neck. We have all seen the terrible footage. This pandemic of senseless deaths of yet another black man at the hands of the Police sparked a tsunami of Black Lives Matters demonstrations across the globe. In the UK we saw over 200 marches, vigils and protests with Bristol making the headlines by dumping Colston in the docks.
As well as seeking the end to Police brutality, the marchers called for long overdue racial justice, equality, fairer representation, and a decolonisation of our institutions. These demands were aimed at civic society, corporate institutions, and the charitable sector who responded with messages of solidarity and pledges of change. At the same time, we have seen a major push back from the right-wing media who have mocked ‘generation woke’, government legislation to protect statues and even a recent government report on race denying the existence of institutional racism.
It’s Time to Be Intentional about Diversity
At BeOnBoard we believe that disrupting to increase racial representation in the boardrooms and across C Suite teams is a credible route to addressing some of the key BLM demands. From our own survey on ‘Embracing Boardroom Diversity For Better Business Outcomes’, we know that BLM has significantly accelerated conversations about representation at the top. Of course, everything starts with a conversation and if the truth be known following the surge in BLM protests, we’ve had lots of organisations dropping us a line ‘to pick our brains’. Whilst these conversations are always welcomed, in the spirit of honesty, many of them remain in the waiting room of good intentions. Bluntly, there seems to be a lack of urgency to translate them into intentional actions, plans, policies, and projects that are resourced appropriately.
As the former President Barack Obama said in response to the conviction of Derek Chauvin, “While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest. We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our society and its systems.”
In this spirit we challenge those civic, corporate, and charitable organisations who have talked about change to live up to their pledges and promises. Now is the perfect time to make good on your good intentions by working with organisations such as BeOnBoard and alongside communities of colour to address and resolve underrepresentation, inequality, and injustice. BeOnBoard is here to disrupt, so together let us get to work on accelerating diversity for a more inclusive and fairer world for all, so that we are not having the same conversations in another 28 years’ time.
Ways to Remember
As a starting point with today being Stephen Lawrence Day, here are six ways in which you can remember Stephen’s life as well as mark the life of George Floyd:
- Take our poll and tell us whether you think institutional racism still exists today?
- Do a small act at work and take a knee to show solidarity
- Spend 9 and a half minutes today reflecting on what you can do in your personal and professional life to advance ED&I?
- Get creative and express why diverse leadership matters when it comes to addressing inequality
- Share the hard-hitting poem created by musician Max Cyrus
- From 7-pm register to join the online virtual commemorative service with Baroness Doreen Lawrence and other activist still fighting for racial justice
However you choose to mark April 22nd, do share it via #challengeaccepted, #alegacyofchange, #becauseofstephen and with us @beonboard.