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Rt Hon Stuart Lawrence inspires GSAL pupils with revolutionary message of hope

Thursday 28 September 2023

Stuart Lawrence, the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence, has visited The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) to spread a revolutionary message of hope among young people ahead of Black History Month in October.

Thirty years after Stephen’s murder, which led to changes in legislation, police practice and a profound cultural shift in attitudes towards racism, Lawrence spoke to primary and senior students at GSAL about the power of an individual to change the world.

In his speech to senior school students, Stuart recalled a neighbour calling to say that Stephen had been in a fight at the bus stop. “Stephen wasn’t the kind of person to get involved in a fight,” said Stuart. “I shared a bedroom with him from the age of five; I knew him.” Two hours later, his parents Doreen and Neville returned from the hospital with the news that Stephen had died. “I went from the middle child to the eldest overnight – my mindset changed completely.”

Stuart – an educator, author and activist (“but father, husband and human being first”) – presented a special extended assembly to the whole of senior school. His topics ranged from microaggressions to his passion for futsal, and he encouraged students to join an “exclusive 1% club” by picking up a book and reading every day. To close, he asked staff and pupils to join him in a rousing chant of “I am a revolutionary!”

Afterwards, Stuart headed over to primary school to speak to years 4, 5 and 6. He told the children about the importance of being givers not takers and having empathy for others. He then set students a challenge: to limit their time on electronic devices to pursue greater things. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” he told pupils. “While you’re at home playing computer games, someone else is out there practicing their skills and working at something you want to be great at.” Stuart also signed and donated some of his books Silence Is Not An Option to the school’s libraries.

Stuart, who is a patron for The Black Curriculum, was delighted to see a decolonialised historical timeline on the walls in GSAL Primary and even more thrilled to see a picture of his greatest inspiration: Nelson Mandela. Stuart recalled how his family met Nelson Mandela two weeks after Stephen’s murder, and how the high-profile meeting encouraged the police to take the investigation more seriously.

Jo Haynes-Boyd, EDI lead at GSAL, praised Stuart’s inspiring talks and students’ high engagement. “They clearly felt safe and comfortable, and asked so many questions,” said Jo. “This is an incredible start to Black History Month for GSAL. We can’t wait to have Stuart back to work with specific year groups – this work is so important to us.”

Image: Rt Hon Stuart Lawrence with students

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