The Chronicleworld.org kept Neville’s spirits high
Respect for the Lawrence’s campaign for justice:
Prof Thomas L Blair greets Stephen’s father Neville Lawrence (left)
at the Chronicleworld’s race and the media conference in London 1998
When your child suffers death in a lethal racist attack, it’s the loss and lack of justice that drives you on, Neville Lawrence told me at dinner before I introduced him to the audience. Doreen and I cannot rest until the press and law officers listen to us, and people take up our rightful campaign for our son, Stephen, he said.
And that was his message to my conference, “What colour is the news?” at the Freedom Forum European Centre, London on a winter’s night December 7, 1998.
A Baroness, Bishop and Police chief and Black journalists and community groups backed the call for positive race reporting
His message struck a chord with the panel of prominent persons — Baroness Patricia Scotland of the House of Lords, Church of England Bishop of Stepney John Mugabi Sentamu, and Chief Inspector of police Dalton McConney, left to right. He encouraged support of the more than 150 people from a wide range of backgrounds and opinions: Black community leaders and journalists, students and parents, scholars and rail workers, teachers and local politicians.
Today’s world needs integrated newsrooms
With his Jamaican roots still alive, Mr Lawrence said he was deeply troubled about media unfairness, sensationalism and bias towards black people five years after Stephen’s murder. True, the Daily Mail took a risk in naming Stephen’s “Murderers” in February 1997. However, the nation’s newsrooms were silent — and lily-white.
Mr Lawrence told of the family’s worries and sleepless nights, and his distress that no daily papers mentioned his son’s death; yet reporters lamented the maltreatment of a stray dog. I recall he said this spurred their determination to have Stephen’s death reported and his killers found.
People grasped the anti-racism message and were squarely behind it
The press, police and politicians say it’s just a matter of time. We must tell them the time is now and our patience has run out, was the audience’s response. One after another, people took the microphone to tell of the Black community’s flagging confidence in the uncaring press. Friendly white journalists declared themselves unprejudiced; however, I reported that my research revealed “widespread discriminatory practises, despite claims by editors that they are “colour-blind” in hiring and promoting black journalists”.
“To be both fair and free, the British press needs to have more black journalists on staff and to do a better job of covering minority communities” I said in “What colour is the news?”
The Lawrence’s justice campaign is a beacon for us all
We all agreed, from the top table to the back row: the authorities must solve “unsolvable” white on Black hate murders and find the guilty that remain unpunished.
If you’re mad about it, do something about it.
At evening’s end, in my heart I felt that the struggle must continue. There is a generation of bright young teenagers, African/Caribbean British-born, yearning to contribute to a society free of racism, and not enough Doreen’s and Neville’s to fight for them – let’s support the ones we have.
Prof Thomas Blair, a problem-solving sociologist, founded the Chronicleworld.org in November 1997. Hs goal was to confront the poverty of information about Black people in the news, research education and public affairs. He aimed to be a Cyber-action expression of the African Diaspora in Britain and Europe, This would link information, commentary and ideas to people’s advancement. Thereby strengthening and improving the growth of “Black studies”. This he believes is the way a Black scholar must fulfil the unmet aspirations of earlier generations, and serve as a bridge to a better future.