It's hard to express what I experienced as I just read about Duwayne Brooks' testimony in the trial of two men for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It's hard to express just how much Stephen Lawrence dying meant, how profoundly it affected me growing up in southeast London, a few miles from where he was beaten to death.
The first time I saw the flowers around the tree where he died, was when it hit me how close to home that was. We were in the car, an old blue Ford Cavalier whose number plate I still remember and which got nicked in Middlesbrough not long after this, and we were going swimming. I saw the flowers, and it hit me that this was where he'd bled to death. Just like that, on a road I travelled along probably once a month or so. Right there, within a bus ride. And I was not just angry for him, and his family's loss; I was terrified. That who I lived near, walked around, mingled with, could think such vile, racist things and could do that to someone. It was one of the first times my brain managed to comprehend fully that I did not share the values of people I lived with and near. I was scared, disappointed, and alienated. Typical teenage emotions as one grows up and away from home, but I think I had lived in this happy bubble and while knowing there were issues with racism, that wasn't what we were mostly like. And then this happened, and all most people knew about this pocket of southeast London was a disgusting murder; we all scrambled to distinguish and disassociate our neighbourhoods - be they Lewisham, Catford, 9r Hither Green - from Eltham.
I was terrified, angry, upset; I also lost some of my naivety about where I lived. My hometown, as it were, was always a bit rough around the edges, but this was something vicious, unexpected, an evil underbelly about which I'd been clueless; the lessening of my view of it and its people hurt a lot. But none of that compares to what Brooks went through, or that he would testify today after the loss of his father last night.