Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Rolan Adams & Stephen Lawrence

20th anniversary march for Rolan Adams in February, 2011.

"It's been a long time in coming but we still have a long way to go, and so at this moment in time, all I can think about is Stephen. Perhaps somewhere down the line we will finally get justice for him, because everything has just been a long time for us to get to this position." Doreen Lawrence, May 18, 2011

hese pic's come from the Thamesmead Housing Estate, south east London (where parts of one my all time favourite movies A Clockwork Orange was filmed). I first visited in 1997 when a friend lived there and I will always remember it as a bleak and desolate place. It was bad back then and it is bad now, one of the poorest parts of London.

On a grey February day, along with fellow photographer David Hoffman, I attended the 20th anniversary memorial to the little-publicised racist murder of Rolan Adams, 15, which happened only a stone's throw away from these pictures.

I had arrived a bit early for the job and had time to wander around the estate again for the first time in nearly 14 years since my first (and only) visit.

People at the memorial told me about their stories from 20 years ago, how the racist BNP had moved in and how scared they were. Nobody of colour could visit the pub - if you did it was a gamble with your own life, and Rolan's peers all had a story to tell on how, once, perhaps to watch a football match, or simply try to have a drink with a friend, they bravely ventured to the pub only to be chased away by white youths wielding knives, bats and chains.

In Rolan's case it was to be fatal, just like Stephen Lawrence, 18, two miles away and two years later.

On the day before Rolan's murder, anti-racist organiser Dev Barrah, still active in the community, said on Thames TV that it was 'only a matter of time before someone got murdered'. His ominous prediction proved true within 24 hours. Rolan was outnumbered by 15 white youths and slashed in the throat, as he and his brother walked home from a youth club.

If you have the stomach, read this 1991 Guardian article by Jocelyn Targett via London Street Gangs. Its colourful language at first, but nevertheless a good read.

Rolan's murderer, Mark Thornburrow, has recently been freed but Stephen's killers never served time in the first place. There has been trials before, but the amount of injustice in his case is unbelievable. When an institutionally racist police force handles a racially motivated murder, this is what happens.

Today though, there were at last some good news: two men are to be tried for Stephen's murder which happened 18 years ago. Justice for dead young black men in this country turns slowly.

Rolan would have been 35, Stephen would have been 36. Rest in peace.


Teresa Pearce said...

Although am glad about todays verdict, am so sad for Rolan

Magster said...

Yes, his case has been totally under reported. Shame on the police for claiming it wasn't a racist murder.

Anonymous said...

I knew Rolan and he was top lad and very funny. A huge huge loss to the world and society. Can still rembember being told the news. You are in my my thoughts mate.