Stephen Lawrence's mother talks about her private and public struggles for justice, not just for her murdered son but for all ethnic minorities over the past two decades
For the family of Doreen Lawrence, the pain and challenges in dealing with the loss of her son Stephen 18 years ago continue, and change. They permeate even the imagination of her granddaughter Mia, aged seven, who was born years after his murder.
Mia has a child's intense curiosity about "Uncle Stephen", whom she knows only from photographs. Lawrence said: "She was asking me [the other day] if Stephen was an angel. I'm not sure how to answer that. How does she see what an angel is?"
During the recent court case that finally saw two people convicted of Stephen's murder in April 1993, the adults in the Lawrence family had to be careful what they said about the case in front of Mia, and protected her innocence by hiding the fact they were going to court.
Lawrence said one decision she and Mia's parents would have to make was when and how to tell her about the circumstances of her uncle's violent death at the hands of a gang fuelled by racial hatred.
Lawrence, 59, has three grandchildren. Spending time with them lessens her pain, and reminds her that people are mostly good: "You can't think about doom or gloom," she says of the time spent with her grandchildren. "You can't forget so you try to do things, put things in place, to lessen the pain."
For the two months of the trial she says she could not tell which way the jury was leaning and tried to avoid her emotions overwhelming her: "No one could ever convince me we would get to the point of getting a guilty verdict. It was having that faith in the system, which we never had."
The verdicts have yet to sink in fully. Lawrence says she is often "away with the fairies", sometimes thinking she has only dreamt that the British criminal justice system has finally found people guilty of her first-born child's murder.
Lawrence is trying to move on, but says continuing racial injustice in Britain must be tackled. Wider society must improve its attitudes to British African-Caribbeans, who are still viewed as the face of crime and are near the bottom for jobs and housing despite promises of change after the 1999 Macpherson inquiry into her son's death and racism in British society.
"They are pretty low down, I don't think that has shifted much. You have to be better than your [white] contemporaries by three or four times" to get as far, she says.
"Even if you have the qualifications, if their name doesn't sound English enough then they don't get an interview, and if they do manage to get an interview they don't get the job."
To change society's negative attitudes to ethnic minorities, educational establishments must do more and the media must tell positive stories, not just negative ones, she says.
Lawrence improved her life by returning to education as an adult, but she fears those opportunities for self-improvement are disappearing. She says that in the late 1980s there were opportunities for people to improve themselves, but now "university is for the elite as others are priced out of it". She warns: "We're at a standstill, we are going backwards."
The Macpherson inquiry led to progress ? "no doubt things have changed" ? but she notes that other families who are suffering have nowhere to go. Now that other support groups have gone, desperate families come to her Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust for help and advice.
The trust, based in south London, exists so people can achieve despite discrimination and deprivation. Lawrence wants young black people not to give up and instead ask themselves: "'How can I achieve, what can I do?' ? not just get hung up on colour." She now wants to step out of the limelight to concentrate on the trust, which is in a worrying financial situation, after spending nearly two decades fighting some of the country's most powerful institutions to find the evidence to bring suspects before a jury.
If she is now revered and praised by the establishment, Lawrence remembers how she and her family were treated when they were most in need, just after the murder: "In the early stages they were trying to prove that Stephen more or less caused this to himself, because of who he was, he belonged to a gang, and we as a family were not law abiding citizens, so whatever happened was down to us."
During the trial Lawrence and her family were seated by the dock housing the accused, Gary Dobson and David Norris. She sat and listened to horrific detail of her son's murder. How the gang racially abused him, smothered him and plunged a large knife so deep into him as he lay on the ground that major arteries were severed.
She describes Norris and Dobson as "pure evil", but as a church-going Christian can she see herself forgiving the racists she put her last measure of devotion into pursuing?
"You can only forgive somebody, something, who asks for forgiveness, who admits their wrongs, and they have never done that. You have to seek forgiveness ? it would mean nothing if I say I forgive them."
She admits her faith wavered over the years. "It's a lot stronger now. Just after Stephen's death, there were so many questions. Why was he not being protected? I've moved on quite a bit. His death taught me everything happens for a reason."
It was not just God she sought answers from, it was from herself. Even now, her peace of mind is threatened by questions of regret if not guilt.
"From the time they [my children] were born, I had to protect them. The fact I could not protect Stephen that night is something that will live with me forever."
She talks of her regret at "not [being] able to answer his questions, not able to be the person to hear his last words."
Lawrence says she tried to battle for Stephen while ensuring that his brother Stuart, a teacher, and sister Georgina, a fashion designer, were fully nurtured and felt they had her full attention. She seems to have some doubt as to whether she achieved that.
Stephen's memory is ever-present and she still has conversations with him in her head. "Not that I'm worshipping him, but I think of him all the time. I go to bed and sleep and wake up and it's there constantly. He has had such an impact. His name will live on for a long time yet. It's difficult for me to let it go completely. It turned my life upside down, I'm struggling to be the person I was then."
Lawrence was talking three weeks after the conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris, yet one curious effect since the verdicts has been the worsening of her health, with pain so bad she has been barely able to walk.
"I think it's all the stress that builds up over time, and stress ? can start attacking the body. People say, 'You look really good', but on the inside, I don't feel good."
Lawrence would now like to concentrate on the next generations of her family. That means spending time with the grandchildren. And buying them black dolls instead of white, to give them a positive image of themselves as early as possible. "It means a lot. I bought my granddaughter a black doll because she needs to see a reflection of hersel
Lawrence fears racism may still affect her grandchildren's life chances and she hopes for, and needs, others to help fight to stop that happening: "There is no such thing as normality for me. I don't think I've got any more to give."
? Donations to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust can be given:
? By credit card or paypal at the trust's JustGiving web page click here justgiving.com/slct/donate
? By texting SLCT18 followed by the ? symbol, then the amount to 70070
? By bank deposit to the following account: sort code 30-94-08 account number 02963035
? By cheque, made payable to Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and sent to 39 Brookmill Road, Deptford, London SE8 4HU.