Much like I am not the one to squander my hard-earned cash on red tops, red tops are not ones to hail ethnic minority heroes on their front page on a daily basis, so it was with pleasure I picked up today’s copy of The Sun and parted with my cash when I saw two Nigerian faces – Damilola Taylor who was stabbed in the leg with broken glass and bled to death on his way from home from Peckham Library in November 2000 and David Idowu, the 14-year-old model student who fell victim to a knife attack in Tabard Gardens, a few yards from home, where he was playing football when he got stabbed through the heart in 2008 – on the cover amongst five people whose death had left a legacy and changed Britain.
Inside in a piece titled “Champions League” there are interviews with the family members left behind who had dedicated their lives to campaign in the memory of their loved ones, including Damilola’s dad, 63-year-old Richard Taylor who set up the Damilola Taylor Trust to give disadvantaged youths opportunities to better themselves and was awarded an OBE in May this year for his services and David’s mum, the inspirational 50-year-old Grace Idowu (whom I had the opportunity to meet at the 8th year anniversary of Afruca Charity two years ago) who set up David Idowu Foundation and who tirelessly tours London schools to educate children on knife crime.
When asked what they consider the most significant change they have made to their society after tragedy struck their family, Mrs. Idowu says, “Getting into schools has made a huge difference because the children are listening to me.” She also talks about the impact of the programme she set up called the 20 Days Journey which involves telling the children about the last 20 days of David’s life as he fought for his life:
I was forced to sit by his bedside without being able to kiss or cuddle him and I had to sanction medical staff to amputate his legs in a desperate bid to save him. I hope telling the story will save someone else.”
Richard Taylor feels proud he was recently able to stand up to the justice Secretary who was about to slash sentences to a level that “would have left the criminals laughing all the way home.” Mr. Taylor adds,
I hope my experience and work has helped to get justice for those who might not otherwise have got it. […] It took three trials for my wife and I to get justice for Damilola and it broke us and eventually took Gloria. That must not happen to another family.”
Talking of their loss, both parents highlight the difficulty of living with the knowledge that the pain never really goes away. “I can only take one day at a time,” says Mrs. Idowu and adds, “My faith in God helps me by telling me that one day I am going to see David again.” Responding to the question on how much they think about their loved one, Mr. Taylor sagely responds, “The question is more: ‘When do I NOT think of him?'”
Two parents, who have turned their pain into action and shown strength of spirit in overcoming agonising grief and turning tragedy into triumph so others do not experience the traumas that struck their families. Two ordinary people, ordinary parents who – bereft of a child – have risen to become extraordinary heroes.
Speaking of the public honour and recognition their work has garnered them, Mr. Taylor bemoans that his wife Gloria “isn’t here to share the joy that has compensated in a small way for a huge loss” while Mrs. Idowu, sums up how a nation feels about the two teenagers so full of promise so untimely stolen from their families but whose legacies will continue to live on and perhaps save the lives of many more to come:
Of course it is wonderful to get public recognition but I am more proud that my son’s name is living on in such and honourable way.”
Others interviewed for this piece are Christina Scmid who is currently lobbying Government to place the Military Covenant in British Law, after she lost her husband Staff Sgt Olaf ‘Oz’ Scmid, one of the Army’s top bomb disposal experts, was killed while defusing a device in Sangin, Helmand’s Province, actress Brooke’s Kinsella, who was appointed Government advisor on knife crime last year and awarded an MBE in June for her campaign work with Ben Kinsella Trust following her 16-year-old brother’s murder in the hands of yobs in June 2008 and Sara Payne who lauched Sarah’s Law campaign following the murder of her daughter Sarah in 2000 by a paedophile and set up The Phoenix Foundation and Phoenix Chief Advocates with fellow campaigners Shy Keenan and Fiona Crook to help victims of rape and paedophilia get better justice and care.
Visit The Sun to read the full interviews.