How the story of Cherry Groce will boost education and truth

School students display certificates
Lilian Baylis students with their course certificates at the Cherry Groce memorial in Windrush Square

Every new recruit who passes through the Metropolitan police college in Hendon. North London, hears from the family of Cherry Groce, police community engagement officer Nigel Pearce told school students in Brixton.

They were at the Black Cultural Archives on Windrush Square which hosted the final session of a ground-breaking new school course created by the Cherry Groce Foundation.

The students also heard from Ashley Shaw-Scott Adjaye, the wife of Sir David Adjaye, whose architecture practice designed the Cherry Groce memorial in Windrush Square. She explained some of the design process and concepts involved.

The programme – The Louder I Will Sing – tells students about Cherry Groce’s story, informs them about the historical and cultural background, makes them think about the ideas of justice and is designed to empower them on these issues as they go forwards in life.

The project is designed to deepen skills like listening, speaking, creativity and teamwork and has practical outcomes in the form of posters, poetry, and other work. It also explores the concept of restorative justice.

This year is the 37th anniversary of the shooting of Cherry Groce in Brixton by the Metropolitan Police in 1985.

Woman speaks to school students
Ashley Shaw-Scott Adjaye talks to students in the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton

The community “rose up in protest to the institutional racism and systemic injustice faced by Britain’s black community,” the foundation said.

The first school to run the programme is Lilian Baylis Technology School (LBTS) in Kennington.

 “We are so proud to have been chosen by the Cherry Groce Foundation to be one of the first schools to take part in their education programme,” said LBTS head teacher Karen Chamberlain.

“As a Lambeth community school, it is so important that our students learn from our local history, both to honour Cherry Groce and to empower them as future advocates and allies in the pursuit of justice.”

Lee Lawrence, chair of the Cherry Groce Foundation and son of Cherry Groce who, at the age of 11, witnessed his mother’s shooting said: “My mother believed in the power of education and truth. The launch of this programme is testament to her deeply held conviction that education can change lives, build communities and bring opportunities to all.”

The Louder I Will Sing programme uses the Cherry Groce story to teach students about the historical and cultural challenges and adversities that the Windrush Generation experienced.

Two people shake hands
Lee Lawrence and Lilian Baylis headteacher Karen Chamberlain at the Cherry Groce memorial in Windrush Square

Additional interactive lessons have been designed to teach students about specific events such as the New Cross Fire in 1981 and the events leading up to the 1981 and 1985 Brixton Uprisings.

Valerie Laville, head of education at the Cherry Groce Foundation, said: “As a teacher with over two decades of experience in schools and other youth settings, I recognise the importance of dedicated programmes that can empower young people through a journey of exploration and experience.

“The Louder I Will Sing provides a pathway to understand our past and to build a better future.”