Channel 4 Documentary Next Wednesday on the Murder of Damilola Taylor

Here’s another documentary that may interest you, particularly if you’re old enough to remember it and the horror it rightly provoked. Damilola Taylor was a ten year old boy, who was stabbed to death by a gang on an estate in Peckham twenty years ago in 2000. It was a murder that shocked the nation, comparable to that of Stephen Lawrence who was killed in a racist attack by a White gang. Channel 4 have made a documentary in which Yinka Bokinni, a radio presenter and former friend and neighbour of the murdered lad, talks about the murder and speaks to other members of the community about it. It’s entitled ‘Damilola: the Boy Next Door’, and is on Channel 4 at 9.00 pm on Wednesday, 28th October 2020. There are two blurbs for it in the Radio Times. The first, by Jack Sealse on page 95, runs

The murder in 2000 of ten-year-old Damilola Taylor shocked Britain but, for most of us, it was an abstract, distant tragedy. Not so for Yinka Bokkini, now a radio presenter and then a kid for whom “Dami” was a friend and neighbour.

Bokinni’s documentary about the killing and its repercussions is unusually personal. She explores her own imperfect memories of Damilola and the south London community they lived in, visiting fellow residents to talk about the horror and how growing up on their Peckham estate, which was demolished soon after Damilola’s death, shaped them.

Gradually – it feels harsh to say it, but a bit too gradually – a complex picture emerges about our attitude towards run-down urban areas and the people who live there.

The second blurb, on page 97, goes

To mark the 20th anniversary of her friend Damilola Taylor’s death, Yinka Bokinni confronts the impact it had on her community, as she discovers that she is not alone in having grown up never mentioning Damilola, or even wanting to admit that she is from Peckham. Yinka attempts to reconcile the happy community she remembers so fondly with that presented in the media as a crime-ridden “sink estate”.

I have to say that I felt particularly shocked by the murder, because I was bullied at school. The whole idea of a young boy living in fear of his life, and finally being killed by a gang really did fill me with horror.

I was also massively unimpressed by the attitude towards the media coverage of his murder by the Black and Asian Studies Association, one of the groups I’d been in contact with in my volunteer work in the slavery archives at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol. Their editor commented on the murder and the news coverage in an issue of their wretched magazine they sent me, I think it may have been number 31 or 32. They complained about the murder being covered, and asked instead why the media didn’t cover all the children murdered by Whites. Or something like that. They clearly believed that the media was only covering it because Taylor’s killers were black. In fact, the gang’s race was not mentioned on the news as I recall, and I think when it was mentioned the gang was composed of individuals of different races.

But I was heartily disgusted by the Association’s attitude. A ten year old boy had been murdered, for heaven’s sake! It shouldn’t matter what the colour of the victim or the perps is, it’s a chilling, horrific, contemptible destruction of a young life. It deserved to be on the news, just like the reports of other gang violence at the time. Anyone remember the story about the school teacher or headmaster murdered by another teenage gang at the gates of his school trying to protect the kids within?

And young people are still killing, or trying to kill each other in the epidemic of knife crime that’s hit this country. And I don’t doubt that the majority of the victims there are Black people from deprived, inner city estates.

I have to say, I’m not a fan of Black Lives Matter and its automatic opposition to the police. I’m well aware that some coppers have been and probably still are racist, and that perfectly decent, innocent men and women like Dawn Butler have been aggressively stopped and harassed simply because they’re Black. But I also know some excellent cops, who did their job conscientiously and with dedication. I heard from the husband of one, who had herself several times successfully arrested armed criminals, that when she went out each day, she did so with the intent of making sure no-one was going to die that day.

And no-one should.

Black lives matter, and I wish the organisation, apart from attacking the police, would also stand up to Black on Black violence. And all children’s lives of whatever colour, ethnicity or religion do matter. That’s why we should be doing our best to make sure there aren’t any more murders like this.

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