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Honouring Kwame

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16 April 2012
Honouring Kwame Last Friday I attended the funeral of Kwame Ofosu-Asare, a 17 year old student from Catford. Kwame, pictured above in white, was brutally stabbed to death in Brixton on 2nd March 2012.

Along with Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, I was asked by the family to speak at the celebration of Kwame’s life which followed on the Saturday evening. This is what I said:

On occasions like this, it not easy for politicians to find the right words.

It is a huge sadness for me to be here yet also an honour to be asked to join you – the friends and family of Kwame Ofosu-Asare.

Let me begin by expressing my deepest condolences. I do so on behalf of my parliamentary colleagues but also on behalf of the community I represent in Lewisham and Catford.

I am not someone who knew Kwame but I wish I had done.

Listening to tributes paid to him yesterday, I saw a glimpse of the son, the brother, the friend he was to you – a fine young man with a zest for life, someone who loved his family, his friends, his football.

I also saw a glimpse of the man he could have been – a hard-working, responsible, thoughtful member of British society, an international footballer for Ghana, a successful musician and actor with a big female fan base.

But Kwame’s future was ripped away from him.

His death was a tragedy. The fact that a young man with such a big heart and bright future can be killed so brutally on our streets, should shame all of us who have sought to tackle the scourge of youth violence.

We are failing and that has to change.

I am someone who stands up in Parliament and presses Government Ministers on the desperate need to tackle gang violence and knife crime in London.

I am someone who questions whether enough resources are being dedicated to tackling the problem.

I am someone who urges the Government, the police, local councils to better understand why gangs exist, how rivalries escalate and how we can get knives off our streets.

But at the moment, I know that my efforts aren’t enough. With every life that is lost, with every innocent victim caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, I know we are failing.

Kwame’s death leaves a painful scar on our society – and we failed him. The pain of his passing will be most acute for his loved ones – many of you here tonight – but the impact of his death must also be acute for those of us who have the power to change things.

I, for one, will do all that I can to honour Kwame’s life by redoubling my efforts to bring an end to violence and to make our young people safer.

All of us have a responsibility to address the causes of violence in our community but the responsibilities on some of us are greater than on others. I will not walk away from the challenge. Kwame will be my inspiration and I cannot think of anyone better.

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