UK Charity, The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, and British Celebrities Aim to Challenge Prejudice and Intolerance
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I’m going to tell you a story:
Once upon a time, a young couple, in love and about to embark on a new chapter of their lives together walked home one night through a local park. It was nearing the end of summer and they chatted easily and happily on their way. The young girl was everything to the young man — his entire world. They had even talked of marriage. They had so much in common, most obviously their sense of dress and style. As followers of the “Goth” fashion, they wore dark make-up, black clothes, dyed their hair and had piercings. As they walked through the park they happened upon a group of young men. After initially striking up a friendly conversation, some of the group turned nasty and began kicking the young man in the head until he fell unconscious. His companion, scared and shocked, cradled her boyfriend’s head in her lap, begging the gang to stop. They responded by beating her so hard they left footprints in her face. When the police arrived they couldn’t tell whether the couple were male or female, so horrific were their injuries. Both fell into a coma. The young man woke up. His girlfriend, his “entire world” never did.
Not a pleasant story is it? What makes it even more tragic and distressing, is that it’s true. It happened in 2007, in a leafy suburb. The attack was unprovoked and relentless and was carried out simply because the young couple “looked different.” As a lasting tribute to the young girl, Sophie Lancaster, a charity was set up in her name. The goals of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation are to create a lasting legacy for Sophie, to provide educational group-works that will challenge the prejudice and intolerance towards people from alternative subcultures, and to campaign to have the UK Hate Crime legislation extended to include people from “alternative subcultures” or “Lifestyle and Dress.”
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation has stepped comfortably into the world of Social Media, (they have over 45,000 Facebook fans and counting), using Twitter and Facebook to promote their work and highlight areas of society that need to be changed. Two boys, one 15, the other 16 were convicted of Sophie’s murder. That alone is a damning statement about today’s culture. Hate crimes may not look like those we readily think of; the Holocaust or the KKK, for example, but the hate is the same, and the reason is the same: “because they were different.”
Check out the Sophie Lancaster Foundation website and you’ll see how, although cut short in such a terrible way, Sophie’s life has not been in vain. Bizarre Magazine has created a “proud to be different” page, the BBC created a special drama about Sophie’s death called Black Roses; bands have dedicated songs, named stages and supported the foundation in a variety of ways. For example, Goth bands The Eden House, The Mission, Uninvited Guest and Marc Almond recorded a charity album in Sophie’s honor.
The King Blues have asked the foundation several times to their gigs to speak to the audience. A writing competition was set up by actress Julie Hedmondhalgh from popular English soap Coronation Street. Celebrities such as Una Healy from pop group The Saturdays, Patricia Field, costume and fashion designer from Sex and the City, Courtney Love and Boy George have all been pictured wearing the S.O.P.H.I.E. (Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere) wristbands. UK-based cosmetics company, Illamasqua are strong partners and even commissioned a short film about Sophie’s story. Kelly Cutrone, American fashion publicist, the founder of the public relations, branding and marketing firm People’s Revolution and author of the book Normal Gets You Nowhere is also a strong supporter.
View the video by Illamasqua below:
In the few years since Sophie’s death the foundation, along with the help of these celebrities, has made a real impact. They’re reaching beyond the park where the hate crime took place and beyond the shores of the British Isles. Why? Because they were different.
Follow the Sophie Lancaster Foundation on Twitter: @sophie_charity
Like the Sophie Lancaster Foundation on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesophielancasterfoundation
Visit the Sophie Lancaster Foundation Website: http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com/