The father of tragic Damilola Taylor has hailed his pal John Boyega as a hero for speaking out on the blight of racism.
The Star Wars actor was one of the last people to see the aspiring doctor before he was stabbed to death with a broken bottle in 2000, aged 10.
And Boyega this week made headlines as he addressed a Black Lives Matter protest in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the US, urging change.
The 28-year-old told crowds in London’s Hyde Park: “I’m speaking from my heart. Look, I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this but f*** that.”
Damilola’s dad Richard Taylor said today: “Damilola would be proud of his friend – John is a hero.
“I hope young people can be inspired by the wonderful role model John has turned out to be. You can only imagine my pride that Damilola’s school friend has become a Hollywood icon.
“I’m friends with his family and they are very lucky to have a son like this. I think Damilola would have been a hero at the moment as well, as he was dreaming to be a doctor.”
Damilola’s death in Peckham, South East London, sparked outrage. Brothers Danny and Ricky Preddie, 12 and 13 at the time, were convicted of his manslaughter in 2006.
Damilola had left a computer class at his local library and was going home when they attacked.
He was found bleeding to death in a stairwell – having left a 30-metre trail of blood as he tried to crawl to safety.
Damilola was seen on CCTV getting in a lift with two pals, who were not identified at the time. It later emerged it was Boyega, eight at the time, and his sister, who was then 10.
And as Boyega bravely speaks out on the inequality exposed in the US, his words resonate with Richard, 64.
He said his eldest son was recently stopped and searched in a case of “racial profiling”.
Richard said: “Tunde was pulled over by the police. The officers told him they could smell weed but my boy has never touched drugs. He was told he could go after they did a check and found he was innocent.
“Like all young black men being stereotyped simply due the colour of his skin, this leaves him distressed and hurting. Such trauma is, sadly, a way of life for the black community.
“Because of knife crime and gang turf wars over drugs, we must accept the role police play as protectors. But there must be fairness and accountability.”
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 sparked protests across the globe – with US president Donald Trump being slated over his response.
Cop Derek Chauvin, 44, has been sacked and charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers, also fired, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. “Black Lives Matter” was painted in giant letters on the road to the White House in Washington as demos went on yesterday.
And as the shockwave of Mr Floyd’s death continues to reverberate around the globe, Richard – whose wife Gloria died in 2008, aged 57 – is clear that the issue runs deep.
He said: “It is the 20th anniversary of Damilola’s death this year and we have created a legacy campaign to inspire communities to come together. Such a time of division is made worse by the racial inequality and disparities exposed by the Covid virus keeping me locked in my home.”
Richard, who set up the Damilola Taylor Trust with Gloria in 2001, added: “What is happening in America is almost beyond belief and George Floyd must not die in vain. The world must unite to condemn killings of black people and the societal racism we have suffered. I hope by dedicating my son’s 20th anniversary to the healing process needed, his legacy can be one of hope.
“Shortly before his death, he wrote an essay in which he said he hoped to save the world one day.
“The 20th anniversary campaign is dedicated to this and is called simply HOPE 2020. It’s a social media campaign almost the entire UK youth sector has signed up to and organisations like the Met Police and all the UK housing associations are behind.
“It culminates with a memorial service at Southwark Cathedral by my great friend the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and Boris Johnston will represent the Government.”