The Louder I Will Sing
A story of racism, riots and redemption: Winner of the 2020 Costa Biography Award
by Lee Lawrence
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 17 Sep 2020 | Archive Date 6 Nov 2020
Little, Brown Book Group UK, Sphere
WINNER OF THE COSTA BIOGRAPHY PRIZE 2020
'This is the story of arguably one of the most important, yet least known, events in modern British history. Lee's journey and fight for justice are both inspiring and enraging' AKALA
What would you do if the people you trusted to uphold the law committed a crime against you? Who would you turn to? And how long would you fight them for?
On 28 September 1985, Lee Lawrence's mother Cherry Groce was wrongly shot by police during a raid on her Brixton home. The bullet shattered her spine and she never walked again. In the chaos that followed, 11-year-old Lee watched in horror as the News falsely pronounced his mother dead. In Brixton, already a powder keg because of the deep racism that the community was experiencing, it was the spark needed to trigger two days of rioting that saw buildings brought down by petrol bombs, cars torched and shops looted.
But for Lee, it was a spark that lit a flame that would burn for the next 30 years as he fought to get the police to recognise their wrongdoing. His life had changed forever: he was now his mother's carer, he had seen first-hand the prejudice that existed in his country, and he was at the mercy of a society that was working against him. And yet that flame - for justice, for peace, for change - kept him going.
The Louder I Will Sing is a powerful, compelling and uplifting memoir about growing up in modern Britain as a young Black man. It's a story both of people and politics, of the underlying racism beneath many of our most important institutions, but also the positive power that hope, faith and love can bring in response.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 12 members
I bought this book, not knowing anything about the case. I can't believe I am 30 and did not know anything about this terrible incident its aftermath!!! I think this history should be taught in schools!!! I found this book heartbreaking, and incredibly fascinating. Hearing about how hard Lee and the Lawrence family had to work in order to get justice for their mother is shocking!!! It angered me that this happened at all, and it angered me that I didn't know about the incident in the first place. I am so pleased I have read this, and I will be recommending this book to everyone!!!
“Sing loudly enough and one day they will hear you” On 28th September 1985, Lee Lawrence's mother Cherry Groce was wrongly shot by police during a raid on her Brixton home. The bullet shattered her spine and she never walked again. In the chaos that followed, 11-year-old Lee watched in as the News falsely pronounced his mother dead. In Brixton, already a powder keg because of the deep racism that the community was experiencing, it was the spark needed to trigger two days of rioting that saw buildings brought down by petrol bombs, cars torched and shops looted. For Lee, this lit a flame that would burn for the next 29 years through his legal (and emotional) fight to get the police to be held accountable for their actions and to recognise the irreparable damage they caused to a mother and her family. This is one of those books that makes you shocked about events and history left out of the curriculum. Although I had heard of the Brixton ‘riots’ I hadn’t heard of this case and the impact it had. This book was heart-breaking, informative and incredibly interesting and switches between before and after the death of his mother which I really liked. It’s a powerful memoir about growing up in the UK as a young black man, and institutional racism that underlies the police force. Lee’s journey and fight for justice is both inspiring and frustrating because as the reader looking in you can see the injustices that occurred very clearly. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is trying to educate themselves about race. The Postscript is also a must-read part of the book, as it talks about the evening of 25th May 2020 in Minneapolis where the police responded to a call where the shop assistant claimed a customer had nought a packet of cigarettes with a counterfeit bill. This customer in question was George Floyd. What happened next resulted in a unprecedented global response to police brutality and contributed to the ongoing debate about racism in our society. “It’s not enough to think things will just happen: we’ve got to keep applying the pressure to make sure that change is permanent” Thank you Net Galley and The Little, Brown Book Group UK for allowing me to read this advanced copy!! I will be buying a physical copy!
It struck me that, at the time of her shooting, Cherry was lying on the ground shouting, “I can’t breathe”. Words we have, sadly, heard another individual say only a few months ago. The incident might have been different, as was the country involved; however, it’s clear to see that the underlying issues are pathetically the same. It’s 35 years since Cherry Groce was shot, and yet as a global society we’re no further along in terms of removing institutional racism. This book not only looks at Cherry’s family and the impact her shooting, and resultant disability had on them all, but at the wider politics of the time. It shows how slowly the wheels of justice can move, and how important acknowledging wrongs really is. This is a well written, and informative read. If, like me, you had no idea who Cherry Groce was, I strongly suggest you get your hands on this book now. The Stars A strong 4 stars. Lee has done a brilliant job of blending fact with personal memories and opinion, to make this a moving and inspiring read.
In 1985, Cherry Groce, mother of six, was shot by an armed policeman following a planned raid. The bullet fragments were shattered into her spine, and she was left paraplegic. Lee Lawrence, her son was 11 at the time, and he lost the vibrant Mum who was always dancing. He also lost his faith in the police, and became her carer, giving up his childhood to care for his beloved Mum. In 2011, his Mum died. When a doctor requests a post mortem be carried out, this is the start of a long journey to some kind of justice for her death, as well as the battle of his life. Divided into before and after, Lee talks about his experiences of growing up as a young, Black man in Brixton. The uprisings, the community support, the fear and racism he and so many others experienced at the hands of white people, including the police. Fighting to get answers he manages to secure legal aid, and representation, and gains access to a report carried out after the shooting. This showed massive failures in communication and intelligence, and the Met eventually accepted they had made fundamental errors that led to an innocent woman being shot. Lee goes on to sit on advisory boards to provide guidance for police forces when dealing with race. He qualifies as a mediator and believes firmly in restorative justice. This is an important book, detailing the reality of being Black, and just how much work there is still to be done, especially with the recent case of George Floyd in the U.S. It is exceptionally well written and whilst there is sadness, there is a lack of bitterness which is inspiring. Lee uses his experience to be a force for good, and that is the message that I took from this book. Bad experiences can either make us bitter, or better. A wonderful testament to his mother Cherry, and a man who goes on to live a successful and meaningful life despite real hardship and tragedy.
On 28th September 1985, Cherry Groce was shot by an armed policeman in her own home. The bullet fragments pressing into her spine were unable to be removed and she was left paraplegic. Her son, Lee Lawrence, was 11 at the time and witnessed the incident. It was only earlier this year that I had even heard about the Cherry Groce shooting and the resulting Brixton riots of 1985. In the UK, I think we have a tendency to willingly supress incidents of racism and injustice while condemning the same of other countries. Stories like Lee's need to be heard now more than ever. In The Louder I Will Sing, we learn of Lee's experience growing up in Brixton as a young Black man, and of his life before and after he saw a policeman wrongly shoot his mother. We see his battle to have to police be held accountable for their actions that night and recognise the damage they wrought to the whole family. I found Lee's story very powerful, at times shocking and inspiring. It is both well-written and informative. This is a heart-breaking story of a man's fight for justice told with an ultimately hopeful tone. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is trying to educate themselves about race and particularly experiences of growing up Black in Britain. Lee Lawrence's story is definitely one that deserves to be heard. "The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing." *Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
"The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing." The Louder I Will Sing tells the story of Lee Lawrence and his family's fight for justice after his mother, Cherry Groce was wrongfully shot during a police raid on their Brixton home on 28th September 1985. This memoir flits between "Before" and "After" the home invasion, which shattered Cherry Groce's spine, leaving her unable to walk again. It talks about their journey in search of justice and all of the hurdles that they had to overcome along the way. One point Lawrence makes really stood out to me: "How many other people have wasted chances because they didn't know the right person to explain that the chance exists?" In my opinion, in terms of the criminal justice system and a lot of these wider processes (such as inquests, which is the context within which this statement was made), there is a real lack of public awareness and information about how to navigate the process. This information gap disproportionately affects working-class communities and is, in my opinion, one way in which these systems should be reformed in order to achieve real justice. I really liked Lawrence's writing style: it was straightforward and accessible. His writer's voice is so distinct that I felt like I was listening to him speak his story aloud (though I was reading the e-book). To close off the book, Lawrence shares some statistics and information about policing today: how it has changed and what still needs to change. I really appreciated this as I think it gives the reader (esp. those with less knowledge of the system) some insight into just how much needs to change and how institutionalised racism has become embedded in the British police force. I also really appreciated Lawrence's appraisal of community policing and how essential that practice is. He also talks about his own advocacy roles and how he is trying to enact change in British policing, which I really respected and admired. The prologue, where Cherry Groce is dancing, had me close to tears right from the off. The same can be said for the epilogue, where she features again. The moments where Lawrence is talking about his new role as carer to his mother were also very moving. Though most of this book talks about policing and institutional racism, there are points at which poverty is discussed and Lawrence talks about his own experiences trying to make ends meet and trying to cope as a child dependent on his mother's benefits. Though written about the 1980s-1990s, so much of what Lawrence experienced then is still happening today and I think reading this in light of the UK Government's decision not to provide hungry kids with free school meals over the half term and Christmas holidays just made this all the more devastating. The Louder I Will Sing is an excellent non-fiction book and one I would highly recommend to others. It is accessible, personal, well researched and extremely moving. Thank you for sharing your story, Lee Lawrence.