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Category: Profiles 29 Apr 07

 

Brutality. Young men who kill. That’s how I’d initially heard of Angela Cropper. When two young men, one just 17, murdered her husband John, sister Lynette Pearson and 83-year-old mother Maggie Lee.

 

In 1988, her son Dev (ten O-Levels and four A-Levels with distinctions) was studying at the London School of Economics. He was a writer for the school newspaper and was deeply involved in international issues of politics and justice.

 

Dev “never forgot those who were poor, exploited and forgotten. He suffered from no shortage of humility or compassion,” wrote Kevin Thompson, a close friend of Dev since childhood, on the Cropper Foundation Web site.

 

Dev died of sudden heart failure two months before writing his final undergraduate exams. Only 20 years old, he was gone, allowing the world a glimpse of his enormous potential.

 

The Croppers decided that Dev’s beliefs of social justice were universal seeds to be cultivated. They started the Dev Cropper Memorial Award—a financial grant to a third-year student at London School of Economics through the student union, which acknowledges, encourages and celebrates contributions by students for social work.

 

In 2001, taking a cue from the Croppers, the university also contributed two awards for social work to students.

 

The first recipient of the Dev Cropper Award in 1999, was Brendan Cox, a government student who was recently here to join other Cropper Fellows—Elizabeth Solomon, Juliet Solomon, Austin Fido and Julie Lithgow—to network for social justice and equity.

 

Positive mentors

 

Cox doesn’t just talk justice. He lives it.

 

“I was 17 years old when I got involved with LSC Labour club. In my first and second years I did a lot of voluntary work with a homeless charity in London. An English teacher who had been going out to the former Yugoslavia to work with children traumatised by civil war got me there. Most of their parents were killed. They were living in bunkers and deeply traumatised.

 

“A small thing like playing Frisbee with them showed me how you can make a big impact on people in small ways.

 

“I received the Dev Cropper Memorial grant in 1999. That summer I used the money to base myself in Bosnia for five months to run camps for children in different parts of Yugoslavia.

 

“The Dev Cropper award empowered me. I got my degree but academia was a doorway to allowing me to have a bigger impact on the world.”

 

Thompson notes:

 

“Those of us who are fortunate have a responsibility to give back... You may not change the world but you can change the way you engage with it.”

 

Fido says Dev “was everywhere, active in student and labour politics, volunteering with charities. He was very vocal, articulate and prone to activity.”

 

Elizabeth Solomon, journalist, UN worker and a friend of the Croppers felt “lucky to have the powerful influence of Angela and John in her life.”

 

Coming together with “like-minded people with different perspectives have added passion to our work of bringing about social justice.”

 

How does a society produce mindlessness, brutality? It’s always been about the mentoring. Angela has recognised that. She will not campaign, nor do PR. It’s not her style. But I will plead with our UWI principals to push an articulate passion in our young people to change the way they engage with the world—Cropper style. Hold up students who are passionate, articulate and care to the light. In these times, that’s worth more than the Nobel.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur