‘An extraordinary life’ – Gloria Cameron

So with Black History Month around the corner (sidestepping the issue of whether we need one / should have one etc) there were lots of things that I could post about right now set to happen all over the UK.

Despite the arguments for and against the month itself, I must admit that I do think it is generally well supported, and obviously it is a great chance for us to tell our own story which, as you know, is a passion of mine and part of the inspiration for this website.

Anyway, while looking at the myriad of celebrations going on in London I was sent a newsletter from my own council Hounslow, which has quite a sizeable Black community, and is putting on a few events including performances and workshops etc.

One of the activities that caught my eye is a book reading taking place at Hounslow Library on Thursday October 20th (unfortunately I am working so won’t be able to go).

It’s by Gloria Cameron, a Jamaican woman who moved to the UK when she was 25 and created a successful career as a Justice of the Peace. She was awarded an MBE from the Queen in 1980 for services to the community and had a business opened by Diana, Princess of Wales.

Copyright: Gloria Cameron

Copyright: Gloria Cameron

The book is called ‘Case dismissed! An ordinary Jamaican woman; An extraordinary life’ and it chronicles her childhood in Jamaica before she moved to the UK, where she gained national recognition for her community work.

Gloria herself says the reason she has written the book is because she felt it was important for the next generation to know what black people faced when they came to the UK in larger numbers in the 1960s and 1970s.

She told the Voice newspaper: “A lot of young people now have no idea what their parents and their grandparents encountered coming [to the UK]… I don’t think you can blame them, because I don’t think enough books have been written. People of past generations have not written enough books to educate them. This is why I wanted to write this book.”

She added: “I was also conscious that my life story can contribute to preserving our visual and oral history for the next generation. I really hope my story resonates with people everywhere and inspires them to pursue their passion and to become successful individuals.”

I really wish more of our older generation would share what they went through growing up ‘back home’ and when they came to start a new life in England. It is so important for all of us to know their stories, however small, so that we know how much sacrifice has been made to ‘get us a seat at the table’ and therefore do not squander it or take it for granted.

I have previously shared the story of my mum on this blog, who came to England when she was 19 and worked for 40 years in the NHS facing racism and discrimination, but successfully raised two children on her own who have hopefully made her proud.

I encourage everyone to ask their parents and grandparents about their journey – we need to know these stories of heroism and perseverance which demonstrate that there is so much more to us than what we sometimes see in the media.

We must speak up and speak out!

Black soldier and firefighter honoured

Today I read about one of the first black men to serve in the British army and the London Fire Brigade – Trinidadian-born George Arthur Roberts.

Roberts was honoured last week with a blue plaque, organised by the Southwark Heritage Association, at his former home in Camberwell where he lived from 1923 to 1970.

London Fire Brigade

George Roberts – copyright London Fire Brigade

Born in Trinidad in 1890 he served in the army and made his way to the UK when the First World War broke out. He joined the Middlesex Regiment and earned the nickname the ‘Coconut Bomber’ when he threw bombs back over enemy lines in the same way that he used to throw coconuts as a child. He was wounded at the Battle of Loos and then in the Battle of the Somme.

When the war finished he briefly went home to Trinidad before returning to the UK and settling in Peckham. As World War Two began he joined the National Fire Service and battled blazes during the Blitz.

By all accounts George Roberts had a remarkable life, as in between his service he also helped establish the ‘League of Coloured People’, which was set up in 1931 to address the needs of Britain’s black community.

In 1944 he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his courage as a Blitz firefighter at New Cross Fire Station. He stayed in London for the rest of his life and died in 1970.

George Roberts is another shining example of the contribution Caribbean people have made to the UK – he put his life on the line for his ‘adopted country’ countless times and deserves to be recognised and remembered.

Read more here:

One of the first black men to serve in the British army honoured

Groundbreaking wartime firefighter recognised with blue plaque

World War One hero who could throw bombs 74 yards