Windrush Day 2018

Sorry for the gap between posts – it’s been a hectic few months.

Anyway, I had to return this month because there’s an important anniversary coming up for the black British community on June 22nd – the 70th anniversary since the arrival of the infamous Empire Windrush.

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Now we all know, and I hope this blog has shown it too, that black people were significantly present in, and contributing to, the UK for centuries before the Windrush came to these shores, but obviously it is only fitting that we recognise this momentous occasion and celebrate the bravery of those first arrivals and the contribution they and their children have made to the UK ever since.

I have posted before about my mum taking the decision to come to the UK when she was just 19 years old to train as a nurse in 1967, and how I couldn’t imagine leaving everything I knew as a teenager for a life in a foreign country.

The 500 West Indians on board the Windrush will have faced a similar mixture of fear and trepidation – excitement at travelling to the ‘Mother Land’ but apprehension about leaving their loved ones and the life they had built for an unknown future.

Then of course, we all know that when they arrived, even though they’d been invited by the UK to come to rebuild the country after the horrendous damage caused by WWII, they were met with racism, anger and discrimination from every tier of society.

But of course they’d also come to the UK for personal reasons – to have a better life and possibly to help their families back home by sending remittances – so despite the hostility and ignorance of the British, many of them would stay and make a significant contribution to the UK financially and culturally.

I recently read on the Black History Month website that the Windrush was actually on its way back when it journeyed to the UK from Jamaica to Tilbury in 1948.

On the first leg of its voyage it actually went out to the Caribbean with hundreds of servicemen who had fought for Britain in the Second World War and were now returning to their islands with wounds and medals. I’d never heard this aspect of the Windrush story before and that’s an example of how history can be manipulated and key sacrifices forgotten.

Anyway, I’m glad the descendants of the people on the Windrush and others are making sure that those first few hundred West Indian migrants are remembered on June 22nd.

I won’t go into the recent scandal of deportations and mistreatment of the Windrush generation by the current Conservative government on this blog, but needless to say I believe it is our duty to make sure that our community’s contribution over hundreds of years, not just starting with Windrush, is never whitewashed.

So I urge everyone in the UK to salute Windrush Day 2018 by attending as many of the planned events as possible.

This is a chance for all of us to publicly show that we are proud of our ancestors and the journey they undertook; the courage they demonstrated; and the determination they displayed.

Further information – Windrush Day 2018

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Happy New Year

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!

I hope 2018 is already exceeding your expectations and providing you with lots of hope for the future.

The motivation for this post just came to me when I saw an advert on Facebook, and I felt that I had to share it because the product fits in with what I am trying to do with this site.

The advert was for black history flash cards – a new resource offered by Urban Intellectuals for black children and adults, to inform them about their rich cultural and intellectual history which, as I have said countless times before, is not often recognised.

On the website it claims that this 52-card series is “designed to combat the miseducation and suppression of Black achievements around the globe… (and) gives a strong foundation of the many untold stories and unknown figures that have given shape, colour, and definition to the worlds of academia, science, civil rights, education, the arts, and more.”

I know if I had children I’d definitely buy them these cards, which are filling a shameful gap left by education systems around the world, because it’s obviously essential to educate our youth about black pioneers in many fields who have paved the way, (while sometimes facing seemingly insurmountable odds), for us to follow.

When our children know their history they will become a confident, inspired and empowered generation who will know their worth and know that there is no limit to what they can do.

I think the cards are a great idea and there are plans for more so I hope our community and others will support the initiative – spread the word.

Click this link to take a closer look at the black history flash cards.

‘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 History Month

So just a quick post to draw your attention to some of the events that are going on to mark Black History month. I don’t know if it’s me but this year there seems to have been even more effort put into making BHM more meaningful and telling some important stories.

BHM_640x280 The Black Cultural Archives are putting on a range of events including a look at the lives of Black people during the Georgian era 1714 – 1830 – Black Cultural Archives – Black History month events

BHM-webbanner3 Goldsmiths University are also marking the month with various events which are part of the official launch of the institution’s upcoming – MA in Black British Writing Goldsmiths – Black History Month events

BlackHistory And Black History Walks London is having a talk on “the African, Caribbean and Asian war effort with video clips and interviews with black Spitfire & bomber pilots, Nigerian and Somali troops fighting in Burma, black and asian women secret agents, u-boats in the Caribbean and the importance of Africa and India’s raw materials.” – http://www.blackhistorywalks.co.uk/talks/talks-on-african-history-of-london

There are also events going on in other parts of the UK – check out the Black History Month website for more information – Black History Month – National Listings

I think it would be great if Black people in Britain supported as many of these events as possible because all of our stories are important, and it’s essential we learn about them, especially from the people who experienced it first hand – no one can tell ‘our story’ more truthfully and clearly than us.