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.
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