Seventy two years ago, on 22 June 1948, HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks, east of London and disembarked its passengers. Something that ordinarily would have gone unnoticed, only these were amongst the first migrants from the Caribbean heeding the call to what is now the Commonwealth to help rebuild a battered Britain.
While the numbers may be open to debate, 492 as reported in the press or the 1027 listed as passengers, what is not is the impact they and those that followed collectively made as the ‘Windrush Generation’ to British society.
For me personally, as the husband of an ICU nurse and as DIO’s Race Network Champion, Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter campaign make this year’s Windrush Day more poignant that ever.
Despite the prejudice those early migrants faced, they endured and helped make the NHS (born on 5 July 1948) what it is today. Yet as recently as 2017 they faced further injustice with the threat of deportation from what has become known as the Windrush Scandal. Even so, their descendants have continued to not only support the NHS even at a time of great personal risk, but enrich the social, economic, political and religious life of this country.
At its 70th anniversary in 2018, Windrush Foundation Director Arthur Torrington said: “The announcement of a national Windrush Day is a moment of great satisfaction. It will cement in the national consciousness the important contribution of those who travelled from the Caribbean to Britain 70 years ago to build a better life and participate in making Britain a stronger nation. Their legacy has lived on in their children and grandchildren and the communities they have built across the country. For years to come, Windrush Day will bring people together to celebrate this vital part of our shared history and heritage.”
Past and present contributions made to our society have been mainly underrated and unknown; that’s why for me Windrush Day matters more than ever. It challenges prejudice and the stereotypes that sadly, still exist today and in doing so helps bring us together through our shared history.
So, please join me in a rendition of ‘You can get it if you really want it’ this Windrush Day, as chosen by the people of Lambeth to be the song for Windrush.
And if you’d like to learn more, here are my recommendations. Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to recommend.
Suggested reading and viewing list:
The lonely Londoners: back to my own country – Sam Selvon
The Windrush betrayal – Amelia Gentlemen
The unwanted – the secret Windrush files – BBC i-player
Sitting in limbo – BBC i-player
Homecoming: voices of the Windrush generation – Colin Grant
Ormande – Hannah Lowe
Black poppies: Britain’s black community and the Great War – Stephen Bourne
War to Windrush – Stephen Bourne
Black in a British frame – Stephen Bourne
The motherland calls, Britain’s black servicemen and women 1939-1945 – Stephen Bourne
Article by: Mark Hill - DIO Race Champion
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