Black History Month: time to celebrate but also to remember

12 October 2018

October marks Black History Month which means we should be celebrating and recognising the contributions that people of colour have made to the UK and elsewhere in the world.

I was very happy to note that at my daughter’s school, they too are celebrating. I cannot recall this ever happening in my day and I would venture as far as to say that it wouldn’t have happened.  So, does this mean that as a country we have made progress?  Sadly, it’s also the year that Windrush happened and, in my opinion, was the biggest catastrophe in UK immigration history. The aftermath of Windrush continues and I recently reached out to my client to ask whether she had received the promised compensation from the government; her response saddened me greatly. Not only has she received nothing, she believes the government is simply waiting for the Windrush generation to die, so they won’t have to pay out any money. Her response made me think; is this really the case? Did the government simply make empty promises to appease those so badly affected?

I really hope not, but it cannot be denied that the Windrush episode will have long-lasting ramifications, the distrust of the government being one of them.

On a happier note, it’s also the year that my grandmother celebrated turning 100 years old, to which we were all very proud. She lives in East London and has spent 60 years in the UK, after arriving from Jamaica in 1958. Although she didn't travel on the Windrush, she was part of that generation, and spent her professional life as a nurse.  In her early years she travelled the world and therefore regularised her entitlement to British nationality many years ago.  She was particularly excited about receiving her special card from the Queen, which arrived by hand and was delivered shortly before her party.  My grandmother also appeared in the local press.  The Jamaican High Commissioner along with his wife attended the party and gave a speech, which included the troubled times of  Windrush.  He spoke of the contribution that the Jamaican community have made to the UK, which was long before Windrush.  

I recently, rather embarrassingly, visited Liverpool for the first time. I hadn’t realised what an incredible city it is and had the pleasure of visiting the Slave Museum. I highly recommend it. I was always very confident that I knew black history, but didn’t fully appreciate the history of Liverpool and the contribution from black African and the Caribbean people who, albeit as part of the slave trade, settled in Liverpool from as early as the 1700s! It was truly amazing to read and look at old photographs from that time; taking a virtual journey in my mind as to what the time must have been like.

My final comment would be to ask everyone to celebrate the contributions made by people of colour who have worked so hard here, but who also suffered extreme humiliation due to an error at the Home Office and continue to struggle and find peace with the debacle that is Windrush.

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