Today marks the day in 1948 where at least 492 Caribbean people arrived at Tilbury Docks on a ship named the Windrush Empire. In the subsequent years, Britain encouraged many more Caribbean people to come to the country after world war two, to help relieve this labour shortage.
This generation made an enormous contribution to Britain, both by working in demanding and essential jobs and enriching the country’s arts and culture. They made a particularly important impact on Britain’s musical legacy, introducing the country to a wide range of musical styles and genres that were previously not very well known in Britain. This included jazz, blues, gospel, ska, reggae, and calypso music. The influence this had on the British music scene can still be felt today.
Sadly, another reason Windrush Day is so important is that when the Windrush Generation arrived in Britain, they often had to cope with racial abuse, prejudice, and intolerance. They were often denied access to private employment and housing, and were banned from many pubs, churches, and clubs.
The Windrush Generation still face racism and discrimination in the modern era, which is a fact illustrated by the Windrush Scandal. This involved the British government illegally detaining people, denying their human rights, and threatening them with deportation under the policy of “hostile environment”
At least 83 people were wrongly deported, and many more were detained, lost their homes and/or jobs, denied access to medical care, and had their passports confiscated. Many of these people either belonged to the Windrush Generation or were the British-born decedents of them.
On this day we both pay our respects to the Windrush Generation and the amazing contributions they’ve made to the country and make a special effort to take a stand against racist behaviours and attitudes.
To celebrate this day below are a number of areas which may interest you :
- Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain starting today on BBC 2 at 9pm. Looking back at Caribbean culture woven in to Britain.
- Windrush Festival – 25th and 26th at Burgess Park. Two day festival celebrating Windrush with a collection of performance, food and music.
- Legacies: London Transport’s Caribbean Workforce held at the London Transport Museum. This exhibition celebrates the contribution Caribbean people made to London transport and explores the struggles and triumphs many of these individuals and their families experienced as they moved halfway across the world from the Caribbean to the UK.
- A book by Tony Fairweather’s – Twenty – Eight Pounds Ten Shillings – A Windrush Story
- A poem by Prof. Laura Serrant – You Called We Came