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Windrush 75 and me

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Community journalist Tristan Best compares his own experiences with those of the Windrush Generation, and reflects on the younger generation’s perspective…

On Thursday 22nd June, the Windrush community and people from Derby came together to exchange great stories from the past. In the morning we witnessed a flag-raising ceremony, in order to pay our respect to the many people who sailed and flew from overseas to come and work, learn and live in the UK – the place their families have called home for over 75 years. The event was well attended and organised, with great hospitality and friendliness.

Comparing memories 

A panel of Jamaican men and women, who were part of the Windrush Generation came to tell their stories on how they had coped with the change in their lives, such as how their cultures were different from the UK and how they felt during each of their times against prejudice and discrimination. This enlightened the wider audience and myself, as some of us including myself had never attacked, degraded or judged in that manner. 

The ladies and gentlemen spoke of the community back home being together and whole, with the schooling being much better in Jamaica, as the teachers really understood their pupils, and worked well with them to allow them to succeed. The individuals also struggled with the new routines they had adopted since making the move. And on top of that, they also had more mighty challenges such as learning the English language, as they were often misunderstood, and their questions would go unanswered in the new British schools that they attended.

The expectations the generation had laid out for them weren’t lenient, as back home they’d have to get up extremely early to do chores and maintenance work at home before school, proving how hardened they were as a collective. For them to struggle on arrival, means they were really up against the odds at hand. 

Stories of the ladies and gentlemen imagining the snow and winter period, reminded me of my own thoughts, as a child. Moving from the warm, beautiful country of South Africa, I imagined the UK having snow so thick and full – like the great Alps, being able to snowboard or even surf on the snow in between the houses. Of course, I was over exaggerating in my imagination, but that’s okay as a child. What myself and the other people found was a freezing cold, small England with loads of ‘slush’ , snow that had been rained on.

Stigma around the term ‘Windrush’

Some of the younger generation that were born in the UK following their parents and grandparents’ move away from the Caribbean and wider Commonwealth have expressed a dislike for the general community to be mainly associated with the HMT Windrush, a boat. Even though the vessel was a major part in the migration, it shouldn’t be the tag applied to the many young people, as it diminishes the passion and culture that the wonderful people bring to the table by reducing them to the mode of transport in which they arrived. 

In fact, some argued it may add a bundle of stigmatisation and misinformation to the topic, as a lot of people if not most of the people in subsequent years accessed the UK via aeroplane – ‘BOAC passengers’ was a term heavily used in the session that was held. None of the panellists had actually come over via the HMT Windrush or even a boat.

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