Let's Talk About The Windrush
Updated: Sep 30, 2021
With Black History Month UK here, I wanted to explore a bit of British Black History with you all by covering The Windrush.
With this blog, I want to share with you:
What was the Windrush?
What did the Windrush generation contribute to British society?
What was the Windrush scandal?
What can you do with this information?
Let's go back to 1948...
In June 1948, SS Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury in London, with over 1000 people onboard.
Those who came were invited to Britain by the British government, who found themselves experiencing a labour shortage after WW2.
The British Nationality Act of 1948 essentially gave them the right to work and settle in the UK, as they were Commonwealth citizens.
Those who arrived from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971 became known as the Windrush Generation.
The Contributions of the Windrush Generation
The Windrush generation played a large part in the building of the NHS and National rail, but their contributions to society go far beyond the labour they did.
You only need to look at the bright colours of Notting Hill Carnival to get a glimpse of the culture that was born from the Windrush generation.
What do Dizzee Rascal, Stormzy and Lethal Bizzle all have in common? Their African heritage, yes, but also the fact that they were all inspired by the styles of music that the Windrush Generation brought to Britain. They brought new styles of music such as Ska, Reggae, Calypso, Jazz-Funk, and Lovers Rock (a style of reggae music).
Not only did the Windrush Generation bring new styles of music to the UK, but they also brought new food bursting with flavour. If you've never had curried goat or jerk chicken before, then I would definitely recommend trying it! 😋
The Windrush Scandal
Now, this is important! Before I tell you about the Windrush scandal, I want to remind you that, the Windrush generation was invited to Britain by the government because there was a labour shortage. They had citizenship under the British Nationality Act of 1948.
Despite this, in 2013 the Windrush generation and their descendants began to receive letters telling them that they were undocumented migrants! People lost their jobs, homes and access to the NHS.
In 2018 the scandal broke. Figures from the Home Office show that at least 164 people were wrongly detained or deported.
"Members of the Windrush generation and their children have been poorly served by this country. They had every right to be here and should never have been caught in the immigration net. The many stories of injustice and hardship are heartbreaking, with jobs lost, lives uprooted and untold damage done to so many individuals and families"
Windrush Lessons Learned Review Independent review by Wendy Williams
In 2019, the Windrush Compensation Scheme was established. Compensation stats from March 2021 show that:
The total of payments made through the scheme is over £6.1m.
409 claims had been accepted and received a payment.
There is still work to be done to repair the damage done and the trauma caused by the Windrush Scandal.
Let's Do Better!
In an effort to repair the relationships broken by the Windrush Scandal and shine a light on everything the Windrush generation has done, the 22nd June became Windrush Day in 2019.
It is a day that celebrates the contributions of the Windrush generation and their descendants to society. It is also a day we remember and reflect on the racism and exclusion that the Windrush generation and their descendants experienced and still experience today.
This blog only covers the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Windrush Scandal. To connect to the topic more, you can read the stories of those who have been affected and understand the magnitude of the impact it had on their lives.
Here are some great books if you love reading:
Small Island by Andrea Levy (it was also made into a two-part BBC series)
Mother Country: Real Stories of the Windrush Children by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff
Voices of the Windrush Generation: The real story told by the people themselves by David Matthews
The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment by Amelia Gentleman by Amelia Gentleman
You can also start/continue to celebrate and appreciate everything the Windrush generation and their descendants have done for society. There is a toxic discourse in society about immigrants that needs to be challenged. Speak up because the truth is that the Windrush generation has done so much for this country and deserves to be celebrated.
Let's not forget what the Windrush generation have done for Britain and the discrimination they wrongly experienced.
Let's stay focused on repairing the mistakes of the past and creating a better future.