Isabelle Parasram writes….Celebrating Windrush Day

As a child of the Windrush generation, Windrush Day is hugely important to me. I’m so glad that we, as a society, are marking it.

The term ‘the Windrush Generation’ stems from the arrival, on June 22, 1948, of the ship The Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, just east of London, bringing with it the first immigrants from the Caribbean.

It denotes the large-scale influx of Caribbean immigrants during the years that followed.There’s been a lot of Press about the terrible treatment of people who came here from the Caribbean in the late 1940s and onwards, who now find that their very official existence has been denied.There’s also much discussion about the poor treatment of those Caribbean immigrants upon their arrival in the UK to date.

But there are also some positive stories and memories mixed in with those experiences.

I’ve recorded an 8-minute audio interview with someone who came to this country in 1962. She shared with me some of her memories and they were both good and bad.

Memories such as these:

I came to the UK after a one month journey from Trinidad by ship with my young stepson and my new baby boy. When we arrived it was the coldest winter they’d had in a long time and we only had summer clothes.

I remember having no furniture, no heating, no washing machine, no fridge, no winter clothes. We had to try to stay warm in one roomusing a paraffin burner. Then, on Christmas Day, someone gave us a bed for my stepson. I was so happy!

It was hard to find a job because no black people were allowed. The British people didn’t want immigrants –“…no black people”, they said.

I remember a bus driver saying to the passengers that ‘…all these Pakis had come over here to go on the dole. I pointed out to him that not everyone with Asian skin was from Pakistan and that we were all desperate to work.

We had so little money for food that I had to work at a sweet factory in the evenings just so we could eat. I know it was illegal, but I left my young stepson in charge of my toddler and my baby and, one day, I came home to find the baby under the kitchen table. But I had no choice.

Eventually I got a job in local Government. I was the only black woman working in my department for the Council. They treated me well and helped me to get promotions.

And so, the stories continue. Since 2018, we’ve celebrated WindrushDay to honour the British Caribbean community.

* Isabelle Parasram is the Vice President of the Liberal Democrats.

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