18 Jun 2021

What Windrush Day means to me

Windrush Day marks the anniversary of the arrival of MV Empire Windrush at the Port of Tilbury, near London, on 22 June 1948. It bought workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands, to help fill post-war UK labour shortages.

My mum was part of 'the Windrush generation’ coming to England in 1954 at aged three with her mum and older sister. Her Dad, my grandfather, had already come to this country in 1951, initially to study, but then he began to work.

It was three years before my grandad was able to send for his family, as he wanted to build a good life in readiness for their arrival. However, coming to England in the 1950s bought many problems.

Grandad was an honourable man, but he experienced racism and exclusion from his community and at work, meaning he had to work harder than anyone else to prove himself. There was more bigotry and prejudice than there is now, as people were allowed to say what they wanted. My mum has told me that people used to point at them in the street when they first came to England, something that was very difficult for them to accept.

Also, being apart from his family for so long made it difficult for grandad to bond with some family members. However, he grew closer with them over time, and I was lucky enough to spend quality time and create special memories with him in his later years.

Grandad was an electrical engineer and worked for many years at the GPO (BT). It was amazing to see some of his former closer colleagues at his funeral in 2003, even though they hadn’t seen him for many years – indicating just how much they respected his strong work ethic.

What stemmed me to write this blog was a video about Stephen Lawrence Day, which mentions the Windrush Generation. It made me emotional as I realised I had this in common with Stephen – that our families descended from the Windrush Generation. Stephen paid the ultimate price for this, whereas I feel much luckier that I never (knowingly) experience racism anymore, although I certainly did at school and wondered why I felt like I never quite “fit” for years.

As I write this blog, I have just watched the first England match in the Euros 2020 that saw some England players “take the knee” to honour George Floyd. I was shocked and hurt to hear some people in the crowd boo and it makes me fearful that the world has a long way to go before we’re close to achieving equality. I very much doubt we’ll ever truly get there.

I am so proud to be a Windrush generation descendant, and to know many people of different ages and races (including lots of colleagues) who support the Black Lives Matter movement and understand what it’s about. Equality for all. Sounds simple, right?

What happens on Windrush Day?

Forty-two projects from across the country will be Government-funded this year, as the nation pays tribute to the outstanding contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants on 22 June 2021.

This year’s projects have a particular focus on working with schools and recording the memories and testimonies of the Windrush generation for the future, telling their stories and celebrating how they have shaped Britain’s heritage.

Find out more

Find out more about the Windrush generation, including the Government’s “Windrush Scandal” which broke in 2018 here.

Written by Amanda Bhavnani

Amanda Bhavnani, communications advisor at Eastlight Community Homes.