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The City community reflects on what the Windrush anniversary represents to them

By City Press Office (City Press Office), Published

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush ship arriving into Britain from Jamaica carrying over one thousand people.

The journey happened as part of an immigration drive in which the British Empire encouraged citizens of the Commonwealth to come to Britain to help with postwar labour shortages.

People from the Caribbean that emigrated to the UK between 1948 and 1971 are known as the ‘Windrush generation’. Many went on to work in industries, or as part of the newly established NHS, and, in the 75 years since, British-Caribbean people have played a key role in shaping the UK’s modern culture.

In 2018, it emerged that the UK Home Office had not kept records of Windrush migrants and had not issued the paperwork they needed to confirm their status. This scandal meant that many people who arrived in the UK decades ago were not able to prove their legal status or get medical treatment and faced deportation.

Members of the City community have been reflecting on the 75th anniversary of Windrush.

‘75 years is a lifetime and yet not really so long ago…’

Dr Jenny Mbaye, Reader in Culture and Creative Industries and Associate Dean for Enterprise, Engagement and Employability at the School of Communication & Creativity (SCC) and Helen Langley, Project Manager in the Change Support Unit are the Co-Chairs of City’s Network for Racial Justice (NRJ). Dr Diana Yeh, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Culture and the Creative Industries and Associate Dean of EDI in SCC is the Communication Lead for the NRJ.

Together, they shared their reflections on the anniversary:

"Seventy-five years is a lifetime and yet not really so long ago…

The Windrush generation are elders of Britain’s Caribbean heritage community – and some of our parents, uncles, aunties, older sisters and brothers. While crucial to rebuilding Britain after the Second World War, they also still hold a visceral memory of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

Today, City’s Network for Racial Justice commemorates the Windrush generation, who have, through sacrifices and hardships, made foundational contributions to British society and culture, redefining notions of ‘Britishness’.

Yet, as the Windrush scandal has demonstrated, this generation has most of the time not been able to see themselves as anything but permanent outsiders, in spite of making their life in the Great Britain for over 50 years and even more.

On this 75th anniversary, City’s Network for Racial Justice powers through continuing demands for more justice, joining the forces of an unapologetically bold present generation that draws on the foundations laid by their elders to demand being seen and recognised so to establish a better Britain for all.

A special salute to the elders of NRJ members’ and other City staffs’ families, on this key milestone of British history, who were among those who made it possible for so many of us to stand strong today in our continuing struggle for racial justice."

‘I stand with the Windrush generation as justice is still fought for’

Ashling Akosa joined City, University of London in March 2023 as EDI Manager for Race Equity & Intersectionality Initiatives.

Ashling Akosa, EDI Manager for Race Equity & Intersectionality Initiatives as part of the Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusion

She sits within the newly formed Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusion (OIEI). Reflecting on the anniversary, she said:

“The Windrush symbolises the postwar migration that began to shape the diverse society we have today and the Caribbean presence in music, food, design, and culture in the UK.

While being grateful for the generation that paved the way, we have to acknowledge the injustice, adversity and struggle faced by the Windrush generation as they were denied basic human rights, lived through uncertainty and faced unjust immigration complications even within the last 10 years.

With demands for reparations and an apology for the injustice faced, instead a brand new 50p coin and Royal Mail stamps have been designed to mark the anniversary with Government officials even advising that it’s ‘it’s time to move on’.

I stand with the Windrush generations and the future generations as the anniversary is commemorated, and justice is still fought for."

Photos, poems and personal stories: Windrush display at Myddelton Street

Many people from the Windrush generation went on to work in the newly formed NHS and the School of Health & Psychological Sciences has organised a display at the entrance of its Myddelton Street Building to commemorate the 75th anniversary.

Myddelton Street Building display for Windrush

The display celebrates the contributions of the Windrush generation on modern British society and includes photos, personal stories and poem and will be open until the end of June.

Supporting young Black Caribbean pupils through tutoring

The Widening Participation team at City is committed to helping underrepresented groups in higher education by working closely with the schools in the local area.

The team works with local schools to deliver careers information, guidance interviews and educational workshops and tutoring sessions.

The Widening Participation team coordinated a programme aimed at young Black Caribbean pupils at the Elmgreen School in Lambeth in which City students tutored pupils in GCSE Maths and English in order to help close the degree awarding gap.