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How the Windrush legacy lives on in Birmingham

ATTENTION: The Why Are West Indians (WAWI) standard-bearing ceremony at the Assemblies of the First Born Church in Lozells, Birmingham

THE LEGACY of Windrush was remembered in Birmingham during two special weekend events to remember and honour those first pioneers who left the Caribbean to help rebuild a broken Britain after the Second World War 69 years ago.

Ahead of next year’s 70th anniversary events, a Windrush legacy ball was jointly organised by several community history projects, along with a church service at the Assemblies of the First Born Church in Lozells, attended by John Crabtree, Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands.

Councillor Paulette Hamilton, who was a keynote speaker at the ball, said:

“Our people came here to make a difference in their thousands because they answered the call to rebuild the 'mother country'.

“When they landed in this country, no-one was smarter than my people. They had their slick suits on, their hats and they came here to make a difference. They brought their culture with them, their food, their laughter and their music.

“And even though we loved the 'mother land', the 'mother land' did not always love us. They told us they didn’t want any Irish; they didn’t want any blacks and they didn’t want any dogs. We felt like outcasts – we had nowhere to live, many of us, so we shared rooms.

KEYNOTE: Councillor Paulette Hamilton

"How many of us heard from our grandparents that they were only staying for five years? And they are here 40 and 50 years after.

“Sometimes we were discriminated against but our parents stood strong. Why? Because we wanted to make a difference.”

Groups which took part in both events included the Recognize Black History and Culture group, the Kingsway Project, Vows Community Enterprise, the Caribbean Family History Group and WAWI – Why Are West Indians project, led by Horace ‘H’ Barns. He conducted standard-bearing ceremonies at both the church and the legacy ball at the City Banqueting Suite.

During the church service, Minister Desmond Jaddoo said that the part played by the black community in rebuilding Britain had never been fully acknowledged. He said:

“Leaflets were dropped throughout the Caribbean islands asking for people to pay their fares to the UK, and they came willingly. They were like the Children of Israel. They believed they would be welcomed warmly, but that was not the case.

“They were treated like aliens from outer space. When attending white churches they were told not to come back because their presence upset the congregation. That is what spawned the black church in this country.

“By understanding the resilience of our elders, we can move forward, as well. We can use their values of caring and sharing, of family love.”

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