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'Windrush Generation must not be characterised by scandal'

POSITIVE: Sir Simon Woolley praised the generation of Caribbean migrants that changed Britain

CARIBBEAN ELDERS, prominent figures in the community and politicians all came together to mark the first annual Windrush Day at a reception hosted by The Voice and Jamaica National last Thursday.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, David Lammy, Baroness Floella Benjamin, Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin and home secretary Sajid Javid were all among those celebrating the contributions of the Windrush Generation at Speaker’s House, House of Commons.

Corbyn, who was on his way to another Windrush event with Caribbean elders in Ilford, Essex, delivered a brief speech in which he told those gathered that the years he spent living in Jamaica during the late 1960s were “the best years of my life”.

He also thanked the Windrush Generation for their contributions and expressed his anger at the way they had been treated by the British government.

GRATEFUL: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn talked about appreciating all that the Windrush Generation had done for Britain

“I just feel still unbelievably angry about the way in which the Windrush Generation have been most recently treated it is outrageous and I want to see justice done and proper respect to a generation that built our national health service, built our education service, built so much of the science and technology in this country,” he said.

Corbyn’s anger about the Windrush scandal was echoed by some of the other speakers on the day.

Sir Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote, said: “The most important thing about Windrush is celebratory. A generation has changed our world, has changed this country, these institutions.

“The main part is celebratory but there is another side to Windrush and that of course is the Windrush scandal.”

Sir Woolley who attended the Windrush Day of Action march in London on Saturday, June 22, explained why it was important for him to protest.

ACTION: Paulette Simpson, director of The Voice, encouraged people to celebrate and campaign

“I want this institution to do the right thing to our brothers and sisters, our aunties and uncles. Give them legal access so they can access the right to claim what’s rightly deserved,” he said.

He also called on people to look beyond negative elements of Windrush.

“This Windrush Generation, this Windrush family must not be characterised by the scandal...we’re bigger than that. Our history is magnificent in terms of its achievements,” he said.

As well as rousing speeches and reflections on the incredible achievements of migrants from the Caribbean, guests were treated to musical interludes.

Calypso singer Tobago Crusoe sung Lord Kitchener’s famous London Is the Place For Me and a song he wrote especially for the event, while Baroness Benjamin closed her speech with an a capella rendition of Smile.

MUSIC FROM THE CARIBBEAN: Calypso singer Tobago Crusoe proved popular with the audience

Baroness Benjamin, who campaigned for years for the creation of a Windrush Day, recounted how she was refused on the basis of the existence of Black History Month. She said it was finally made possible because of the scandal.

She urged those in attendance to not become complacent despite the progress that has been made.

“We’ve broken through. Now is the time we seize that moment. We seize the moment to make sure that the Windrush story is not lost,” she said.

Baroness Benjamin added that the Windrush Generation had “changed the face of Britain” and that the country was “on the brink of something quite wonderful” because the whole nation was beginning to understand why Windrush was important.

PASSIONATE: Baroness Benjamin had long campaigned for an annual Windrush Day

Home secretary Sajid Javid, who was ousted from the Conservative leadership race shortly before attending the reception, said that it was a privilege to be at the event.

“Events like this are very important to me. It’s vital that we share stories and we celebrate those who have given so much to the country they call home,” he said.

He referred to Windrush Day as a time to celebrate the Windrush Generation’s role in Britain’s “rich and diverse” history.

Javid, who has repeatedly promised to right the wrongs against the those affected by the scandal, said: “The contribution the Windrush Generation and their descendants that they have made to the UK is truly remarkable.”

He added: “The Windrush Generation they were proud to be British and that makes what happened to some of you profoundly shocking. You were mistakenly caught up in the measures that were designed by this government and other governments to tackle illegal migration.”

Javid, who has issued multiple apologies to those affected by the immigration scandal, said investigations into what went wrong and how to ensure it never happens again continue.

FULL OF PRAISE: Home Secretary Sajid Javid told the audience that the contribution that the Windrush Generation made to the UK is truly remarkable

He said: “I’ve apologised many times on behalf of this government and previous and I will country to do so.”

Reverend Hudson-Wilkin told the home secretary that those in the room would hold him accountable to his pledges.

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