A Story of Perseverance

by Andy Rain

Troy Lewis, the manager at People’s Sound, a music shop on All Saints Road in west London’s famous Notting Hill district, sorts through records, rolled cigarette in hand, to the rhythms of roots reggae wafting from the speakers.

The store, which opened more than 30 years ago, has been a beacon for Jamaican and Caribbean culture in the neighborhood, which has strong historical ties to the United Kingdom’s Afro-Caribbean population and was a hub for the Black civil rights movement.

Lewis tells EPA how his father came to England from Jamaica in 1958, one of nearly half a million migrants who moved to the UK from former British colonies in the Caribbean between 1948 and the early 1970s.

These people would become known as the Windrush generation, named after the HMT Empire Windrush, the ship that docked outside London on June 22, 1948, carrying around 800 passengers from the Caribbean, one of the first large groups of Black migrants to land in the UK.

“I'm second generation Windrush,” Lewis, 58, says. “I don't think anyone is going to want to celebrate” the 75th anniversary on Thursday. “No, not after the way they've treated us.”

His father’s generation arrived – legally, as British subjects having been born in a British colony – to help fill a labor shortage after World War II, with many taking up jobs such as cleaners, builders, taxi drivers and nurses.

While most of them did not travel on that first ship, the Windrush became a symbol of an era of post-war mass migration, lending its name to a generation of Britons of Caribbean descent who made the UK their home.


In 2018, it emerged that the UK government had failed to correctly process their immigration and residency paperwork, leading to the wrongful detention of thousands of people and the deportation of dozens.

These errors were made as a result of a Home Office policy that was championed by the Conservative Party’s then-home secretary and future prime minister Theresa May, who said in 2012 that its “aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants.”

That approach, which has come to be known as the Hostile Environment policy, is still in place today.

An independent inquiry into the Home Office’s practices after the scandal broke found that the government’s failings demonstrated a pattern of “institutional racism” towards the Windrush generation.

“It is clear that those in the Windrush generation who were affected have faced very significant detriment in relation to access to housing, work, access to National Health Service (NHS) care, and in some cases in their detention and removal from the UK and separation from family,” according to the ‘Windrush Review – Lessons Learned’ by police inspector Wendy Williams in 2020.

Many of those interviewed for that inquiry said they were met with “overt racism” from the local population when they arrived and were the victims of “discrimination and prejudice” for decades afterward.

“I came to this country in 1961. You just couldn’t get anywhere to live, because there was a notice on the door: ‘No Irish, no Blacks, no dogs’. It was very difficult for us,” Jamaican-born Hermine Neita, 88, tells EPA.

Faye Grant, 68, whose parents moved to the UK from Jamaica, was told by her teachers at school that she would “never amount to much.”

She describes how she was told that she was “going to end up working in a factory, so there’s no point really in having a good education.”

“And my determination was, ‘I’m going to prove you wrong’”.

Elaine Scott, 73, who was born in Jamaica, has also seen how many young Black people in the UK have been let down by the country’s institutions, whether it’s the police, the education system, or on the job market.

“At school they are often looked at as a threat rather than someone who can contribute,” she says. “Young Black men are really at a disadvantage, so they end up in the mental health or prison systems, because they are not respected or challenged at school.”


and my determination was, ‘I’m going to prove you wrong'


For those who have been able to overcome these disadvantages, “it has been (through) perseverance, hard work and self-belief,” Scott adds.

Stephen Delsol, a community leader in south London whose father came to England from Dominica in 1955, says the 75th anniversary of Windrush is a reminder that there “is still a lot of anger in the community. There is a lot of pain.”

But in addition to the pain of years of discrimination and injustice, the descendants of the Windrush generation have inherited resilience from their parents and grandparents, says Scott.

She believes their story of overcoming racial discrimination and persevering in the face of injustice – which is now a matter of historical public record since the Windrush scandal broke – can help inspire and strengthen future generations.

“It’s very good that we all know about it, because some of us as children did not know what our parents had been through,” Scott says. “We instill in our children that resilience so they can be stronger, so it is good that Windrush has been made public.”

Grant agrees, insisting that it’s important for her children to “know how hard their grandparents worked” to pave the way for future generations of Windrush descendants.

“Things are getting better, but we're not quite there yet. There is a long way to go,” she says. EPA

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