HATS OFF: HRH Prince Charles chats with Baroness Floella Benjamin, while actor Rudolph Walker looks on
THE ROYAL family threw open the doors of St James’s Palace to celebrate the contribution of British Caribbean communities at an event last week.
Hosted by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, the reception on May 7 was attended by more than 200 guests of Caribbean descent from the worlds of business, politics, sport, entertainment, charity and the media.
Alongside famous faces like celebrity chef Levi Roots and actor Rudolph Walker OBE were recipients of the Queen’s Honours and the High Commissioners of the Caribbean countries, who played a role in selecting the guest list.
Roots, an entrepreneur who found fame on BBC’s Dragon Den’, told The Voice: “I think the Prince is fantastic, I think he is misunderstood by people, perhaps even myself would have thought he was more standoffish.
"Actually he is a very warm type of fellow I’ve worked closely with him for the past three years.
"As a Rasta man from Brixton to say you have friends like the next King of England is inspiring,” he added.
The evening opened with music from the Pimlico Academy Steel Band who Prince Charles had first met during a visit of the secondary school in December 2012.
Comedian Lenny Henry told The Voice: “My mum would have been very proud of this. It’s a really lovely thing for all these people here to celebrate the achievements of people like her in this country, as some of us have found it very hard.
“If we thought we hadn’t come from anywhere this is proof that we have…and now we’ve got to take advantage of that.”
The actor’s mother Winifred had moved to the UK from Jamaica in the 1950s as part of the one of the early waves of Caribbean migration.
This year also marks the 65th anniversary of the docking of the SS Windrush in Liverpool in 1948, which brought West Indian workers to help rejuvenate post-war Britain.
Singer Beverley Knight echoed Henry in paying tribute to her parents.
“Being here with my mum is very special because the whole path to this point started with my parents,” the star said.
“Looking around the room and seeing so many people of Caribbean origin it’s like, wow, we’ve come a long way.
"I’ve been to the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, the contrast of the images of our ancestors in chains enslaved – their blood helped to build places like this – and now here we are, their sons and daughters, in this palatial building meeting the future heir to the throne.
"It’s an affirmation of who we are, where we’ve come and our place in British society. It’s a positive statement to say thank you for your contribution.”
Actress, presenter and broadcaster Baroness Floella Benjamin described the evening as "overwhelming".
“The amount of diversity we have in this room is just incredible…it’s taken a long time and we have a long way to go, but we can show our communities and ancestors after all the things they have been through that we are survivors. We can succeed and we will succeed if we keep on going and that’s what tonight has shown me,” she added.
“I feel rejuvenated. We can’t let our colour hold us back. We must believe in ourselves, and feel worthy, and tell our children, ‘yes we can’.”