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Windrush: To celebrate but never forget

REMEMBERED: HMT Empire Windrush

THE UK is celebrating the first official national Windrush Day today (Jun 22). An extensive programme of events focused on honouring the Windrush Generation and educating people about their contributions to society have been planned by individuals, community groups and councils across the country.

Activities, many of which are free, range from film screenings to heritage exhibitions and food festivals.

Catherine Ross, founder and director of Museumand, told The Voice that she hoped to see the country uniting and encouraged people to fall in love with their community once again.

“It should be a massive coming together of people,” she said. Museumand has three major activities organised and will be setting up displays in Sheffield, Nottingham and Brighton.

Celebrations on the day will culminate with a massive party. Today, it will also launch Windrush Street, an online exhibition profiling the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.

Aware of the controversy around Windrush Day, a result of the ongoing fallout of the Home Office’s migration scandal, Ross sees it as an opportunity to push back against the negativity that has surrounded the issue.

She said: “They should counter all this negative press, all this rubbish about we should be sent back because we haven’t got papers.

“What about the massive contribution we’ve made? This day for me, from now on and for eternity, for everyone, should be stating what we’ve done, showing all the positives and when there are negatives, drumming up people we can lobby. So let’s have a party but let’s also make sure in the next 12 months there will be an improvement in the things that are not going right.”

SOMBRE

Like Ross, those campaigning for justice for the Windrush Generation, including Operation Black Vote and Lawyers 4 Justice, are also conscious of the more sombre themes that the day represents.

For Zita Holbourne, co-founder of BARAC UK, celebrations on Windrush Day are secondary.

Holbourne told The Voice it is crucial the community uses the event to send a message to the government and urged people to demonstrate first and then celebrate.

She said: “Of course the contribution of Caribbean people to all aspects of British society and life should be acknowledged and marked but, for me personally and many others [that I] work with campaigning against the hostile environment including Windrush injustice, it feels rather insulting to truly celebrate when so many people of the Windrush Generation plus their multi-generational families are experiencing injustice, pain, misery, stress and racism and have not been compensated for the injustice they have experienced.”

Nationwide protests have been organised as part of Windrush Day of Action. In London, protesters will gather outside Downing Street and march to Westminster Bridge for a banner drop.

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