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The Empire Windrush



( Inspired by the accounts of Windrush passengers’)

The British government invited us to England, with the promise of jobs & a better life.

Some were heading for the army; others wanted to make their career prospects bright.

The opportunity for employment back home was extremely poor,

And England needed to be reconstructed, due to the consequences of the war.

We heard that a ship call the Empire Windrush was taking passengers for a cut-price fare,

With the assurance that we would be welcome on arrival, and treated with care.

The Windrush was a large troopship, in fact, 492 places were filled;

Yes, we were all ready & willing to assist our mother country, by offering our skills.

The journey took an extensive 28 days, due to a problem with the engine;

However, I continued to focus, on all the wonders impending.

Passengers played cards or dominos and joked about the food we missed,

Like yam, dumpling, green banana, fresh meat and saltfish…..

It was an everlasting phase,

But we enjoyed the welcome when we stopped at other countries on the way.

At the same time, over in England, many were making a public stand -

They were trying to stop the Windrush from bringing us onto their land.

Nevertheless, we arrived at Tilbury Docks on the 21st June 1948,

I can remember that day so well! Truly the ambiance was great!

There was a large crowd of family and friends waiting when we arrived,

And we were so relieved & thankful that we actually survived…

Of course, at that time we had no idea of the challenges ahead,

We were relying on the promise that the government said.

We came to the glorious ‘Mother country!’ therefore it was difficult to believe,

That the British government’s so call promises! We could not see! We were deceived.

We were told that, as part of the British colony! We would be welcomed, by all,

But things did not transpire that way! No! Not at all.

Although we were among the first people who came after the Second World War,

Nothing! No! Nothing, could have prepared us! For the things that we saw.

Many buildings were badly damaged or completely burned out -

And there was an abundance of pending work to do, all about.

We found employment, but still, it was challenging to obtain enough funds,

To pay all the bills and then send money home to our daughters and sons.

In fact, we could barely afford the basic amenities,

Due to rations and the added fees,

Things were bad! Sometimes the pressure escalated to an alarming degree.

Meanwhile, we received horrendous discrimination from our host;

They’d say things like, ‘darkie and go back home on your banana boat.’

We were fortunate enough to have friends over here, so we were fine,

But others, who were seeking accommodation, were met with rude signs….

No Irish, no blacks, no dogs! Is this what they call kind?

Now this created problems & the government was forced to find somewhere for the homeless to reside,

So 230 Migrants were housed in a former bombing shelter! Where people would hide!

The location was in Clapham, less than a mile from the Brixton employment exchange;

Consequently for decades in those same areas afro-Caribbeans still reign.

Even now the system continues to imply that association with blacks is an unacceptable collision.

And inculcate the message that blacks should be labeled, rejected and/or imprisoned -

Insinuating that anything meaningful or that demonstrates a positive reflection,

Black people have no interest, place or connection.

However, fortunately, these days facilities are available for us to progress and keep awake;

Therefore, your decisions in life can create happiness or make your heartache.

Our fore-parents never allowed their determination for self-improvement to fade,

Even though their jobs were still menial, unpleasant and underpaid -

Even though their suffering was truly great,

Discrimination, poor housing and sometimes even rape.

They suffered so much as they paved the way to make life better for you,

So appreciate your people’s efforts and ensure you are proactive in everything you do.

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