Home African Caribbean The Windrush Day Memorial: Baroness Floella Benjamin – A Symbol Of Hope

The Windrush Day Memorial: Baroness Floella Benjamin – A Symbol Of Hope

by D Fitz-Roberts
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Originally from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE DL who served as chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee spoke eloquently about the rationale for convening a committee to plan and deliver a day to remember the arrival of thousands of Caribbean nationals to Britain between 1948 and 1962.

Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE DL, photo courtesy Wikipedia.org

The symbolism attached to this Windrush Day is the statue sculptured by renowned Jamaican artisan Basil Watson which is that of a man, his wife and child atop several suitcases, commonly known as ‘grips’ at that time.

The Baroness who herself made that fateful journey recalls having arrived at Waterloo Station with her grip in wonderment. She recounted the many distressing days when she was insulted and violated by grown men pulling up her skirt and asking, ‘Where is your tail monkey?’ Also, the many days she spent defending herself from racist bullies on the school’s battleground.

It was a troubled time, a difficult time she said and memorialising the period with a specific day, June 22nd and a statue she and her committee felt was a fitting tribute to those who suffered and continue to suffer Socio-economic, political and health inequalities, as well as racist abuse.

The Baroness believes that notwithstanding the continued injustices including deportations of misfit UK Caribbean citizens, immortalising the arrival of Caribbean immigrants is the right thing to do as it is a symbol of hope; that in spite of all the adversity including unlawful strip searches of minors in schools, Caribbean children should grit their teeth, remember the struggle the stature represents and smile.

In an effort to demonstrate her sincerity to the value of smiling when faced with difficult situations she delivered an excellent rendition of Charles Chaplin’s song ‘Smile’ made popular by Nat King Cole. The audience was particularly aroused by her message and acapella skills that she earned a rousing applause.

Needless to say, many attendees this author spoke with did not fully understand the point of the statue but thought it looked good and the events were entertaining, so they were pleased. This then begs the question, ‘Could the £1m granted by the British government to develop the statue have not been put to better use?’

D Fitz-Roberts

D Fitz-Roberts

D Fitz-Roberts is a multi-talented writer on socio-economic issues having worked in journalism across the Caribbean (Grenada, Guyana and BVI) in the 90s. He has worked in London with Black Britain Online, New Nation Newspaper and Caribbean Times. An academic with a passion for research on distributed ledger technologies in emerging economies he is keen to see the Caribbean embrace bitcoin and blockchain technologies to keep pace with the west. He writes periodically for mainstream publications and is the founder of CaribDirect.com. He is also the author of Caribbean children’s book LifeSucks! available on Amazon.


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