Call for a public holiday recognising the contribution of black and Asian communities to British life.
25 January 2010: Even as some of the political parties are using the issue of immigration and increasing population as a tool to get votes during the forthcoming general elections, calls are again being heard for a national holiday to acknowledge the contribution of black and Asian communities to British life.
Chief executive of Afiya Trust Patrick Vernon, whose film `A Charmed Life’ showcases the life of war veteran Eddie Noble and the legacy of the Windrush generation, has questioned: Isn’t it time we had a public holiday to celebrate the contributions of black, Asian and other minority communities to Britain over the last 60 years?
The Windrush and her passengers had made the voyage because of the Second World War. Thousands of Caribbean men and women were recruited to serve in the armed forces.
When the Windrush stopped in Jamaica to pick up servicemen on leave from their units, many of their former comrades decided to make the trip to rejoin the RAF. Also joined in adventurous young men who had heard about the voyage and simply fancied coming to see England, ‘the mother country’.
June 22nd 1948, the day that the Windrush discharged its passengers at Tilbury, has become an important landmark in the history of modern Britain; and the image of the Caribbeans filing off its gangplank has come to symbolise many of the changes which have taken place here. Caribbean migrants have become a vital part of British society and, in the process, transformed important aspects of British life.
The call for a Windrush Day follows a long-running US campaign for a public holiday recognising diversity and cultural identity coming into existence in 1986.
Vernon has suggested they should choose 22nd June, the day when the MV Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury in 1948.
Describing it as “a powerful and iconic symbol of the rise of modern-day multicultural Britain”, he has added the Windrush is not just simply a symbol of the 492 Caribbean men and women who arrived on that ship – the first big group of postwar immigrants from the West Indies. But of everyone who came from the Empire; British subjects who saw Britain as their mother country.
Elaborating, he has asserted that the seeds of modern migration were sown in these former colonies, from which 2.5 million men and women volunteered to fight fascism during the Second World War.
He has further asserted that the fight for a tolerant, respectful society, goes on and a Windrush Day would be the best answer to the BNP and its sympathisers, who believe that multiculturalism has failed and that Britain should to return to how it looked in 1950.
Asking the authorities concerned to act fast, he has asserted the Windrush generation is fast disappearing. Many of those born between 1910 and 1940 may not be around at the 70th anniversary Windrush celebrations in 2018.
He has added they couldn’t afford to wait for another eight years to commemorate the achievement; and they will be poorer as a nation if they fail to document their history and contribution to Britain and beyond.
Concluding, he has asserted let’s have a Windrush Day in time for the Olympics in 2012, as London has emerged a winner on the strength of cultural diversity.