MP demands national recognition of black history

Following the Windrush scandal, the Brixton-based Black Cultural Archives may be accorded national archive status.

The BCA led the response to the revelation that many members of the “Windrush generation” – the West Indians who were encouraged to come to Britain to help with the country’s recovery after the Second World War – have been denied their citizenship by British government. The archives hosted a series of legal advice sessions to help members of the Windrush Generation to gather paperwork and to support them in contacting the Home Office to confirm their status in the UK.

In the 70thanniversary of the arrival of the Windrush, the first of the ships bringing the much needed new workers from the Commonwealth, a debate led by the BCA’s MP, Helen Hayes, which resulted in the date June 22 being officially designated Windrush Day, with up to £500,000 pledged by the government to pay for commemorative events.

Pictured are Patrick Vernon, journalist; Sonia Winifred, cabinet member for culture on Lambeth Council; Paul Reid, director of the Black Cultural Archives; Helen Hayes MP; Dawn Hill, chair of trustees, BCA; Conrad Peters, the actor and BCA trustee; Donatus Anyanwu, a Lambeth councillor; and Jessica Peters, a BCA volunteer

But Hayes is also demanding national funding for the BCA to enable it to continue research and presentation of a hitherto largely neglected part of the UK’s modern history.

“My constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood has a very special connection with the Windrush” Hayes told the House. “Upon arrival many of the passengers travelled to London to look for work; around 200 were provided with temporary accommodation in the Clapham South deep-level shelter, from where it was a short journey to the Labour Exchange on Coldharbour Lane (Brixton) to look for work, finding it in the newly established NHS, London Transport and in the construction, industry helping to rebuild Britain in the aftermath of the Second World War.." 

As well as making the anniversary a lasting commemoration, she called on the government to provide secure funding for the BCA, the custodian of the history of black people in Britain; to ensure justice for the Windrush Generation who have suffered at the hands of the Home Office and to step up “the fight against racism and racial inequality wherever it is found”.

The anniversary was celebrated with a service in Westminster Abbey, among numerous other celebratory events across the country. “(It is) impossible to speak of the Windrush Generation without acknowledging the racism they experienced and the appalling scandal of the treatment of so many of these remarkable citizens at the hands of the Home Office” Hayes told the House. “It speaks to the extraordinary resilience and dignity of the Windrush Generation that they have made such a huge contribution despite these injustices”.


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