Final Major Project PHO705 Week 9: The Foreword
I began working on my forward and wanted to communicate a story of my experiences as the author of this book and the things that I experienced in my youth growing up as a black Britain and how this ties into the experiences of the Windrush generation I guess the major reasons behind me communicating this is to highlight why I am so passionate about the Windrush and the people from this diaspora I have also considered getting someone from the Windrush to discuss their experiences and having a guest writing the foreword.
Below is my current attempt at the foreword in the final print I may change the order of continent,s and this may be part of a later chapter in the book.
I was born at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on the 27th of March 1983 to Jamaican parents who had moved to England in the 1960s. I was their third child, preceding me was my older sister Andrea and brother Denzil Jr (Affectionally referred to as Nicky) My other siblings Jermaine, Jordan, Mahalia and Allenah came afterwards planting me firmly in the middle of my siblings.
My earliest memories are of my upbringing in a Maisonette in the Nechells area of Birmingham and then eventually moving to a three-bedroom semi-detached house where I remained until I was an adult.
My experience as a Black British man is one of the primary motivations behind my decision to photograph the Windrush Generation. My childhood was mixed with positive and negative experiences.
I went to a multicultural school in Birmingham where I was one of seven black or mixed-race children in a class of thirty learners; I’d pinpoint starting secondary school in the primarily white suburb of Birmingham as the first occasion on which I became aware of the racial prejudice that impacted how I was treated. Things like this had happened before, but I did not understand precisely what was happening or the context behind it.
Throughout my years at secondary school, the one experience from my early years that stuck with me occurred in my very first week of school. My uncle was a saxophone player I admired his ability and wanted to emulate him. So when I started secondary school when the opportunity arose for me to speak to my music teacher regarding this, I immediately did.
I said hello and introduced myself to the teacher, I then expressed my interest in learning to play the saxophone, just to give a little more context to this situation it was my first week in secondary school, I had a brand new uniform on and was dressed very smartly, this teacher had never met me, or had a conversation with me before, and the school was in a very affluent part of Birmingham; despite this, the teacher responded by laughing loudly before telling me that my parents “won’t buy you a saxophone”.
This was unusual for a few reasons as mentioned, this teacher had no prior knowledge of me or my home circumstances, and he didn’t make this deduction based on what I was wearing. He did not know my name or have any other context to give him this impression about my socio-economic background.
At this stage, I immediately understood the reason behind this ‘teacher’ telling me that my parents would not buy me a saxophone. Still, despite this, I never did learn to play the saxophone, in fact, I never shared this story with other people until much later as I’ve found in many circumstances the response to perceived racism without the overt use of racist terminology is often dismissive.
The number of times I’ve experienced a form of micro-aggressive racism and known the motivation behind it, but due to being unable to highlight a clear statement of hatred decided the best cause of action would be to keep my mouth shut and deal with it. I never did learn how to play the saxophone. Unfortunately, things that can sometimes be perceived as minor by the people behind the statements or actions; unknowingly (or knowingly) have a significant impact on the people to whom the statements are made.
I can only assume that the reason this tutor thought that my parents would not purchase me a saxophone was because of my race, this led him to believe the financial situation at home and decide that there was no way my parents could afford to purchase my equipment outside of the basics required for school. I don’t know this to be a fact however he didn’t come out and directly tell me that my black family couldn’t possibly afford a saxophone because all black people are from impoverished backgrounds so perhaps it was all in my head.
England has a sound system in place to deal with racism; the English premier league is an excellent example of this the ‘kick it out’ campaign means that should an overt instance of racism occur it should be dealt with swiftly and severely. In theory, this is great, but the reality of it is regularly it’ll be frowned upon condemned with no real consequences, an example of this occurred when John Terry, at the time England’s captain during a football match called Anton Ferdinand a ‘fucking black bastard’ Anton and his brother Rio both from dual heritage backgrounds were understandably upset and offended by his statement. Terry insisted that the entire incident was a misunderstanding and that he wasn’t calling Anton a black bastard but that he was instead in the middle of saying ‘I didn’t call you a black bastard’.
Despite this rather unusual and weak excuse going forward, Rio Ferdinand considered one of England key players was dropped from the England squad for supporting his brother. Full support was given to Joh Terry who continued to captain the England team. Racism in this country is intelligent; your behaviour can be as racist as you like so long as you don’t use the buzzwords; there will be no consequences. However, accusing someone of racism or identifying racist behaviour is often recognised and in fact, can be regularly punished with a consequence; it seems as though in 2020 accusing someone of racism is worse than displaying racism itself.
The Windrush scandal became front-page news in 2018 Amelia Gentleman of the Guardian was amongst the first to report on the scandal in her article she referred to how the people from the Windrush generation had “been detained, made homeless, sacked or denied benefits and NHS treatment because they have struggled to prove they are British. Seven days ago, the government had barely acknowledged the scandal.” (Gentleman, 2020) Eventually, the denial that any unfair treatment had occurred subsided and the discussion over the systemic nature of what had taken place and the impact that it had on people who had contributed a considerable amount to the United Kingdom both to the economy and culturally.
It wasn’t until much later in David Olusoga’s BBC Two documentary; The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files that attention was drawn to the genuine systemic racism that led to the unfortunate circumstances which the Windrush Generation had to endure. The British Nationality Act of 1948 gave all people within the Commonwealth freedom of movement and the option to live anywhere they liked within the Commonwealth.
Although the intention for freedom of movement for Commonwealth citizens was a part of the plan the purpose was for those from Canada and Australia to move about and assimilate into Britain, it was never for the black and brown people from the African, Asian and Caribbean communities to move to and remain in the UK.
“We learn how ministers in the 1950s commissioned researchers to come up with reasons for concluding that non-white immigration was problematic, with senior civil servants instructing dole officers to conduct secret race surveys to see if there was any truth in the assumption that migrants were coming to live off the welfare state, and asking police chiefs around the country leading questions such as: “Is it true that they are generally idle?”, “Do they have low standards of living?”, and “Are they addicted to drug trafficking and other types of crime?” Winston Churchill was obsessed by the “considerable” number of “coloured workers” employed by the Post Office, and, by 1955, was suggesting to ministers that they should fight the next election on the slogan “Keep England White.” (Gentleman, 2020)
This book and the pictures of each of the people within are based upon interviews that I have conducted with people from the diaspora and a discussion of their views regarding the Windrush scandal and their experiences in moving to and living in the UK.
My hope with this book is to share the stories of those from the Windrush generation, to help humanise them and encourage empathy for a group of people that have had a significant impact on Britain and it’s culture.