This Black History Month, people from the local community came together at the tropical gardens in Walpole Park to honour the reinstatement and unveiling of two plaques to commemorate the Windrush generation and the abolition of slavery.
More than 300 people attended the unveiling of the plaques, including many prominent members of the community and local dignitaries. The event was initiated by members of the Windrush Consortium (2022) including civil rights activist and publisher, Eric Huntley, Ade Banjoko of Parents Action Resource Centre (PARC) who also spoke and councillor Grace Quansah.
Other Ealing-based organisations that formed part of the consortium include: Bogle L’Ouverture Publications, Descendants, United Anglo Caribbean Association (UACA), Bollo Brook Youth Centre, Multicultural Books, Dominica Overseas Nationals Association and Writing, Acting and Publishing Project for Youngsters (WAPPY), together with key community champions including Judy Wellington, Samira John-Bailey, John Swan, Carmel Cameran, Noreen Dun, and Blosoom Jackson in partnership with Ealing Council.
The mayor of Ealing, councillor Mohinder Midha; council leader Peter Mason; the cabinet member for tackling inequalities, councillor Aysha Raza; and the cabinet member for thriving communities, councillor Jasbir Anand attended the event.
Councillor Mason said: “Today offers an opportunity to express the debt of gratitude we owe to that first Windrush generation for accepting the invitation to come to Britain and, above all, to recognise the immeasurable difference that they, their children, and their grandchildren, have made to so many aspects of our public life, to our culture and to every sector of our economy.
“It also offers a chance for us to remember the abolition of slavery, remembering the millions who suffered and died from the transatlantic slave trade, and honouring those who fought to abolish it.”
They were pioneers
Denise Charles, the new chair of the citizens’ tribunal, was present as the plaques were unveiled. As was the founder of the charity Descendants, Margaret Noel, who spoke of the Windrush generation and her own parents’ journey on HMT Empire Windrush: “They were actually very brave, they made history, because not many people leave. It took us two weeks to get here as children, now imagine you are coming over here, you’ve no idea where you are coming to, you’ve no idea how hostile it is going to be and yet still they managed to raise children like us… We have to never forget them, they were pioneers, they suffered, they fought, and they kept going.”
The founder of Black History Month Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who unveiled the Windrush generation plaque stated, “it is important that on the 35th anniversary of black history month that we are here today to honour those fine people of the Windrush generation who came here to continue giving of their best to Britain when we needed their skills most.”
Ade Banjoko unveiled the Abolition of Slavery plaque and the outdoor proceedings were brought to a close by a blessing from Reverend Theresa Simons-Sam, of Ealing Trinity Methodist Church, in which she gave a reading from the bible, Ecclesiastes 3:18, Everything Has Its Time.
The event was also attended by children from St Vincent’s choir, who performed songs that related to the importance of identity and on the theme of a light that shines from within, whatever shade of skin. This was introduced by student Nia Fletcher-Anderson, who recently stood before MPs in parliament to talk about the importance of teaching African and Caribbean history in the school curriculum.
The whole event was highlighted by the Dance Carib drummers percussion and steel pan performance from Acquaye-Leo- McCalman at Soane’s Kitchen restaurant, where more entertainment followed.
In residence at Soanes Kitchen inspiring performances came from The young WAPPY writers, Sade Munchindu, Mpho Monametsi & Kyra Nelson, singer Tazzy (Bollo Brook Youth Centre), Jai Blue (multi-artist) & ‘TUUP’ (The Unorthodox, Unprecedented Preacher- aka Godfrey Duncan).
Councillor Raza said: “Tackling inequalities remains a priority for the council. We want our borough to be a beacon of diversity and tolerance: An Ealing where the vibrancy and diversity of the community is matched by our inclusivity. It is our job now, with your help and support, to act and make a change.”
Councillor Anand added: “We honour the invaluable contribution of Black, African, and Caribbean people in Britain. I hope that we can continue to listen to each other’s stories and to learn from one another. The diversity of our society is its greatest strength and gives us so much to celebrate.”