My first experience was that after a week, I wanted to go back home,’ says Leonora, a retired traffic warden and care-worker who arrived from Jamaica in the 1960s.
But now: ‘When I’m here I’m home. When I’m in Jamaica I’m home.’
“When I started mixing with the other girls. I went to an all-girls’ school. Then I started to go out more and get more comfortable with my surroundings.”
“I thought it was so cold we arrived in January!’ says Merle Carter, who moved to Britain from Jamaica and worked as a civil servant for the Department of Health.
“I was so lonely so I asked my auntie what time the local church started and she said she didn’t go because a friend of hers went to church and the pastor told her not to return because the congregation didn’t like to see her there.”
“I didn’t want to come. My mum had a lot of trouble getting me off the boat,” remembers Millie Reid.
She arrived in Britain at the age of three from Jamaica and is currently a social worker.
‘This policeman with a stick of rock persuaded me to come off the boat.”
“I remember one incident that’s as clear as day. I phoned up for this job and they told me to come. When I went, an elderly white gentleman opened the door and he jumped and stepped back and said the job’s gone.
“He didn’t even let me in”, Yvonne Gaskin, a retired secretary from Guyana, tells me.
Can you conceive a time when churches denied migrants membership and you would be discriminted from getting a job because of the colour of your skin? Catherine Momah writes about 70 years of Windrush.
This year marks 70 years since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex with 492 immigrants from the Caribbean on board. With Britain on the brink of collapse after the Second World War, the government passed the British Nationality Act 1948. This declared that those living in the Commonwealth were British citizens and had the right to enter and settle in the UK.
However, Britain proved to be a difficult place to live in. Businesses were often unwilling to hire black people, even if they were qualified for the job.
All of the people I interviewed at the office of ASKI, a local charity on Brigstock Road, arrived in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. They came from various islands in the Caribbean, including Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana. For many, arriving in Britain was a big shock.
Shockingly, many churches denied the new migrants membership explains Millie Reid: “Because of that rejection that’s how a lot of black churches came up.”
Millie mentions often getting into fights with racist pupils in school before becoming a born-again Christian as a teenager.
In April this year it was discovered that thousands of the Windrush generation had been wrongly deemed illegal immigrants. As a result, some have been detained, deported and denied NHS services.
Worse still, their landing cards – the only proof many had of legally arriving in the UK by boat – were destroyed in 2010.
As a result of the scandal, Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned and was replaced by Sajid Javid.
Despite the controversy, those I interviewed at ASKI were firm in saying they did not want the scandal to overshadow celebrations and the impact they made shaping this country, particularly the NHS.
ASKI is running a project called “All About Me” which includes a short film to be played on a loop at Croydon Museum in Central Library as part of Black History month in October.
There will also be a photographic exhibition showing members of the Windrush generation representing their countries of origin, “to show the islands have very different traditions”, says Joseph Jeffers, CEO of the charity.
When asked if they considered Britain their home, I receive a mixed response but Elsie Henderson, was resolute: ‘I consider here my home. I left Barbados when I was 19.’