Women are the heroes of the Windrush story. White English women who defied every cultural taboo and prejudice to fall in love with and marry black men from the West Indies.
They are the quiet, unsung heroes of equality and diversity. My own wife and partner of over 50 years will testify to this.
They said that we came to take their jobs and their women. In reality we only did the work that they wouldn’t do for the low pay. I’ve worked in the catering industry all my life.
Racism was common in the workplace back then. In the 1960s I joined the team of washer-uppers and pot scrubbers in Harrods.
We were all West Indians led by a foreman from Trinidad – none of us were allowed to eat in the staff restaurant. Whites only. We had to eat sitting on boxes by the back door of the kitchen.
My lifelong friend John Bird was a member of London’s colourful street community. He would come to the back door and share my food.
John and I share the privilege of having been kicked out of the same art school. Race and class prejudice went side by side in the British establishment back then.
John eventually became one of the most erudite scholars of art history (and founder of The Big Issue), and is a successful portrait painter. And I have had my portraits of forces personnel displayed in the Imperial War Museum in London.
Becoming an artist was my only burning ambition.
I eventually graduated from the Central School of Art but went straight back to working in kitchens and stayed there for the next 40 years.
I didn’t bother to knock on the doors of the establishment as I knew that they were shut to the likes of me and my generation.
We came here to do the dirty jobs that no one else wanted. Our generation took the opportunities that arose.
We became a property-owning generation. We worked hard and raised our families to be law-abiding and decent people. Yet it seems that we are disposable.
They have short memories. They deprive us of citizenship. They kick us in the teeth and tell us ‘back to where you came from’.
The last Labour government created a hostile environment for immigrants and ordered the records of our arrival to be destroyed.
Their policies were enthusiastically pursued by Theresa May until the Commonwealth prime ministers confronted her in 2018, and at last the illegal persecution stopped.
It is a crying shame that so many of those who suffered most are still waiting for compensation.