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Lynval Golding: “I’ve fought all my life to say my life matters”

In an exclusive article for The Big Issue to mark Windrush Day 2020, Lynval Golding, guitarist and founding member of The Specials, talks about Black Lives Matter protests, the importance of statues coming down and why Windrush Day was a long overdue show of respect for his father's generation

“The tide has turned… A change is gonna come.”

I have been so proud to see so many young people shouting Black Lives Matter. It is amazing. The tide has turned. I really think this generation is going to change the world and make it a better place.

When you look back at the marches lead by Martin Luther King, the majority of people marching were black with a small group of white supporters. But this time, the majority are white. At long last, they are getting it right. Change is only going to happen if whites change it. They have the key.

I live in a small place called Gig Harbor in Washington state. I think I was the only black person on the marches in our area. It is a very emotional time. We been have in lockdown and it has been hard. But the one satisfaction I get has been going on these rallies and taking part in the changing of the world.

It is a joy to know the next generation can look forward to better days ahead. Change is gonna come. We have seen the whole world coming together. As The Specials, we have been fighting for change for just over 40 years. I have been fighting for my whole life. So I have so much respect and love for those people coming out right now.

Every day I’m following what is going on in the UK. To see them pulling down that statue in Bristol and throwing it in the river gave me so much joy. I felt this is how the world is going to become a better place. Do you know how much wickedness those people have done? The statue was a symbol of them persecuting all those black people – and so many generations have been affected.

There is a campaign to change the statue to Paul Stephenson. I would support that 100 per cent. He was the first race relations officer in England – he went to university in Bristol then worked in Coventry. I went to him to complain when I was discriminated against at work in a factory. We had to have someone to talk to, we couldn’t go to the police. Forget that idea. He took it up on our behalf when we were being abused physically and emotionally every day. I call him Sir Paul Stephenson. He helped us kick down the door.

We were brought up to believe England was the motherland

Because my generation kicked down the door so my children’s generation can have a seat at the table. My kids are well educated. This generation has more access to education. It is wonderful to see. Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge – with knowledge we will have peace. Education will pull people together. I had to teach myself when it comes to black history.

I am one of the Windrush generation. I came over from Jamaica in 1964. My father was part of the generation Winston Churchill called over. I cried when I had to leave my mother behind. We come from rural Jamaica – it is farming, we are country boys – and when my parents broke up, my mother knew we would have a better chance in England with my father. We were brought up to believe England was the motherland.

My sister and I had one passport. I only got a British passport when The Specials took off. My Jamaican passport caused so much hassle going through customs. So I got my British Citizenship then, but I always thought I was British anyway.

Windrush Day was long overdue to show respect for the sweat, blood and tears West Indians put into this country

When the Windrush Scandal happened, I got so mad. I had to untangle everything we had been taught, the way we were brainwashed. The anger comes out when I think about it. My father came here to work, and he worked his butt off, but he couldn’t get a room to rent. He had to sleep in a garage in Gloucester.

My father was a tailor by trade, but worked in a foundry at Dowty Auto in Cheltenham. Really hard work to rebuild England. But after rebuilding the war machine, he was made redundant. All the West Indians who came to England to help rebuild, they wanted to get rid of them once it was done.

Windrush Day was long overdue to show respect for the sweat, blood and tears West Indians put into this country. It took 70 years to get recognition for my father’s generation for the work they did. And after all that, people were threatened with deportation. Kids who were five or six when they came to England, that is what they had to go through. Shame, shame, shame.

Lynval Golding. Image: Mathew Parri Thomas

When The Specials played four nights at Coventry Cathedral [in 2019], it meant so much to us. We played on my father’s birthday and his final resting place is in Holbrook in Coventry. Everything flashed back that day. I know he is proud of what I’ve done. He’d say ‘that’s my lad’.

But for him not to be able to hear the song, B.L.M. (Black Lives Matter) [from The Specials’ 2019 album Encore] about his journey coming to England and my journey to be with him brings tears to my eye.

Theresa May will have blood on her hands for the rest of her life

So I accept the apology and the fact there is Windrush Day now to show respect and celebrate that generation. But people who lost their livelihood and pensions should be compensated for what they have gone through.

Theresa May will have blood on her hands for the rest of her life. And she rushed over to America to be the first to meet Donald Trump? Shame on her. History will tell what dreadful things she did.

Because I look at Donald Trump, starting his campaign with Birtherism against the first black president. He showed us who he is and what he is. We should have believed him. This man is a racist. History will look at him and see this terrible person. No one has any respect for him.

But he has helped change the world by trying to divide people. Look at the response. These protests show the majority of the world is more united and more loving – and that love is much, much stronger than the hatred that man comes out with. Love is stronger and the world has shown it.

So when all the kids were out protesting and we were all shouting Black Lives Matter that felt so great. Because I have fought all my life, battled all my life to say my life matters.

Lynval Golding was talking to Adrian Lobb.

This full version of Lynval Golding’s article originally appeared in The Big Issue #1414, 18-24 June, 2020. Buy the magazine here

Images: Mathew Parri Thomas