Windrush Day: Dagenham resident remembers neighbour's petition to stop black family moving in
PUBLISHED: 16:02 24 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:39 24 June 2019
The Windrush generation's contribution to British society has been celebrated in a flag raising ceremony.
About 60 people gathered outside Barking town hall on Monday to mark 70 years since the MV Empire Windrush ship docked at Tilbury bringing immigrants invited to the UK from the Caribbean to help rebuild post-war Britain.
Janice Francis-Irwin, whose family were among the first to settle in the borough, said: "There was racism, but there were also strong community ties.
"There's plenty of positives although there were negatives as well."
The 54-year-old recalled as a child her mum facing racist abuse on the way home from her job at Rush Green Hospital and a neighbour starting a petition to stop the family moving in next door.
But she added that the neighbourhood started a counter-petition to support the newcomers.
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Weininger Irwin, Janice's husband, told the audience the children of the Windrush generation had made various contributions to the borough and country.
The 56-year-old, who was the first male contender to be named champion of the 1990s ITV series Gladiators, said: "Through diversity there is such a richness.
"We need to embrace everyone. We benefit from the contributions of the Windrush generation now."
Cllr Sanchia Alasia read out the Windrush poem, based on Psalm 84, after saying that members of that generation had worked hard, paid their taxes and become part of the fabric of British society.
"We owe them a huge debt of gratitude," she said.
Barking and Dagenham Council's diversity chief, Cllr Lynda Rice spoke about the need to teach young people about the discrimination the first arrivals experienced to ensure it wasn't repeated.
She added that there are now 130 different cultures calling Barking and Dagenham home before attacking the British government for the Windrush scandal which saw people threatened with deportation or wrongly deported by the Home Office.
"It was devastating to experience such terrible trauma," she said. "The Windrush generation have our support and respect."