Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., State Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, represented Jamaica at the Spirit of Windrush Thanksgiving Service held on Friday, June 22 at Westminster Abbey, London.
The service commemorated the 70thanniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush which brought nearly 500 Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals to Britain in 1948.
These migrants were among the first to be recruited to help rebuild post-World War II Britain, which marked the start of large scale migration from the region to the ’Motherland’.
Addressing the congregation, the Reverend Canon Joel Edwards said that settling in Britain had not been ‘plain sailing’ for the Windrush generation. “Settlement has meant racism, sometimes too much policing and not enough protection, with some veteran members wrongly facing deportation”.
Canon Edwards further noted that the Windrush had gifted Britain with leaders in politics, business, education, music and sport and acknowledged the influence of the Caribbean on British cuisine, including rice and peas, jerk chicken and Levi Roots sauces.
The service was attended by Prime Minister Theresa May; Home Secretary, Sajid Javid; London Mayor, Sadiq Khan; Lord Tariq Ahmad and Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott as well as Baroness Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered teenager Stephen.
Among the special guests were High Commissioner, H.E. Seth George Ramocan and other Caribbean High Commissioners, as well as Windrush veterans and their families.
The service included the first performance of a specially-composed anthem entitled “Psalm to Windrush: For the Brave and Ingenious,” by Ms. Shirley Thompson. Several popular hymns were played on steel drums, including Amazing Grace. The evening culminated with two short drama, performed by youth of the Hebe Foundation, which told the story of how Caribbean migrants were invited to help rebuild post-war Britain.