Finding Caribbean Roots in London

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots” – Marcus Garvey

If you’re a person of Caribbean decent , then you are most likely well aware of the history that many West Indian islands have with Great Britain. But if not, the British Empire once controlled many of the Caribbean islands. That being said, I had an interest in learning more about the impact Jamaica had on the UK and vice versa. Im pretty sure the Jamaican culture in the UK is very different from those still living in Jamaica, and even very different from those living in the US, but I wanted to know how different? Whats the hot topic right now among Caribbeans? And I pretty much wanted to absorb all of the information along the way to discovering those answers. I can honestly say that I got majority of my questions answered, some more surprising than others. So what did I learn…

There are A LOT of Caribbeans here, and especially Jamaicans. Usually you will find most of them living in areas such as Tottenham and Brixton, and that is also where you will find all of your West Indian treats and food shops. Its nothing like walking down the street in a foreign area and hearing the person in front of you speaking patois. Or going into a shop and picking up your favorite bag of banana chips. Those were a few of the moments that kind of reminded me of home. Fun fact: Caribbean food in the UK does not taste the same. Simple things, like Jamaican beef patties, taste like a completely different concept here…and not in the best way. Oxtail has been a good go to so far, but if you ask for mutton, they will give you sheep. I definitely see some overlap with the British and their tea time and how common it is for Caribbeans to have a cup of tea. The Dancehall culture is definitely alive, but lets just say it’s a bit ….different.

The current hot topic here is the deportation of the Windrush generation. The Windrush generation gained their name from the ship MV Empire Windrush which brought over about 500 workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands, due to the post-war labor shortage in 1948. Currently, the question being proposed by the Prime Minister is if the children who traveled under their parents passports on the Windrush are living in the UK legally and if they have a right to remain here. So after decades of living and working in the United Kingdom, their legitimacy is being questioned and now there is a threat of deportation. I was actually unaware of all of this before I came to study here and it touched me personally, being that I am the child of immigrants. Below I will include a link that provides more information on this issue.

While I was here in London, I had the opportunity to go to a lecture called How to Trace Your Caribbean Ancestry. The lecturer, Paul Crooks, was able to trace his ancestry all the way back to the slave plantation his ancestors lived on in Jamaica, the ship they came in one, and he even found the area from which they were taken from in Ghana. That is astounding. This was not exactly something I have considered doing but I did want to more information on this in case one day I changed my mind. And I was amazed at how accessible this information was for someone who lives in London. In this lecture I learned that since Jamaica was a colony of the British, all of Jamaica’s slave records were sent here and are actually located at a church in Kensington …. literally down the street from me. Another fun fact, apparently the Church of Latter Day Saints also has digital records allowing people of African ancestry to trace their family history.

Overall, I can say that I gained so much knowledge from this experience and it has inspired me to keep digging to learn more.

 

Link for “Windrush generation: Who are they and why are they facing problems?” –http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43782241

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