Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: race equality (Page 1 of 2)

Women of Windrush

Windrush Day is marked annually in the UK on the 22nd June. Vanessa Bovell-Clarke (she/her) who works in Student Support & Wellbeing Services at King’s College London,  reflects on the women in her own family and the sacrifices they made so that those who followed them do not have to.


Vanessa sat looking out to sea at the Family House in Barbados

Vanessa at the Family House in Barbados.

For many people, the word ‘Windrush’ often brings to mind images of sharply dressed, young black men and women setting sail for new opportunities and a new chapter of life in the United Kingdom. More recently, the word has become more synonymous with this same generation as well and even their children being forcibly sent away from the UK, labelled as illegal immigrants by the very same government who first requested their help to rebuild a post-war Britain in the 1940’s.

With both my paternal and maternal grandmothers no longer living, I often wonder what they would make of the Windrush scandal having worked so hard themselves to build lives and plant roots in what I now call home.

Clotelle Eudene Roach (or Granny Clo as she was known to me) was born in Black Rock, St Michael on the island of Barbados in 1937, one of four children. Orphaned by the age of 15, Clotelle quickly took on a maternal role and played a huge part in providing for her siblings along with her older sister, Sylvie.

Granny Clotelle passport photo.

Granny Clotelle.

To make ends meet, she worked jobs in catering and as service staff, in the homes of the wealthy (and mostly white) in Barbados. The remnants of British colonisation were clear to see across the island, with limited opportunities for many black Bajans and much of the island’s wealth circling amongst direct decedents of plantation and slave-owning families.

In 1958, Clotelle set sail for the UK in search of a new destiny once her husband, Ricardo had travelled to London ahead of her (as was often the case for couples at that time) and found and prepared a place for them to live. Once settled in East London, Clotelle came into her own and took on a plethora of roles including seamstress and school lunch lady as well as offering her skills in baking and sewing to private clients and friends in the local community.

Further across to the west side of the Caribbean, Hermine Gertrude Morrison (aka Granny Babs) was born in Cave Valley, Jamaica in 1941, the second youngest of 11 children. In a similar fashion, Babs came to England after being ‘sent for’ by her husband, Lesley after he had settled in London in 1963. Just like Clotelle, Babs also threw herself into multiple jobs including work in a shoe factory, wig making, catering and hairdressing.

Granny Babs pictured on her wedding day.

Granny Babs pictured on her wedding day.

Growing up, my grandmothers were the physical embodiment of home, stability, family, strength and damn hard work. I witnessed them prepare gargantuan feasts of brown stew chicken, rice and peas, fried flying fish and cou cou (a cornmeal-based dish, also Barbados’ national dish) for crowds of family, friends and even neighbours on a regular basis. Both were regular attendees and very much involved in the church; some of my core memories include Sunday services and church fetes. They did this all whilst working multiple jobs and fulfilling the role of mother in an era that viewed parenting as very much a solitary and gender-conforming role.

It was only as I grew older, that I recognised the gravity of what they had accomplished. As part of the Windrush generation, being amongst the first in their families to move their whole lives to an unfamiliar country was a massive feat in itself. Facing daily racism in said country was an additional struggle; my Granny Clotelle told us of a time she was stopped by a white woman in the middle of a market, who tugged at the back of her skirt and said, “Let’s see your tail then?!”

This generation faced an untold number of difficulties and struggles most of which were steeped in racism, despite being such an integral part of rebuilding the UK economy, filling roles in nursing, catering, manual labour, hospitality, cleaning and much more.

I wonder about the mental health of my grandmother’s, the burdens they had to bear, the pain behind smiles and the silent struggles that were shared with no one but God. Throughout all of this, they were able to bring such life, culture and happiness to their families, which I will forever cherish. Their struggles and personal sacrifices serve as a reminder to me that I do not wish to and nor do I have to, continue to be ‘strong’ at the expense of my wellbeing. I am lucky to have multiple paths that lay ahead of me that do not necessarily include children and motherhood, but where I am encouraged to speak my truth about injustice and my pain.

November 2021 Barbados Independence Ceremony. Left to right: Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Dame Sandra Mason, Rhianna, Prince Charles.

November 2021 Barbados Independence Ceremony. Left to right: Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Dame Sandra Mason, Rhianna, Prince Charles.

In 2021, Barbados became a republic, officially denouncing the UK and it’s Queen as Head of State. Jamaica, alongside many other Caribbean countries are set to soon follow. This true independence feels like a poignant reflection of the next generation, as we prepare to live life to the fullest, honouring the Windrush legacy as we do so.


References/Relevant Articles:

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Windrush Day – King’s Legal Clinic Q&A

To mark Windrush Day we met with Shaila Pal, Director of King’s Legal Clinic to find out more about their recent work to support members of the Windrush Generation. 

The King’s Legal Clinic aims to further the education of KCL law students and promote social justice. The Legal Clinic has allowed King’s students to help victims of the Windrush scandal in practical and proactive ways. You can find out more about the Windrush Justice Clinic’s award winning work in this article


 

Tell us about yourself and your role at King’s. How did you get involved with this work?

I am the Director,  Supervising Solicitor and Senior Lecturer  at King’s Legal Clinic (the Clinic) which is part of the Dickson Poon School of Law.  The  Clinic aims to promote social justice and educate our students by providing them with experiential learning opportunities.   Our students work on legal cases and research projects under the supervision of lawyers either as part of an assessed module or on an extracurricular basis.   I teach and supervise clinic students and oversee the running of the Clinic, this includes developing new partnerships and clinics.

When the opportunity arose to develop a Windrush Justice Clinic (WJC) for King’s it seemed a perfect opportunity as  it aligned with the Clinic’s aim to proactively engage students in equality and race issues through experiential learning. Following the brutal killing of George Floyd , as a Clinic we had begun to  reflect more deeply on what our social justice mission means. The Clinic has long recognised the link between the hostile immigration environment and racism and have developed a range of immigration advice services to counter this. We also have an active strategy to work with marginalised  communities both in the UK and internationally.

I led on developing the WJC at King’s with great support from the Law faculty, the Clinic team and more widely at King’s.   There have been challenges along the way, but it has been a positive experience and really brough home how much my own values align with King’s. In the first part of my career I worked as a legal aid solicitor specialising mainly in refugee and immigration law. I had always been committed to working with marginalised  communities and   enabling   access to justice, the transition  to teaching  and clinical legal education was quite a natural one.

 

When we talk about the ‘Windrush scandal’, what do we mean?

People arriving from the commonwealth from 1948-1971 are commonly referred to as the Windrush Generation.  ‘Windrush’ derives from the ship ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ which brought one of the first groups of Caribbean people to the UK in 1948.   Many of the Windrush Generation were invited  by the British  government to the UK to take up jobs, for e.g in the newly formed NHS,  where there were shortages in the aftermath of WW2.     The people of these colonies or dominions , as there were then then known,  were given a type of citizenship   and were British subjects.  This accorded them a right of free movement within the empire and an ability to transmit their status to their children.

The essence of the scandal is that the Windrush generation , and their children,  who arrived in the UK  were residing here lawfully, they were either British or had  settled status. However the Home Office issued no formal paperwork  in many instances, as there was no legal requirement to do so.

In 2010,  the Home Office destroyed landing cards and other records  belonging to Windrush migrants, making it is difficult for Windrush arrivals and their families to prove their legal status following  changes in the Immigration system and notably the Government’s  2012 hostile environment policy.  The hostile environment policy aimed to make the UK uninhabitable for undocumented migrants by  tasking landlords, employers, the NHS, banks and many others   with the function of enforcing immigration control.  This meant that many of the Windrush Generation were  unable to prove their lawful immigration status , some were  detained and deported, lost their right to work and rent, access to bank accounts, claim benefits and access to healthcare etc.

In 2018, the UK government finally accepted that it had wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights to the Windrush generation.  Following acknowledgement of the scandal,  to date more than 12,000 people have received documents from the Home Office confirming they are now legally living in the UK.   In April 2019, the government established The Windrush Compensation Scheme (‘WCS’) which aims to provide victims with recompense for their suffering.

The WCS scheme has been extensively criticised and whilst attempts have been  made to improve it,  many consider it not fit for purpose. In November 2021, the Home Affairs Committee on the  WCS  found: ‘Instead of providing a remedy, for many people the Windrush Compensation Scheme has actually compounded the injustices faced as a result of the Windrush Scandal’.  There are numerous issues with the schemes;

  • Low uptake, only 5.8% of the people who are believed to be eligible for compensation have received a payment.
  • Complex application process requiring detailed calculations, supporting evidence and information.
  • Hostile approach to assessment of evidence.
  • Inadequate legal advice provision. Legal aid is not available.
  • Delay in decision making, for e.g. 23 people have now died without receiving a decision.
  • Low amounts awarded.
  • Inadequate appeals system.

Initial estimates had suggested the scheme could be forced to pay out between £200 -500 million and that at least 15,000 applications would be submitted.  Thousands of people have been affected by this scandal, but many are reluctant and often frightened to ask for help.  The estimate of eligible claimants has been revised down by the Home Office and current stands at 4,000 to 6,000 claims.

 

What does the Windrush Justice Clinic aim to do?

The WJC is a collaborative partnership made up of community organisations, law centres and university legal advice clinics striving;  to help victims of the Windrush scandal receive the compensation they deserve;    research  the accessibility  and fairness of the compensations scheme; and share and  disseminate the WJC  clinical  legal education  model of  collaboration.

King’s joined the wider WJC collaborative partnership  in  October 2021.   King’s part-funds a solicitor at Southwark Law Centre and 20 King’s students have been involved in;  supporting community outreach sessions to raise awareness of the WCS and build trust in the elderly Windrush community in Southwark;  and provide casework support to the SLC solicitor in complex cases involving vulnerable clients.

The WJC has carried out  preliminary research, led by the University of Westminster,  into unmet need for legal advice for people making claims under the  WCS which  found the process was to complex for claimants to navigate, legal assistance was required, the current advice framework in inadequate and there is considerable unmet legal need.

 

Have any of the cases you’ve worked on surprised you?

I have been struck how the Windrush scandal has impacted a wide variety of people from all walks of life and ages. King’s  WJC is representing clients from a variety of countries in the Commonwealth, including those with  Jamaican, Dominican,  Indian, Nigerian and Canadian heritage.   We have younger client’s who are victims of domestic abuse,  experiencing  serious problems  in accessing housing support due to the inability to prove their lawful residence.  An older client who’s highly successful  career in creative industry  was  stalled for a number of years,  which  had a  devastating impact on his life including  health issues, financial issues and the  resultant breakdown of significant relationships.  A daughter who  experienced  significant delays returning to the UK to care for her elderly and unwell mother. Many people’s lives have been impacted and it is humbling to hear about their experiences.

 

What lessons do you hope we have learnt from the treatment of the Windrush generation?

There is much to reflect upon and learn, this is something we are planning an event around to take place in either September or October 2022, so watch this space!  For  me the following are critical as a starting point:

It is important  to assess the root cause of   any  problem and  we have to address   the historic and ongoing racism which permeates immigration legislation in the UK.   Whilst there  has been some acknowledgment ,  there does appear some resistance.    It was recently reported that   the Home Office is  suppressing the release of   a government commissioned report  which finds racist legislation led to the Windrush scandal.

Public sector equality duties must be carried out in a meaningfully and robust fashion.  In 2020 the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the Home Office has acted unlawfully by not properly considering how it’s hostile environment policies  affected black members of the Windrush generation.

A functioning and effective legal aid system is vital to protect people’s rights and keep a check on government.   When the hostile environment immigration policy was introduced, large parts of immigration advice was removed from the scope of legal aid,  therefore Windrush victims  were unable to access to   vital free legal advice.  Many Windrush victims  currently need legal  assistance with their  compensation claims in light of its complexity and the historical trauma suffered, legal aid is not available and this  is another reason for the low uptake in the compensation scheme.

A government compensation scheme should  be administered by an  appropriate  department  who is not viewed as the   perpetrator of the harm by the victims.  Distrust in the Home Office  has been cited as a reason for the low uptake in the scheme, the  rules of the scheme itself require a level of evidence which perpetuates the culture of hostile environment:

“From my experiences with the Windrush Compensation Scheme / Home Office, and their responses to my claim, it is almost like they are telling me the following: “We are really, really, sorry for punching you in the face, however, we are sure you’ve recovered now, it wasn’t that bad of a punch, so here is another punch in the face, but don’t worry about that one, because you’ve already recovered, please accept some tape and cotton wool to make a plaster out of.’” Windrush victim testimony provided to Home Affairs Committee

 

What is the future of the work of the WJC?

The WJC has been  great success so far ,   it won Best New Pro Bono Activity Award at the 2022 Law Works and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards.  Most importantly we  are supporting clients and providing our students with a valuable learning experience, where they can develop  an understanding of structural inequalities in society and work with clients from diverse backgrounds.

We want the WJC to help as many people as possible through casework  in partnership with Southwark Law Centre, build capacity in other Clinic’s and organisations across the UK,  and carry  out  further research on unmet legal need and systemic issues  with the compensation scheme.


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The Windrush Generation – Britain’s Builders

To mark Windrush Day, Hannah Gordon, a first-year English student at King`s College London, remembers the legacy of the Windrush generation and their contribution to Britain.


 

Picture of the ship Empire Windrush.

The ship Empire Windrush.

Waving hands and smiling faces spill out of the Empire Windrush as it approaches Tilbury Dock. A new generation of hopeful arrivals determined to make their mark in the ‘mother country’ and build a better life for them and their families back home. Unbeknownst to them, they would face racism, inequality and discrimination that would define British race relations for years to come.

The Windrush generation, as most are known, have become the face of the dynamic global hub, which is Britain. In 2018, the Windrush Scandal became headline news with numerous cases of wrongful detentions and deportations of these migratory pioneers, who were invited by the British government to live and work. This scandal prompted widespread condemnation but more importantly, a conscious drive to honour the contributions of the Windrush generation. Subsequently, every year on the 22nd of June we celebrate Windrush Day commemorating their indelible sacrifice to Britain.

Both my grandparents were part of the Windrush generation. My grandmother was a night shift nurse in the NHS for 40 years and lived in Ladbroke Grove during the Notting Hill riots. My grandfather was an auto- electrician and then a machine operator- spanning 30 years. So, as we approach Windrush Day, what better time to learn more about the effort, resilience and duty of this generation who helped mould Britain into the cultural powerhouse it is today?

Lord Kitchener (calypsonian)

Lord Kitchener (calypsonian).

Contributions to the Public Sector

Picture of two nurses from the Windrush generation.

Picture of two nurses from the Windrush generation.

The NHS is a cultural institution to Britain. It embodies ideas of equality and accessible rights to all – regardless of circumstance. No wonder it took a staring position at London`s 2012 opening ceremony- think Britain think NHS. Today, 20 % of the NHS’ workforce is from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds and it is the most diverse workforce in the whole of Europe. Caribbean nurses from the Windrush Generation played a massive part in building the NHS helping to fill the labour shortage. Despite experiencing racism and discrimination, they pursued in their roles demonstrating dedication to their job, family, and Britain.

Many of the Windrush generation also worked in Transport for London. Transport for London actively recruited in the Caribbean and by 1956 they had enrolled dozens of workers – both men and women. Around 20% of TFL workers are still from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds today. This transport network, iconic to London, still bears the Windrush imprint.

Contributions to Music
Large sound system.

Sound System.

Music has been long associated with the Windrush generation. From the sound systems, which became a vocal point for black youth seeking identity in hostile Britain, to genres like Reggae, Dub and Ska. Dub, which remixed records, became the premise for modern day genres like drum and bass as well as house music.

Contributions to Literature

As the conversation surrounding race in fields of education and literature becomes more prominent. Writers like Zadie Smith, Malorie Blackman, Sam Selvon and Benjamin Zephaniah are more widely recognised. Walk into waterstones and their books are in some of the most noticeable displays. The influx of diverse literature was a massive contribution of the Windrush generation. Writers like Sam Selvon helped popularise the creole voice in writing and his subversive style is often adopted by ‘contemporary figures like Zadie Smith’.  Other mobilising movements, like the Caribbean Arts Movement and the Caribbean Voices helped attract an audience to these new styles of writing.

Sam Selvon sat at a desk holding papers.

Sam Selvon

I have only scratched the surface of the Windrush Generation’s achievements. There are so many more exciting stories and experiences to share. We must continue to read, educate, and honour the debt they paid for this country as Britain`s builders.


References

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Experiences of racial discrimination on clinical placements: A narrative analysis of medical student perspectives.

KCL Intercalated Bachelor of Science (iBSC) Primary Care Student Luckshi Jegatheeswaran is currently researching medical student experiences of racial discrimination whilst on clinical placements. Luckshi is inviting KCL medical & intercalating students, between the years 2 – 5 to contribute to the project by sharing their experiences.


Why is this study important?

The purpose of the study is to understand how medical students can experience racial discrimination – whether directed at them, other students, or members of staff and to understand the immediate and lasting emotional impacts of these experiences.

The NHS boasts the UK’s most ethnically diverse public sector workforce. Increasing awareness of the experiences of people of ethnic minorities within the healthcare team (from medical students to senior staff) is crucial. This will facilitate greater understanding of the experiences of these groups. It will also allow the identification of areas where measures that will empower and create safe workspaces can be taken, benefiting the well-being of healthcare professionals from ethnic minorities.

What is the aim of the study?

  • To understand how medical students can experience racial discrimination- whether directed at them, other students, or members of staff.
  • To understand the immediate and lasting emotional impacts of these experiences.

Who can take part in the study?

  • Medical & intercalating students between years two and five.

What is involved?

  • You will complete an anonymous survey. The survey will ask you to state your course and year of study. You will be asked to describe your experiences of racial discrimination on medical placements.

How do I take part?

  1. Read this participant information.
  2. Submit your experiences using this online form

For further information please contact Luckshi via email: luckshi.jegatheeswaran@kcl.ac.uk

 

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

To mark the United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London shares how you can make a difference and tackle racial discrimination. 


The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed worldwide on March 21 each year. The day aims to remind people of the harm caused by racial discrimination. It also encourages people to remember their obligation and determination to combat racial discrimination.

I only just this year learnt that the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established six years after an event, known as the Sharpeville tragedy or Sharpeville massacre, which captured worldwide attention. This event involved police opening fire and killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21, 1960.

The UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination when it proclaimed the day as a UN Day of observance in 1966. It also called on all world states and organizations to participate in a program of action to combat racism and racial discrimination in 1983. It held the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2001.

“Youth standing up against racism” is the theme of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2022. A theme that should be close to all university’s hearts especially those like us that have declared themselves determined to be anti-racist.

Young people have the option of posting their opinions regarding discussions on human rights and racial discrimination at Voices of Youth, which is UNICEF’s online bulletin board for young people.

As part of the King’s community, there’s various ways for you to play your part in standing up against racism. EDI will be hosting active bystander training for students on 28th & 30th March and 1st April which you can sign up to here.  We are also delivering microaggression training to staff & students, which will teach you to identify, call out and respond to racial microaggressions. If you have witnessed racial discrimination and wish to report it, you can find out how on our Dignity at King’s webpages.  This also includes the option of reporting anonymously, which helps us monitor patterns to inform our proactive work.

Our Race Equity Inclusive Education Fund (REIEF) has provided over £99,000 across 13 projects, two of which are particularly relevant to today (Gargie Ahmad is bringing anti-racism into education and training for mental health research and practice, and Sapphire Williams is exploring anti-racism globally). Gargie will be telling us more about their research in an upcoming blog.

Happy Black History Month

Helena Mattingley, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s reflects on what makes the cut into history curricula and shares her ever growing reading list.


Each October we mark Black History Month to  celebrate  the achievements and contributions of Black people now and throughout history, and noting the deliberate neglect or active removal of Black people from history.

British History as taught in schools is highly edited, not only in terms of historic periods, but who within those periods has the spotlight. History is produced in re-creating – who and what is chosen, how it is presented, and the selective memory and even more selective re-telling.

History is created from the pieces left behind, cherry picked and woven into a narrative by curators which typically matches their world view. It’s taught as being History, rather than curated evidence of the past – by which I mean it’s presented as Truth with a capital T.

My perception of what I was taught as history was like looking through a microscope and being told I could see the whole of UK History. To have a real understanding, we need to recognise the prejudice and bias of the evidence, of the historians, and what makes it into public consciousness is not a true reflection. I want to add more microscopes and more perspectives until I can see a broader representation of the past to continue my self-education.

This is why Dr Liam Liburd’s work to design a King’s Colonial History module is so important. Through inclusive scholarship, a cohort of talented students have uncovered and pulled silenced histories into focus. New voices and perspectives are bringing an important dimension of our past to life, and challenging the simplistic default white narratives.

Self-education is a powerful took, which is why I’ve been building a reading list. What would you add to this?

  • Black and British, David Olusoga
  • Black London, Avril Nanton and Jody Burton
  • Black Tudors, Miranda Kaufmann
  • Staying Power, Peter Fryer
  • Empireland, Sathnan Sanghera

You can use the comments section below to share your own inclusive must reads lists

 

King’s reflections a year on from George Floyd’s murder – Part 3

In the third installment of our reflections a year on from the murder of George Floyd we share the personal reflections of Rabia Harrison - Director of Administration in The Dickson Poon School of Law.Walso hear from Stephen Bach and Suzanne Marcuzzi from King’s Business School.


Rabia Harrison , Director of Administration in The Dickson Poon School of Law.

The past year has demonstrated an institution wide commitment to bringing the race conversation to the fore.  We have held town hall meetings, student led conversations about race, an openness to hear different perspectives and a real recognition for the disparities that the organisation still has when it comes to representation and employment.  I have taken very seriously my own personal duty to reinforce conversations relating to race and have taken a much greater lead in highlighting specific instances where the relevance of race has either been overlooked or been overtly denigrated.  King’s has proven that it is ready to listen.  It is time to respond. 

A month ago I decided to share my personal story with my faculty.  It was an emotional piece about my lived experience as a British Muslim Pakistani girl growing up in an overtly racist area and my observations and encounters during my career.  I shared the piece because I knew that there were many colleagues in the same position as me who have for such a long time buried the hurt they have experienced and because there are also many colleagues who simply do not know the lived experience of a person of colour.  I was struck by how shocked the latter group of colleagues were upon hearing the reality of the day to day challenges a person like me has experienced.  Certainly, the power and significance of conversations such as these should make a change.  And yet, the experience of sharing has left me exposed with a vulnerability and open wound that is calling for a much greater commitment than simply being heard.  The more we speak about the race issues that exist, the more we surface the painful and intolerable encounters our BME community have suffered.  We are now at a crucial intersection and our next steps will not only define our position in the race debate but will also demonstrate to our community that we have listened, understood and are ready to make the right change.

 

Stephen Bach & Suzanne Marcuzzi, King’s Business School. 

While it has been a year since the death of George Floyd, the impact and immediacy of his killing have not faded. We could feel the legacy of his violent death, and the racially-motivated violent deaths of so many others before and since, permeating many aspects of our lives and the lives of those in the business school community of staff, students and partners over the last twelve months.  

Within the business school we have sought to listen, supporting conversations on race for our staff and students and hosting a panel talk ‘Business is Black’ to celebrate black voices in education and academia, but also to hear about the challenges our colleagues face because of explicit and implicit bias. We are now moving from conversation to action, having introduced a widening participation programme for students from our local boroughs, reviewing our hiring practices and the language in our adverts and on our website, exploring development and mentoring opportunities for our black and minority ethnic colleagues, and participating in the excellent More than Mentoring scheme ourselves.  

There remains much more to be done, and one important step is the recruitment of a Reader in Diversity and Inclusion to help us to draw upon the latest research to shape our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion. Our hope is that the Business School is a place which not only tolerates but celebrates diversity, in all its forms, and provides the appropriate support for staff and students to achieve their goals and to be their authentic selves at King’s.   

The Legacy of the Windrush generation

On the 22 June 1948 the ship Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks bringing over 500 people from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom. 73 years on Sociologist & Civil Servant, Dr Vivienne Connell-Hall (PhD) reflects on the impact and legacy of the Windrush generation on Britain.


Dr Vivienne Connell-Hall

This week marks the 73rd anniversary of the SS Windrush arriving at Tilbury Docks.

When the England football manager, Gareth Southgate, and his team walked out on the pitch for their opening match of the current UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, they were already part of an ongoing controversy.  The manager had announced that his players would continue to “take the knee”.  This is the gesture that many sportsmen and sportswomen have been participating in, which is kneeling for a few seconds before the commencement of their game(s), in support of racial equality.  Started by Dr Martin Luther King and his colleagues during the civil right movement in the US and revived by Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback, in 2016, it has now been fused with the BLM movement, since the murder of George Floyd.

As this event unfolded, I was reminded of the birth of the UK Black power movement of the 1960s when people such as Frank Critchlow, Darcus Howe, Olive Morris, Farrukh Dhondy and many others were forced to stand up to multiple injustices that they faced at the time (whether from the police or their neighbours), particularly when they were wrongfully charged with inciting the Mangrove “riots” and rightly acquitted by the courts.  Some of those people were among the group of immigrants who set sail on the SS Windrush in 1948, leaving their homes, their families and their loved ones, thinking that their journey would take them to the Motherland for a better life but they were not prepared for the challenges of injustice and inequality that awaited them.

Their activism of the 1960s and 1970s is widely seen as a template by their descendants, utilising some of those strategies to deal with similar issues that are still being faced some 60 years later.

As the awful events of the summer of 2020 unfolded, once again Black people took to the streets.  Like the Mangrove protestors, the descendants of those “Windrushers” – third, and in some instances, fourth generation – demonstrated that they possess the tenacity and determination to deal with new battles.  For example, the “Windrushers” dealt with hostility, direct discrimination and exclusion in all spheres of life, now we have to deal with subtle, indirect discrimination and micro-aggression, in the main.

Has nothing changed, then, I hear you ask, dear reader?  Of course, there have been significant changes. We have more anti-discrimination legislation than any country in Europe, we have Black history month, we have more Black people on TV, more MPs from diverse backgrounds in prominent roles in government, we have an Asian Mayor of London and a Windrush descendant as Mayor of Bristol.   The Windrush descendants are living a life that very few of those Caribbean passengers, who disembarked from the SS Windrush at Tilbury Docks on that June day in 1948 were able to.  But they laid the foundation for Black Britons today – from their service during WWII, the Bristol bus boycotts, signs reading “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish”, protests and challenging unfairness through the courts. Nonetheless, there are still challenges to be met, three generations on.  When England’s Black footballers walked out on the pitch for their first game in the Euro 2020 tournament, supported by their team-mates and manager, they were facing one such challenge, asking that racial justice be further advanced.  They were booed, booed by their own supporters in the friendlies leading up to the start of the tournament but the boos grew less at this game.  So what did the team do?  They won the match 1-0, the only goal scored by a Windrush descendant.

So as the Windrush commemoration starts we ask the question, what is their legacy?  I say, they have bequeathed their descendants the right to be Black Britons and not perpetually be regarded as “immigrants” and perseverance (among other things), even when the tasks seem insurmountable and the goal distant.  We may get weary, and some days it may feel like we are on our own, but we keep going and the goal of racial justice is within reach. That is the legacy of the “Windrushers”.

King’s reflections a year on from George Floyd’s murder – Part 2

In the second installment of our series of curated reflections a year on from George Floyd’s murder, we share the reflections of Ellen Clark-King, The Dean of King’s College London.


Reflection on Genesis 21:8-13

In March 2020 I was in Montgomery Alabama. I was there as part of an annual pilgrimage that addresses the legacy of slavery and enduring racial inequality in the US and beyond. It was a mixed group – racially, religiously, some very middle class, some unhoused. We visited museums, talked about our experiences, sang together and also wept together.

The place we visited that hammered at my heart most was Bryan Stevenson’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice. This is a memorial to every person killed by lynching in the United States – over 4000 people, children as well as adults. It is both a beautiful and a gut-wrenching place, lives remembered and honoured with a beauty that condemns the ugliness of their deaths. And what hit me hardest was reading some of the names – the ones whose surname was the same as mine at birth – Clark. Not because I could claim them as my kin but because these were people who had been owned by those who shared my name. My personal Clark ancestors were white working and servant class, not slave owners, but that does not absolve me from the guilt of being part of a system that said that White lives matter and that Black lives don’t.

Sarah said to Abraham: ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’ Here we are confronted with the reality of slavery at the heart of our sacred scripture. Here Sarah, herself part of a people who were liberated from slavery, stands on the other side. Here she speaks for slave owners across the centuries who have failed to see that other mother’s children are as valuable as their own. Here Sarah is part of my story – part of the story of privilege that belongs to women as well as men because of their race and economic status.

But I don’t want to focus on Sarah. I want to focus on the other woman in the story – Hagar the Egyptian, the one who was cast out into the wilderness, the one who lifts up her voice and weeps in despair. Hagar was the slave woman purchased by Abraham and Sarah to bear children for Abraham when Sarah was believed to be barren. She was, in other words, trafficked and sold as a sex slave. Her very name shouts out her ‘otherness’ and lack of value – Hagar in Biblical Hebrew means ‘alien’ or ‘foreigner’. This is a name given to her by those who own her not by the mother who bore her. The wonderful Biblical scholar Wilda Gafney in her book Womanist Midrash tells us that this is not the only tradition of Hagar’s name. She figures prominently in the Islamic tradition and there her name is given as Hajar. This name has beautiful potential meanings from ‘Splendid’ to ‘Nourishing’. Here is a name that speaks of the worth that belongs to each human creature. Here is a name that says this woman is her own person, a beloved daughter of God, not a possession. This is what I will call her from now on.

I want to take us back a few chapters in Genesis to the place where we first encounter Hajar. At this point Sarah is angry with Hajar because she feels insulted by her attitude – she expects her slave to treat her with respect – and so she beats her viciously causing Hajar to flee to the wilderness. Here Hajar is again at the point of despair and here again God comes to her. God tells her that she and her son are in his care, that she will be the mother of a great nation – the first divine annunciation in the entire Bible. And even more extraordinarily than that – Hajar is the first human being allowed to name God. The first human being in the whole of our scripture who names God is a slave woman – the most powerless of human beings in every hierarchy of the time. And the name that Hajar gives to God is El Ro’i, God of seeing, interpreted by Gafney as meaning ‘Have I seen the one who sees me and lived to tell of it?’. God sees Hajar. God sees her as a human being of meaning and significance, as one who has the right to name the divine as it appears to her, as one strong enough to encounter the living God and to continue living. She is the one who is promised life not only for herself but for her children and her children’s children. And in the second encounter we heard today Hajar’s identity is affirmed as a beloved champion of God’s purposes: no one’s property, no one’s slave. The UK and the US ended slavery generations ago. They officially recognised that no human being should be another person’s property. But white society never took the next step. The step of seeing the children of freed slaves as equal to the children of those who owned them. The step of hearing hard truths and seeking reconciliation through justice. The step of making Black Lives Matter a reality rather than an essential rallying call. The step of racial justice.

And, especially relevant in theology and the academy more generally, the step of listening to the names that Black voices are giving to reality and to God. If all you read in theology or fiction or news articles are the writings of white men then you are not learning the full truth of our world or of God. If you are not hearing womanist voices naming God then you are not hearing a crucial part of how God names Godself. We need to know the God Hajar named – El Ro’i – the one who sees the reality of injustice and oppression; the one who reveals divine reality most clearly to those on the underside of power. We need to know Hajar’s God and we need to work with Hajar’s God to dismantle racial injustice and undo the long, painful legacy of slavery. And we need to do it now.

Reference: Wilda C. Gafney, Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne, Westminster John Knox Press, 2017.

King’s reflections a year on from George Floyd’s murder

A year on from George Floyd’s murder, we have asked our community for their reflections on this seismic event and the impact it has had on them and their work. This is the first in a series of blogs where we will be sharing your reflections.

This week we hear from Evelyn Welch, Provost & Senior Vice President (Arts & Sciences).


Three weeks ago marked the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, a moment that resonated around the world and prompted King’s to consider how racism impacts on our own community. You will have all received Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion’s note asking for your reflections on what this anniversary has meant to you. Thank you to those who have responded thus far.  We have published a blog of Sarah’s own reflections which you can read here. Over the coming weeks contributions from our community, including yours will also be featured in King’s Essentials & our Diversity Digest Blog. There is still time if you would like to send some reflections. We are all busy, there is so little time – yet this is so important. You can send your reflections to diversity@kcl.ac.uk

 

My own reflections come from a deep discomfort that I, and those who feel safe in our skin every day, still have such a limited understanding of the lived experience of racism. There is a great deal of learning and listening to do. At the same time I am proud that we are willing to address this and move beyond words to action in order to openly address the endemic challenge of structural inequalities and bias.  

 

We are very aware of the strength of feeling in our community around the need to proactively tackle racism – especially in light of the racial and ethnic inequalities such as the differential impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, health service provision and access, and the academic award gap. It is time for us all to reflect on how we can continue to listen and learn about these issues. Even more importantly, it is time to take concerted action around these challenging topics in an open and honest way. I encourage you all to talk about progressing anti-racism and real action in your team meetings this week. Please do take the time to share your thoughts as we remember George Floyd’s death. 

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