Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Tribute to trailblazers

Plans advanced for Windrush monument to be mounted in Jamaica

Published:Saturday | May 25, 2024 | 12:10 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
From left: Captain Sydney Innis, vice-president of harbours and port services/harbour master of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ); Thomas Tavares-Finson, president of the Senate; Culture Minister Olivia Grange; and Foreign Affairs State Minister Alando T
From left: Captain Sydney Innis, vice-president of harbours and port services/harbour master of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ); Thomas Tavares-Finson, president of the Senate; Culture Minister Olivia Grange; and Foreign Affairs State Minister Alando Terrelongue in discussion at an event to mark the 76th anniversary of the departure of the ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ from the Kingston Harbour at the Urban Development Commission’s flagpole on Ocean Boulevard, downtown Kingston, on Friday.
Staff Sergeant Anthony Gardner (third left) and Staff Sergeant Christopher Maitland raise the ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ standard during a ceremony on Friday to mark the 76th anniversary of the departure of the vessel from Kingston. Looking on (from left) a
Staff Sergeant Anthony Gardner (third left) and Staff Sergeant Christopher Maitland raise the ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ standard during a ceremony on Friday to mark the 76th anniversary of the departure of the vessel from Kingston. Looking on (from left) are Captain Sydney Innis, harbour master at the Port Authority of Jamaica; Senate President Thomas Tavares-Finson; Culture Minister Olivia Grange; and Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Alando Terrelongue.
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A replica of the Windrush monument at the Waterloo Station in the United Kingdom (UK) is to be mounted in downtown Kingston next year, Culture Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange has announced.

She made the proclamation while speaking on Friday at the raising of the HMT Empire Windrush standard in downtown Kingston to observe the 76th anniversary of the vessel’s departure from the Royal Mail Wharf.

The ship left Jamaica on May 24, 1948 and set sail for England with approximately 500 Caribbean nationals on board, who were migrating to help the UK with a post-World War II labour shortage and to rebuild its battered economy. At the time, Jamaica was still a colony of Britain.

While acknowledging the significant contributions that the Jamaicans made to the socio-economic development of the UK, Grange shared that their role in contributing to the reputation of Jamaicans as a “resilient, creative and energetic people who could thrive in any situation” is also worth celebrating.

She said discussions have already started with relevant stakeholders to mount the replica of the monument, which is expected to cost approximately $5.6 million.

“Once we get the replica done, there are shipping companies that will take the replica to Jamaica. They have already indicated, and there is a company in Jamaica that will assist with the mounting of the monument, so all we need now are the funds to get the replica done,” she said.

The statue, designed by Jamaican sculptor Basil Watson, is described as a permanent tribute to the ambition, courage, and contribution of the Windrush generation. It portrays three figures – a man, a woman, and a child – dressed in their ‘Sunday best’ climbing a mountain of suitcases hand in hand.

Meanwhile, Grange noted that the Windrush standard, which was raised on the Urban Development Corporation’s flagpole on Ocean Boulevard in downtown Kingston, which is believed to be the point of departure of the Empire Windrush, will remain there for a month.

She outlined that the ministry, in its bid to further educate Jamaicans on this important event in the country’s history, has also organised an exhibition on the Empire Windrush in the main foyer of its head office on Trafalgar Road in St Andrew.

And noting the various ways in which Jamaicans have contributed to the countries they have migrated to over the years, Captain Sydney Innis, vice-president for harbours and port services at the Port Authority of Jamaica, charged the Ministry of Culture to do more to inform citizens on the contributions of Jamaicans to other countries.

“I don’t think we have done particularly well as a nation in recording these diverse aspects of our history, and if we have, we have kept it well covered under a bushel,” he said.

“[Despite] this pattern by our people to constantly seek new opportunities over distant horizons and by sea, … they never lost touch with their homeland. They proudly carried their language, cuisine and other art forms – not to mention their intellect – and they all became a distinct subculture in whichever country they settled,” Innis added.

Story of triumph

Meanwhile, Alando Terrelonge, state minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, extolled the resilience of the Jamaicans who boarded that ship 76 years ago and who have paved the way for a vibrant UK.

“The culture that exists in the United Kingdom is coloured by our rich Jamaican heritage. The sounds of our drums, the sounds of our voices, the movements and rhythms of our bodies have all contributed to the fabric of what is now a culturally diverse United Kingdom,” he said.

“It is a story of the triumph of the Jamaican people. It is a story of their triumph over racism. It is a story of their triumph over discrimination. It is a story of their triumph over two societies, one which favoured the whites and one which denigrated the blacks to the back of society,” he added.

sashana.small@gleanerjm.com