Lambeth College - #StaffStory: Trevor Gordon - I am Windrush
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The 22nd of June is nationally known as 'Windrush Day'. This day commemorates the first generation of people from the Caribbean who were invited over to help rebuild Britian after the WW2. Trevor Gordon, our Leadership for Black Staff programme consultant speaks on his Windrush experience. 

1IMG 7752 1The Windrush debate is a very live and active debate for me as I am the son of immigrant parents that arrived in London in the early 1960s. I was born in 1959 in the British colonial territory known as Jamaica. Jamaica was granted political independence from Britain on 6th August 1962 after more than 300 years of colonial rule.

I was part of the first generation of Caribbean children to enter the English educational system in the 1960s and I have done reasonably well educating myself ‘in spite of’ and not ‘because of’ the education I received at that time in my life. My generation suffered a barrage of institutional racism in the education system and this for me was the start of blighting the future of the Windrush generation. Many of my generation now suffer the consequences of being ‘contained’ as opposed to ‘educated’ in school.

This blog is not about my experiences in the English education system. I do however want to mention that I suffered with low self-esteem as a result of the treatment I received in school and also society at large during the 60s and 70s.

My Windrush experience happened at the age of 18. I needed a British passport in order to travel aboard. My parents at this time had immigrated to America and I had been fending for myself since the age of 16.

I approached the Home Office and was informed that I should take out a citizenship. This would then enable me to apply for a British passport. I was told that I needed to have proof that I resided in the UK for over 5 years. I approached my primary school and they gave me a letter stating that I had been a pupil at the school for over 5 years. I presented this letter to the Home Office and was surprised to be told that it was not good enough. Even though the Home Office guidelines stated 5 years they now insisted that I show 10 years residency in the UK. This is an example of how of institutional racism operates. A bar is set, when you meet it, the bar is shifted. I complained that the criteria of over five years had been met. They were adamant 10 years or no citizenship.

I approached my secondary school for a letter that covered a 6-year period taking my total documentary proof over the 10-year unofficial bar. My case officer at the Home Office was surprised when I returned 4 weeks later with the second document and she stated, “My, you are a persistent one aren’t you”. She then reluctantly agreed to process my application for citizenship. However, she said that I had to pay £166.00 for the application to be processed. The fee mentioned in the Home Office literature was £25.00. When I questioned this she stated that “fees and charges are at the Home Office’s discretion and your fee was £166.00. She also stated that it was time limited and that I had to find the fee within four weeks or my application would be turned down. In 1977, this was a great deal of money for an 18 years old college student to find in four weeks.

I begged and borrowed until I had raised the fee. When I returned three weeks later with the funds my Home Office case officer was again surprised but she had no further unofficial bars to use. I received my Certificate of UK Citizenship three months later.

- Trevor Gordon

Today, we celebrate the generation of migrants who came over from the Caribbean after the war to help rebuild Britain. We must never forget their huge contribution or the racism they faced upon arrival. We hope this first-hand story serves as a chilling reminder of what the Windrush generation endured.

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