Windrush 75

One of our Founders, Elaine Lewis Proudly Shares a Poignant Conversation with Her Mother

The Migration: My Mums Lived Experience

Both of my parents are from the Caribbean country Jamaica, born in Clarendon Mount Airy, also known as Mocco. My father came to the UK in the 1950s, as did my grandmother, while my mother followed in the early 1960s. As Windrush Day approaches, I thought it would be a good time to speak to my mother about her experiences back then, especially as a Black woman who managed to bring up four children on her own following the passing of my father.

Assimilating to a New Culture

I wanted to know what it was like for her, so I asked Mum the question, “How did you find meeting people who looked and sounded different from you?” Coming from a place dominated by people who looked like herself, Mum said, “It was strange, and there were many white people who were not receptive to Black people back then.” She recalled an incident where she sat beside an elderly white man on the bus, and he got up and brushed past her to move to another seat. It left her feeling as if she were dirty or had the plague. Mum said, “There was nothing you could do about it; openly showing distaste towards Black people was normal behaviour back then.” She expressed that she had to endure a lot, but there were a few nice people who seemed intrigued by the early Windrush generation.

Community Spirit Amongst Black People

As I continued to listen, Mum took me down memory lane, reminiscing about the good times, the parties, and the community spirit amongst Black people as a source of solace. She talked about the Pardner/partnerships many joined to purchase properties since banks were not forthcoming with their lending. She felt that the community spirit to support each other had fractured due to rejection, sustainability challenges, and the Black community’s need for progress.

Working Life: Challenges & Contributions of Black Women & Men

I was keen to hear about finding work. Interestingly, Mum said it was easy for women to get unskilled labor jobs, but the pay was very low, particularly in factories, which were plentiful back then. Many women went into the care industry, working in hospitals and caring for the elderly. However, she mentioned that it was much harder for Black men, as white people were less receptive to them. Mum said many Black men had lost their way due to rejection, leading to abandoning their families, ending up in prison, or experiencing mental health issues due to stress and misdiagnosis. On a positive note, some went on to achieve great things, building empires across various industries, both before and after the Windrush era. I could see Mum smiling; she was proud of their accomplishments. She said Black people worked hard and made massive contributions to the country. While acknowledging the progress made, she believed that true equality had not yet been achieved and that there was still a long way to go.

Elaine Lewis – My Final Thoughts


The Windrush era brought back memories, some good and some bad! It’s understandable why there are mixed feelings.

Having this chat with Mum helped me understand why some of the older Windrush generation were so accepting of things and could have had a somewhat submissive mentality. I acknowledge that this may sound harsh and subjective, but it holds true. It’s important to recognize that some of this generation were individuals who did as they were told and understandably kept their heads down, while others refused to be treated as less back then.

As we celebrate Windrush 75 this year, I encourage you to ask yourself: Which one were you, or which one would you have.