A report by Valentine Low for The Times of London.
The Duke of Cambridge said racism was still “an all too familiar experience” for black people in Britain, in an outspoken speech on the issue yesterday.
Speaking on Windrush Day, Prince William acknowledged that the generation of Caribbean immigrants who came to Britain after the Second World War faced bigotry today. He said that the long-term residents who were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation in the Windrush scandal, which came to light in 2017, had been “profoundly wronged”.
He added: “The future they sought and deserved has yet to come to pass. Diversity is what makes us strong, and it is what reflects the modern, outward-looking values that are so important to our country.”
Kate meets a child at the Windrush Day event in London. The couple’s attendance follows their tour of the Caribbean earlier this year, which was criticised for public relations missteps
The duke and duchess’s tour of the Caribbean in March was marred by protests by local activists calling for the royal family to apologise and pay reparations for slavery. As he unveiled the first national monument in honour of the Windrush generation at Waterloo Station, William, 40, said that the tour had been “an opportunity to reflect”.
“We learnt so much. Not just about the different issues that matter most to the people of the region, but also how the past weighs heavily on the present,” he told an audience which included Windrush migrants and their families. “Sadly, that is also the case for members of the Windrush generation who were victims of racism when they arrived here, and discrimination remains an all too familiar experience for black men and women in Britain in 2022. Only a matter of years ago, tens of thousands of that generation were profoundly wronged by the Windrush scandal. That rightly reverberates throughout the Caribbean community here in the UK as well as many in the Caribbean nations.”
William has commented on racism before and responded to allegations that royal family members are prejudiced. In the Caribbean he expressed his “profound sorrow” for Britain’s role in slavery, echoing comments by the Prince of Wales in November.
In March last year William said that the royal family were “very much not a racist family” after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said that during her pregnancy with their son Archie an unnamed member had expressed concern about how dark the child’s skin might be.
Dame Floella Benjamin and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Waterloo station for the unveiling of the National Windrush Monument
Yesterday the anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush’s arrival in Tilbury, Essex, in 1948 was marked for the first time with an official message from the Queen. Sending her “warmest good wishes on this historic occasion”, she praised the generation’s “profound contribution” and said that she hoped the statue would “inspire present and future generations”.
William made his remarks on racism in Britain as his father toured Rwanda, where the Commonwealth heads of government meeting is being held. Prince Charles has privately been critical of the British government’s deal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing. Yesterday he called on the world never to repeat the horrors of the Rwandan genocide.
The Jamaican artist who created the Windrush statue said it told a story of hope, determination and a “vision for the future”. It was unveiled by Alford Gardner and John Richards, both 96, two Windrush pioneers who arrived in Britain 74 years ago.
Basil Watson, 64, the sculptor, said his work pays tribute to the “dreams and aspirations, courage and dignity, skills and talents” of the Windrush generation who arrived with “a hope of contributing to a society that they expected would welcome them in return”. Many of them first saw London when their trains pulled into Waterloo station and walked past where the statue now stands.
The monument pays tribute to the Caribbean immigrants who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971
Watson said: “My parents, along with a great many others, took the long arduous voyage from the Caribbean with very little or nothing other than their aspirations, their courage and a promise of opportunity for advancement.
“This monument tells that story of hope, determination, a strong belief in selves and a vision for the future.”
He said he had been “very pleased” with the response to his monument, which took about a year to conceive and create. “It was a lot of pressure,” he said of the responsibility of creating the first Windrush monument.“It was all worth it.”
William spoke to Gardner, who joined the RAF in 1944 and later moved to Leeds where he settled after meeting his wife, Norma. One of two surviving passengers of the original Empire Windrush voyage, he has eight children, 16 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild.
Baroness Floella Benjamin spoke during the unveiling of the Windrush monument at Waterloo station
He described the statue of a man, woman and child in their Sunday best, standing on top of suitcases, as “brilliant”.
Before the unveiling William and Kate met aspiring filmmakers and musicians in Brixton, south London, where the duchess, who is a keen stills photographer, picked up a video camera. The couple chatted with young people taking part in Elevate, a council programme to help under-30s break into the creative industries.
While William listened to a budding songwriter, Kate tried a shoulder-mounted video camera. Davinia Clarke, 22, an illustrator and visual artist who learnt how to operate the camera while doing a documentary film course with Iconic Steps, an organisation trying to diversify the film industry, said: “She wanted to understand how to put it on and move it around.”
Regarding the couple’s involvement in Windrush Day, Clarke said: “It is important that they are trying to get more involved and trying to make an effort. We would complain if they did not. The important thing is to make a change and get involved in these communities.”