For the past year and a half, black British people have been wrongly deported from the United Kingdom, detained and denied many legal rights, according to Nicole Jackson, associate professor of History and Bowling Green State University (BGSU) grad student.
On Oct. 24 at Grounds for Thought, the audience, filling the lounge area of Grounds for Thought, was hanging on her every word, as she gave her presentation titled “Women Writing Black to the British Empire.”
Due to the U.K immigration department’s hostile environment policy, immigrants who migrated from Caribbean countries in the mid-1900s — known as the “Windrush generation” — have faced increasing difficulty to remain in the UK.
According to The Independent, the UK government ”has ‘set immigrants up to fail,’” creating a hostile environment for immigrants.
This harsh crackdown on immigrants set the stage, as she covered various black British female authors who wrote on black history, the British empire, how they fit into the bigger picture of Britain postcolonialism and what it means to be black, British and female in the U.K.
Her presentation was focused on her work on the British Caribbean Arts Movement during the ‘60s and ‘70s, as it was building off of the 16 years of research done by the many novelists she highlighted.
She discussed the works of novelists like Andrea Levy, a child of the Windrush generation, who wrote the award-winning novel, “Small Island.” She read various passages from the short stories and books, like Beryl Gilroy’s “Black Teacher,” an unconventional autobiography about her time as the first black headteacher in London. The selected passages struck an emotional chord with the audience, as they showed firsthand experiences of the struggles migrants in the Windrush generation faced.
The presentation also opened the eyes of attendees who were unaware of how severe the situation was for black British people in the U.K., comparable to the racism and xenophobia currently in the U.S.
“The event helped me realize that black people face racism in the U.K. just like in America and that the U.K. has a big problem with anti-immigrant sentiment, just like America does,” Noah Jackson, a junior computer science major at BGSU, said.
Understandably, most of the audience was interested in how Jackson’s work compared to the contemporary issues of immigration and the current political landscape of the U.K., asking questions about Brexit and Theresa May’s time as Prime Minister. However, Jackson hopes that the audience took away the importance of the authors she discussed and how their works deserved more recognition.
“They should be as a part of the narrative as white British writers who are also writing about the same things but are taught in schools,” Nicole Jackson said. “Rudyard Kipling is taught in schools, but Beryl Gilroy is not.”
Authors like Gilroy and Merle Collins, who wrote “When Britain Had Its GREAT,” a poem in her collection “Rotten Pomerack,” brought a more personal edge to their writings on being black and British and the empire, as many of their parents were in the Windrush generation.
“I want people to read black, British women’s writings and that they are saying something critically important about what it means to be British and empire and race,” Jackson said.