When I think of Black History Month (BHM), I think about the history of my ancestors. I spoke to both my grandmas to find out more about their journey to the UK back in the ’60s and what made them settle here. I also want to talk about my parents and how they have inspired me.
My father’s mother was a nurse back in Jamaica. When she saw posters encouraging her to come to England, she wanted to take that opportunity. In May 1960 at the age of 27, my grandma and grandpa travelled by boat from Jamaica to England. On arrival, my grandma found work as a nurse in the NHS, while my grandpa worked as a bus conductor in East London. My grandma loved caring for the sick and nursing them back to health. She worked as a nurse for 60 years and achieved so much. She raised a loving family, she learnt to drive and even modelled for the bus company too. Grandma said that she is really grateful and blessed to have had such opportunities.
My mother’s parents were very much in love and relished any opportunity to spend time together. When the opportunity arose to come to the UK to work, my grandparents were very excited and took their chance to explore something new. They decided my grandpa would travel to the UK first. My grandma joined him shortly afterwards in the spring of 1962. My grandpa found work as a carpenter, he helped constructing new buildings in the UK and Germany. Sadly this meant that my grandpa had to make great sacrifices and would be away from home for months on end. My grandma decided she wanted to become a nurse because she was intrigued by people with special needs.
My grandma was very determined and trained for two years before qualifying as a nurse. Some years later, my mother gave birth to my sister who has special needs so my grandma was able to help first hand with my sisters’ needs. Grandma was particularly driven. She continued in this profession for 16 years, working tirelessly tending to the sick. In 1968, through her endeavours, she was able to afford a five-bedroom house. Grandma honestly loved living in the UK because of the diversity of race and cultures. She told me, “it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, we should always thrive and learn to accept the world as one.”
My father has a huge passion for dancing and socialising. During some of the hardest times in his childhood, he always made sure he was having fun. Just like my grandma, my father loves caring and providing for his family and works very hard to bring a smile to everyone’s face. Ever since my mother was young, she has always been passionate and driven. She loved travelling, like my grandma, but also appreciated being at home. My mother recalled the time she missed her own graduation to travel across the US with my father. She never let anything stand in her way and pursued a career in accountancy. Even when my mother disagrees with some of my decisions, she is always there to support me.
Colt BHM has allowed me to speak to my grandparents and parents about their difficult journeys and sacrifices. It has helped me to understand why I love being a proud British Jamaican and Guyanese person. They have taught me to be adventurous and explore other cultures, to care for others with kindness and make the most of my life. They have taught me that I am a unique individual that is more than just a colour, gender, disability or number.
Kira Henry, Digital Marketing Apprentice, Colt Technology Services