June 22 is Windrush Day, the day in 1948 when the MV Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks, London and deposited 492 Caribbean migrants, many of whom had served in the Second World War.
The unveiling was attended by representatives of the British government and the British Armed Forces, as well as service personnel who served in the Second World War and relatives of those who served in both World Wars.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:
‘The UK is indebted to all those servicemen and women from Africa and the Caribbean who volunteered to serve with Britain during the First and Second World Wars. It is thanks to their bravery and sacrifice that we are able to enjoy our freedoms today. We should also congratulate those who have worked tirelessly to place this memorial in the heart of Brixton’.
Jak Beula, CEO of the Nubian Jak Trust said:
‘More than 2 million African and Caribbean Military Servicemen and Servicewomen participated in WWI and WWII but have not been recognized for their contribution. The unveiling of this memorial is to correct this historical omission and to ensure young people of African and Caribbean descent are aware of the valuable input their forefathers had in the two world wars’.
The unveiling was preceded by prayers from a Church of England priest, an Imam and a priest in the Ifa Tradition of the Yoruba people of West Africa, Professor Gus John:
Professor Gus John – Traditional Priest
Praise, honour and glory to Onile, Mother, Father, Spirit, God – Ase!
(Pour spirit into the earth)
We call Esu, Elegba – Ase!
We call Orisha N’la – Ase!
We call Ogun – Ase!
We call Osun – Ase!
We call Oya – Ase!
We call Baba Songo – Ase!
We call Egun, Spirit of our Ancestors – Ase!
We honour the spirit of all those Africans who volunteered to lay down their lives in defence of freedom and liberty in Europe, while they themselves were being denied the very freedom they died to preserve for white imperialists and colonisers – Ase!
We honour the spirit of all those Africans who perished in the killing fields of Europe – Ase!
We honour the spirit of all those Africans who were made to kill one another in wars did not concern them – Ase!
We honour the spirit of all those Africans who were condemned to die in penury and destitution after medical discharge and after demob – Ase!
We honour the spirit of all those Africans in the Motherland and in the Diaspora whose ultimate sacrifice paved the way for an end to colonial rule and for the political independence and national sovereignty of their nation states – Ase!
Let their spirit NOT rest in peace – Ase!
Let them NOT rest in peace – Ase!
Rather, let them rise and rage against the injustices that were heaped upon them and the barbarity they suffered on account of white supremacy – Ase!
Let them rise and rage against the injustices and the ethnic penalty we continue to suffer to this day in Britain and other countries that continue to exploit racism, rather than expunging it from their very DNA – Ase!
Let them join us, inspire us, direct and vindicate us in our righteous struggle for reparatory justice – Ase!
Let them condemn and confound all those who insist that we should ‘get over it and move on’, while generation after generation they continue to enjoy the proceeds of hundreds of years of crimes against humanity and of genocide in Africa and its Diaspora – Ase!
We honour the spirit of Franz Fanon and remember his teaching that each generation makes its own history, even as it stands in the history of those who went before it – Ase!
‘Each age has its own part to play in its destiny, its own mark to leave on time. Each generation has its own mission to fulfil or betray’ – Ase!
We ask the Ancestors to inspire and guide us in our struggle for reparatory justice, as we leave our mark on time like rings around the trunk of the giant Iroko tree – Ase!
Let this be the significance of this monument in this place, at this time in post-Brexit Britain….. and for all time!
Ase! Ase! Ase!