Just months after Prince William and Kate Middleton’s tour of the Caribbean was met with protests and negative headlines, the duke and duchess are expressing their appreciation for the U.K.’s Caribbean diaspora. To honor Windrush Day, which commemorates an important day in the history of immigration to the country, William and Kate visited a new National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station in London. William also gave a speech where he discussed the trip and mentioned ongoing realities of discrimination.
“Our trip was an opportunity to reflect and we learned so much — not just about the different issues that matter most to the people of the region, but also about how the past weighs heavily on the present,” he said, according to the Mirror. “Sadly, that is also the case for members of the Windrush Generation who were victims of racism when they arrived here. And discriminations remains an all too familiar experience for Black men and women in Britain in 2022.”
The new monument features a man, woman, and child standing on a suitcase and was designed by Jamaican sculptor Basil Watson. Kate wore a familiar Alexander McQueen suit, and according to Page Six, she accessorized with earrings that came from Chalk, a Black-owned brand.
Windrush Day is named after a ship carrying migrants from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and other islands, which arrived in London to fill a post-war labor shortage in 1948. Many people of Black descent in Britain can trace their ancestry back to the wave of immigration that the ship’s arrival represented, collectively called the Windrush Generation. The day became a government observed day in 2018, after widespread immigration discrimination against mostly Caribbean immigrants and their children was uncovered by The Guardian and a handful of politicians. It became known as the Windrush scandal, and in April 2018, then-Prime Minister Theresa May apologized for its effects.
William also mentioned the scandal and what it said about British society. “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 U.K. and as well as in many of the Caribbean nations,” he said. “Therefore, alongside celebrating the diverse fabric of our families, communities and our society as a whole—something the Windrush generation has contributed so much to—it is also important to acknowledge the ways in which the future they sought and deserved has yet to come to pass.”
Soon after the event, Guardian journalist Amelia Gentleman, who was instrumental in reporting the Home Office policies that began the scandal, praised the royals for observing the day, but pointed out that there is still more to do. “It’s great that a Windrush monument has been unveiled by royals,” she tweeted. “But much work still to be done to meet the promises made when the Home Office scandal exploded four years [ago].”
During the March tour, William and Kate learned of Jamaica’s intention to remove Queen Elizabeth as their head of state. William used his speech to emphasize a previous statement that these decisions should be made by the populace. “Our trip was an opportunity to reflect, and 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 said. “I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon.”
The queen, who held an in-person meeting with New South Wales’s governor Margaret Beazley on Wednesday, also honored Windrush Day with a statement. “The unveiling at Waterloo Station on Windrush Day serves as a fitting thank you to the Windrush pioneers and their descendants, in recognition of the profound contribution they have made to the United Kingdom over the decades,” it read. “It is my hope that the memorial will serve to inspire present and future generations, and I send you my warmest good wishes on this historic occasion.”
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