Remembrance Sunday: Don’t Forget Our West Indian Heroes

WAR HEROES: Patrick Vernon OBE (second left) with Neil Flanagan MBE and members of the association
WAR HEROES: Patrick Vernon OBE (second left) with Neil Flanagan MBE and members of the association

AS WE commemorate Remembrance Sunday we must also recognise the contribution of millions of women and men from African, Caribbean, South East Asian, along with other Commonwealth nationalities who have served this country without proper acknowledgment since the Battle of Waterloo.

Also it is important to remember ex-service personnel who play an important role in civic and public life like Sam King MBE, Cllr Lincoln Beswick MBE and the late Connie Marks.

Although I was against the war in Iraq and question the impact of our involvement in Afghanistan, I still have the utmost respect for those young men and women who are committed to serving our country. We are lucky to learn about the heroics and courage of Johnson Beharry in Iraq who received the Victoria Cross. Sadly, many of our young men and women often in pursuit of a British passport from the Commonwealth have given their lives in these conflicts which ultimately need a political solution.

I was lucky to befriend the late Eddie Noble who wrote the ‘Jamaican Airman’ the first major biographical account of a black service man’s wartime experiences and the colour bar in 1950s.

This inspired me to make the documentary ‘A Charmed Life’ back in 2008 about Eddie and other ex-service men and women. On the back of my film in 2010 I worked on an inter-generational workshops where young people from North London interviewed war veterans, ex-service men and women from World War 2, Mau Mau, Burma, Falklands, Bosnia and Iraq.

The project Speaking Out and Standing Firm gave young people a better understanding of war and conflict and their own personal motivations around their future careers and personal development.

This year I worked with the Imperial War Museum as part of a film and research project on the Commonwealth contribution to WW1 & 2 acknowledging the BAME contribution and its legacy today around modern conflicts and the narrative of Britain as we move toward the centenary of WW1 in 2014.

A number of local authorities are signing up to the Armed Forces Covenant in supporting ex-servicemen and women and their families. From my experience working in health the key issues are support around mental health, employment and housing. I feel many black service men and women are getting a raw deal and not getting the support they need to integrate back in to civilian life.

That is why West Indian Association of Service Personnel (formerly West Indian Ex-Servicemen and Women’s Association UK) play a crucial role.

The association offers advice and support for African, Caribbean ex-servicemen, women and their dependents. They also provide advice about benefits, pensions, welfare rights, and social housing is also available. The association also offers counselling services and a lunch club for the elderly and disabled members of the community providing an opportunity to socialise. In addition; they provide transportation to and from the centre.

WIASP are undertaking a major fund raising programme to raise £1.4 million to acquire the building from Lambeth Council(It’s a pity that local authorities have stopped the principle of giving long leases and notional properties values to community organisations) and undertaking a major refurbishment building along with developing training and local resources for local people.

Also they are raising an additional £80,000 for a memorial statue in Windrush Square.

The association needs support from the community to help them in their endeavours. How often do we complain that we do not own our community buildings? Well! This is an ideal opportunity to either gift aid or make a straight donation and to support the work of this organisation.

Please contact the association below and help in any way you can.

Address: West Indian Association of Service Personnel, 161- 167 Clapham Manor Street, London, SW4 6DB

Telephone: 0203 601 2636


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