The Windrush

Valerie Mason-John

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Departing from Kingston, Jamaica, the British ship Empire Windrush

brought one of the first large groups of postwar Caribbean immigrants to

London in 1948

 

Dem did sey she pregnance

Cum a sea full a mi

Weighing har down eena har shoe dem

Dresses, coco, mangoes an baggy an arl

 

Dem did sey de ship nearly sink

Mi mumma nebah sleep a wink

Dem did sey Inglan full a promise

But arl mi mumma do a reminisce

 

She did stow away

An hide betwix de trunk dem

She cum doh

Coz mi puppa cum too

 

She stuff full a mi

An mi a gunna mek har rich

Har belly bulge stretch

Sea sick

Marnin sick

Home sick

 

She did hear sey London street 

Pave wid gold

But a wah kina Nancy story dis?

Obeah a play him tricks

Mi mumma an mi puppa a feel him licks

 

Mi mumma cry ebbry night

An scribbled bak home to har granny

London street dem pave wid sleet

An har granny scribble bak

Mi did tink yuh sail pon de Goldrush

No Granny, de Windrush

An de street pave wid sleet

 

Sleet? A wah dat?

Some kina of fancy name fi yuh man

Granny skrawl bak

 

Mi bawn pon de dot

Is wah appen to black peoples time?

Mi mumma arsk de nurse

Mi puppa sneer

Inglan is a bitch

 

Mek mi tell yuh Inglans crime

Nuh rice an peas

Nuh stew pot or dumplin

Nuh ackee an salt fish

Nuh cassava leaf

 

Mi mumma an mi puppa survive doh

Malnutrition

Humiliation

Interrogation

Assimilation

 

Welcome to de lan a honey an milk

De poster dem did sey bak a yard

Sweet honey an money

Obeah a play him tricks

A giv mi mumma an puppa pure licks

 

But mi gunna be arl right doh

Coz mi mumma pray fi har likkle pickne

Ebbry night, an mi grow jus fine

While mi granny curse

Coz de ongley gold she see when she cum a 

Farrin Inglan

Is de gold eena mi puppa teet

An de cuppa tea Lawd a wah dat?

Weh de bush tea? Ganja tea? 

 

 

Mi mumma she sing to mi ebbry night doh

she coo eena mi two ear dem

Arl har pickne a go be arl right

Despite de night

She set sail pon

De Windrush

 

 

 

 

Valerie Mason-John, "The Windrush" from I Am Still Your Negro : An Homage to James Baldwin. Copyright © 2020 by Valerie Mason-John. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: I Am Still Your Negro : An Homage to James Baldwin (Valerie Mason-John / University of Alberta Press, 2020)