Mark Blue

Mark Blue is a second generation African Caribbean British man born and raised in Manchester. He is the child of immigrants from Jamaica. Throughout his life he has been heavily involved in the African Caribbean community and advocated for social and cultural justice.

 

Mark is passionate about the need for people to understand the broader historical context and lasting impact of the legacy of slavery, not just to focus on recent events such as the Windrush Migration.

"Just looking at what they have been through is empowerment and their stories must live on"

What is your family's immigration story? What led to their decision to leave the Caribbean and come to the England?

In the 50s and 60s you have to remember that if you were not married, it was shameful. My mother was not married, and she came to England at 22. She already had 3 children, and she was pregnant at the time with another one. She came over here and it was a massive risk.

A lot of parents had to leave their children with their mothers, and you find that a lot of people in who are in their 50s and 60s who are Caribbean have grown up with their grandparents. That story of separation is very common, throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s people had to leave their children, hoping in the future, that they would be able to bring over the remaining children.

My mother never intended to settle in Britain longterm, like many others, she wanted to come over here make some money, go back to Jamaica and build a house. 

A lot of them got stuck, I don't think they realised what they were walking into when they came to Britain.

What caused people to get stuck in Britain?

Racism and finding a decent job were huge barriers. Finding the tools to succeed was huge. Growing up, I remember seeing all my white friends; they had all the information, they understood the system.

 

My parents had no access to information, there was no internet. It was not simple to get the money to go back home. They would have had to plan for a very long time, some of them are only just going back now, and they have been here 30 or 40 years.

 

For my mum, having children in England, who were settled into life, made it more difficult to go back. 

As a parent yourself, what do you think about the separation that many Caribbean families experienced at this time? 

I think about my bothers and sisters in Jamaica, who were not raised by my mum. When you talk about bonding with a child, you have to be with them to know them.

Its the same for brothers and sisters, I don't feel that I know my brothers and sisters in Jamaica as siblings. I don't know their characters well, what they like to eat, what is their favourite colour - those little things add up to make a lot of things. That is how you get to know someone.

These separations are broken homes, and this has gone on and on in the generations.

In the 50s and 60s a lot of people could not afford to look after their children, some children went into care. So imagine: you have kids in the Caribbean you didn't bring up, and kids over here in a children's home.

 

This had a huge mental impact, and how can we heal that? I find that you cannot heal it - but what happens is that Grandparents will say to themselves: 'okay, I failed my kids, but here is my second chance with my Grandkids'.

What is the legacy of the Windrush migration for second and third Caribbeans? 

Each generation has to try and change. Windrush happened, people were invited over here and it wasn't planned properly. There were many broken families. It was seen as okay at the time. People did not understand about mental health then. It was not an issue.

 

Now though, we have come to understand that going through that has caused mental health issues within the black community because you have a lot of broken families. Angry children without fathers. 

When you grow up in an environment like that, and you say to your friend: 'Where is your father?' and they say: 'I don't know my father.' You think, hold on there is a pattern here. Broken families have become normal over the generations.

 

I don't want to go that way, that is why I am married, and I am going to break that cycle, and I hope that my children will be able to break that cycle too.

What ways has growing up as a child of African Caribbean immigrants shaped you? 

I have come to understand that you cannot go through this without it having some kind of mental impact on you - but it is all about recognising that and not being a victim to it. This is my message: don't be a victim to circumstances. 

I look at the past and see the circumstances, we have had 400 years of slavery. We can talk about Windrush, but Windrush is just a little effect of what has happened, we need to talk about slavery and its whole effect on the black community.

What is the cure? We have to end racism, but there also has to be a self belief in ourselves to say 'we can achieve and the world can be a better place'.

This country was build on slavery and most communities who have been through some sort of historical devastation have had compensation for what has happened, but not us. 

When you think of the your parents what are you most proud of?

Survival. A lot of black families at the time were not small, maybe 8 kids, so you are dealing with the issues of bring up a family. When you go on the streets you are dealing with racism, getting work and getting opportunities. The fact is that they still stayed here. They still ran the buses. The hospitals were working. 

Considering what they have been through, it takes a lot of strength. I don't know if I could pack up tomorrow and say I could live in another country. I think that is so brave, I am in awe of all of them. To go to a foreign land and say 'yeah, I am going to bring up a family here.' Must have been absolutely terrifying. But they did it and succeeded and I am evidence of that.

Just looking at what they have been through is empowerment and their stories have to live on.

© 2020 by Windrush Generations.

Positive Steps at Brunswick Parish Church