1st August will forever be a special day for me – firstly because it is AFRICAN EMANCIPATION DAY and secondly because today is my birthday!
I am thankful to God for not only adding another year to my life but for also blessing me to be born on a day which recognizes the great legacy of those who have paved the way before us to make our life journey that little bit more smoother as we look to do the same as we grow in age. As I reflect on the significance of today and it’s meaning to those of the African diaspora of which I am proud to belong – two emerging figures come to mind who have in recent weeks ended their journey here on earth for the time being.
JOHN ROBERT LEWIS (21st February 1940-17th July 2020 – USA)
Civil Rights Activist – John Lewis – was laid to rest yesterday and was one of the remaining few to have been inspired by and worked alongside Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. Lewis not only impacted the Civil Rights Movement through the organization of the defining March on Washington in 1963 but also America and the world. For many years he was a valued member of congress which he also impacted while also being recognized for his daily fight for social justice in America with the ending of legalized racial segregation. He is one of the select few to have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – one of the highest accolades an individual can receive in America. Former US President, Barack Obama paid tribute to the inspirational legacy of this great man during his thanksgiving farewell service yesterday and while Lewis’ mission here on earth has now come to an end his star his shining ever so bright for all the world to see!
PAULETTE WILSON (1956-23rd July 2020 – UK)
Windrush Activist – Paulette Wilson – will forever be remembered as one who fought for the social justice of the Windrush Generation of African-Caribbean people who through the UK government’s hostile environment policy were being forced to return to the Caribbean Islands from which they came as children even though they had pay their taxes, laboured hard, birthed children who then birthed their grandchildren and in some cases great grandchildren and had themselves spent practically most of their lives in the UK. The revelation that the boarding passes they carried with them as children from the Caribbean to the UK was destroyed by home office officials was all the more shocking and exposed the unfairness and true injustices to be found within the system. Wilson was one of those who had endured such harsh treatment but because of her tireless campaigning for social justice many of the Windrush Generation have since been rightly allowed to stay in the UK, rightfully given full citizenship and in some cases been compensated for the physical, mental and emotional anguish experienced.
Wilson is one of a few, who, after campaigning for so long has now passed away with many suggesting that the stress related to the treatment which came from the hostile environment policy was the primary cause. What does count as true, however, is that without the likes of such inspiring figures as Paulette Wilson and John Robert Lewis – the turning point that many are beginning to speak about in this current day and age with regard to social injustice and race would not have been given the time of day had it not been for the bravery, determination and selfless acts on display by these two exemplary figures.
Gone but most definitely not forgotten – today we salute you both!
© Copyright 2020 – Darell J Philip