I have a piece published in a new anthology, We Mark Your Memory, available in all good bookshops from May 2018!
The anthology is edited by David Dabydeen, Maria del Pilar Kaladeen and Tina K. Ramnarine and features writing from the descendants of indenture. My piece explores my identity as one such descendant growing up in Manchester, UK and the story of my own maternal ancestors who were in the nineteenth century shipped from India to the Caribbean (British Guiana, geographically in South America, though also part of the Caricom, an organisation of fifteen Caribbean nations). There, they toiled as indentured labourers on sugarcane plantations under the British Empire. My mother emigrated to the UK in 1969. Given the horrific treatment of the Windrush Generation, the stories collected in the anthology are horribly timely. We need to understand more than ever the hidden histories of the Commonwealth and British Empire, of how and why people of colour ended up living in the UK, and how we are here as a direct result of British colonial rule.
If you haven’t already you can sign the petition calling on the government to stop the barbaric treatment and brutal deportations of those who were invited as settlers and as British subjects, here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/216539
My own ancestors were shipped by the British under Empire to provide cheap labour on Caribbean plantations before then being invited to the UK to provide cheap service roles (my mother came to the UK to undertake a nurse traineeship). That immigrants are being treated in such an expendable and disposable way is heartbreaking.
I will also be giving a reading of my piece on Tuesday 17th April 2018 at the Commonwealth People’s Forum at the QE2 Centre at 5pm. The day is called ‘Politics of Hope: Taking on Injustice in the Commonwealth’.
NB. I might be smiling in this picture, taken at the London Book Fair when I first held in my hands a copy of the anthology, but the events which have since unfolded in the past week regarding the treatment of immigrants from the Windrush generation are harrowing, as are many of the stories collected in the anthology. As to the issue of the government demanding documentary evidence of existence, please read my piece on just how many documents have been deleted from history by the powers that be, and therefore how hypocritical such a demand is.
About the Anthology
From the back cover:
“The abolition of slavery was the catalyst for the arrival of the first Indian indentured labourers into the sugar colonies of Mauritius (1834), Guyana (1838) and Trinidad (1845), followed some years later by the inception of the system in South Africa (1860) and Fiji (1879). By the time indenture was abolished in the British Empire (1917–20), over one million Indians had been contracted, the overwhelming majority of whom never returned to India. Today, an Indian indentured labour diaspora is to be found in Commonwealth countries including Belize, Kenya, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles.
Indenture, whereby individuals entered, or were coerced, into an agreement to work in a colony in return for a fixed period of labour, was open to abuse from recruitment to plantation. Hidden within this little-known system of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Indian migration under the British Empire are hitherto neglected stories of workers who were both exploited and unfree. These include indentured histories from Madeira to the Caribbean, from West Africa to the Caribbean, and from China to the Caribbean, Mauritius and South Africa.
To mark the centenary of the abolition of the system in the British Empire (2017–20) this volume brings together, for the first time, new writing from across the Commonwealth. It is a unique attempt to explore, through the medium of poetry and prose, the indentured heritage of the twenty-first century.”
The book is published in conjunction with the Commonwealth Writers, Commonwealth Foundation, and School of Advanced Study.
Customers based in North America can pre-order the book from the University site here: https://bit.ly/2GAV2YR , or pre-order from your local bookstore (just ask the clerk behind the counter and it will be shipped once released April 30th).
Customers based everywhere else (UK, EU, Caribbean, Australasia, Asia, Africa) can pre-order from here.