Each year, Black History Month (BHM) offers an opportunity to recognise the immeasurable contributions of black people to British society.
As we reach the end of BHM, here’s a recap on the annual thanksgiving service held at Southwark Cathedral and some of the events that took place at our churches to mark black history and campaign for racial justice throughout the month.
On Saturday 7 October over a hundred people came together for the sixteenth annual Black History Month thanksgiving service at Southwark Cathedral.
The vibrant service in partnership with the Southwark Diocesan Board of Education (SDBE), was an opportunity to explore this year’s theme Windrush 75, embracing the faith and legacy of the Windrush generation and recognising the foundations they have laid to shape the cultural landscape of Britain, embedded in society today.
During the thanksgiving service the congregation heard calypso music played by the Steelband from St Gabriel’s College and choral tributes by school children from the Croydon Minster Choir. Some stayed on after the service to join a poetry workshop and an interactive panel discussion titled Windrush 75: faith, legacy and heritage.
The poetry workshop led by Fola Adukeh and Lena Norman, invited participants to get creative and write their own poetry during a session entitled: the promise of a better life – opening up discussions about a time that resonates with them and when they had hoped for something greater or a promise of more.
The panel included Revd Dorothy Penniecooke, Eton McFarlane, Sonia McFarlane and Jason O’Shea. Facilitated by Revd Sandra Schloss, the discussion focused on how the next generation can take up the baton and explored how we, as a multicultural society, implement the lessons learned from the Windrush Generation.
Questions during the panel discussion delved into the importance of celebrating Windrush 75, key lessons to take from the generation and their experience. As well as, how these lessons can be identified in our schools, churches and communities to understand what’s missing in society and to continue learning from the experience of those who travelled to the UK from the Caribbean during 1948 and 1970.
Revd Dororthy Penniecooke, Minister at Ascension Balham
Revd Dororthy Penniecooke, Minister at Ascension Balham was born in Jamaica and moved to the UK with her husband in 1965. She became a member of became a member of Ascension in 1967 and was ordained as a priest in 2000.
In June of this year, Dorothy, alongside Philip Bull, Media and Comms Manager at Ascension, curated an exhibition to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the first Windrush arrivals. The exhibition explored the lives of those who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1970, the impact they have had on British society and the sacrifices they made. Many arrivals settled in the Clapham South area and Ascension Balham was one church that welcomed them.
An exhibition guide is available by emailing [email protected]
Jason O’Shea, Development Officer for Serious Youth Violence and Leader of Operation Forgiveness
Jason works part-time for the Diocese and full time for London City Mission leading the Operation Forgiveness team – a knife crime, early intervention preventative initiative.
Sonia McFarlane, Headteacher at St James Hatcham Primary School, Lewisham.
Sonia was born in south London in the late sixties. Her parents, Maizie McFarlane and Eton Lloyd McFarlane are both of Jamaican heritage and came to the UK in 1962 – both ambitious and highly valued education. They encouraged Sonia, who was deemed as ‘exceptionally bright’ as early as five years old. This gave Sonia the drive to achieve her degree, become a teacher, then Math’s Leader, Deputy and eventually Headteacher at St James.
Black History has been woven into the school’s primary curriculum reflecting the values of its history curriculum – and recognises the contributions of all. Learning about the history of Windrush didn’t just start in October – it has been part of a key event in the history of the school – with the opening of its first museum. Work on the museum began in 2021 where children in Year 5 created a mural of Sonia’s Father, as a young 20-year-old man. During a visit to the school, the late Bishop Karowei was highly impressed with the work done in the Museum so far and recommended the mural feature at Southwark Cathedral to mark Windrush 75. Sonia and her father attended the national service of thanksgiving in July and were moved by the event and the feature of the mural in the booklet. Read the full article about the museum here in the Bridge.
“Work will continue on the Museum for the rest of the year in partnership with Goldsmiths University and our joint focus on identity, being and belonging – using stories from the local history of New Cross resistance and its monuments to empower our pupils and community.”
The completion of the St James Hatcham Museum is scheduled for March 2024 and will feature contributions of the stoic West Indian pioneers and Windrush 75.
Eton Lloyd McFarlane
Eton Lloyd McFarlane is one of seven children born in Jamaica to Maude Grant. He came to ‘The Motherland’ at the tender age of 20 years old joining his eldest brother in Brixton and leaving his mother who waved him off with the command, “Don’t look back”.
His first work experience in Britain was on a building site helping to rebuild much needed housing in London. He remembers the coldness of the weather and how his hands would be so frozen in the bitter cold that it was hard to take the money out of his pocket to give to the bus conductor.
After six months, he applied for a job with British Railways, answering the call for the shortage of railway men. He remained in this job for the next 44 years carrying out shift work, often for 14-hour days, seven days a week.
As the father of five growing children and a wife who remained at home to raise the family, he would often do overtime and only ever took one day off work. His strong work ethic was passed on to his children all of whom worked hard at school to uphold the McFarlane name.
He retired at 65 years old and during his retirement, he continues to support his family helping with cooking meals, which includes the family favourite – chicken with rice and peas, playing dominoes and cards (often with a swig of his favourite tipple) and listening to politics. In 2022, he officially opened the St James Hatcham Museum dedicated to the pioneers of The Windrush.
He remains an advocate for hard work and social justice and is a supporter of the Labour party.
Here’s a look at what else took place in the Diocese
A wonderful month of learning and celebration at St Oswald, Norbury
On Saturday 14 October St Oswald, Norbury held an event for Black History Month entitled ‘The Power of the Pen’ to recognise the power of writing to open minds and inspire change. It paid tribute to writers of African and Caribbean heritage, past and present – whose work has transformed thinking and furthered the cause of social justice and equality for all.
Two published authors, Rosanna Amaka and Nicola Williams, gave powerful readings and discussions of their work, and there were moving performances of the work of other inspirational writers.
There were excellent multicultural books, cultural crafts and tasty food available, and the event was well-attended and a great success.
Vee Benn, from the Black History Month Planning Group at St Oswald said, “It was marvellous to see people relishing the craft of writers, excitedly buying real books and being inspired to document their own stories.”
During the month, the Sunday congregations at St Oswald’s have also enjoyed performances of spiritual music by Black composers from the choir and Ann Hubble, Musical Director.
Praying for justice
The congregation at St John, Angell Town held a moving service to mark Windrush 75 during Black History Month. The service was an opportunity to give thanks and pray for the Windrush generation, call for justice and an end to racism and discrimination.
In a post on ‘X’ Bishop Martin said, “It was moving occasion where I felt the spirit of the Windrush generation was alive and well at St John’s Angel Town. Let hope arise and God’s kingdom of justice and healing come!”
A heartfelt and spiritual gathering
St John The Evangelist, Angell Town held their Centenary Anniversary Celebration.
Revd Robert Faulkner, Priest-in-Charge said, “’St. Johns Angell Town provided an excellent opportunity to host a 75th Windrush Thanksgiving Service, attended by local MPs and Councillors for Angell Town and surrounding areas. Led by Bishop Martin, the service was a heartfelt and spiritual gathering where family and friends of the Windrush generation came together to express gratitude and offer prayers for forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation.”
Inspired by Heritage
At St Peter, Battersea the church celebrated Black History Month with a bring and share lunch the morning service on Sunday 22 October. Church members were encouraged to bring in dishes inspired by their heritage/cultural background and to dress in traditional outfits. Those in attendance enjoyed dancing off the calories to a diverse range of music.