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Jamaican Independence Day 2021

“Jamaican Independence Day, it helps bring people together. It’s a good thing for any culture, to bring people together. That is what we all need to be aiming towards”

Janet Taylor – RMC

In the first of a series of stories focusing on some of the cultures, heritage and countries we see here at RMC, we spoke to some members of our team with varying experiences on what it means to be “Jamaican” this Jamaican Independence day.

Sandra Samuel

Deputy Mayor of Wolverhampton

My father arrived in the UK in 1959 with a plan to work here for five years, then return back home. He’s now 92 and thinks of the UK as his home.

Jamaican Independence Day is important and I am immensely proud of the country. It’s a very small island that punches well above its weight. You only have to look at the current Olympics!

I think it’s important to keep sight of your roots. It’s a bit like a tree, its roots are so important and without them, it can not stand.

Those who came before us have made the UK the diverse place it is today. I want to applaud them, I can them my heroes and sheroes. They are the shoulders that myself, as the first deputy mayor of colour in 173 years, can stand on.


I was born at New Cross hospital in Wolverhampton. I consider myself British, but my parents came from Jamaica around the late 1950s. 

My dad came first because there were more job opportunities in the UK, then he asked my mom to join him. he worked as a laborer for many years.

I’ve been to Jamaica twice. I wanted to go and see where my parents came from. I heard their stories, but I wanted to experience it. Jamaica is an interesting place and lots of people recognised me as I walked around with my aunt because they had known my mother.

I saw my mom’s old house, although it was now falling down, ready to be demolished. I got to see what my parent’s upbringing would have been like, and how they lived. 

When it was dinnertime, my Uncle literally went outside and pulled the food from the trees, then cooked it up. Jamaica is relaxing with the right amount of hustle and bustle.

It’s strange, in the UK, I am seen as Jamaican, but in Jamaica, I am seen as British, as everyone could tell I wasn’t local straight away.

I don’t always feel the connections to the cultural food and traditions, but my husband is Jamaican, so our culture is a great mix of British, Jamaican, and whatever else we throw-in.

I may not have the strongest connections to Jamaica but it is, and always will be a part of me. 

I am Black British Caribbean. My parents are from the Caribbean, I am British born, so I get to mix their culture and values, with those I have gained from the UK.

My Dad arrived to the UK in his early twenties, back in the 1960’s. He met my mother in the UK who had also arrived from Jamaica in the 60’s to join her family who travelled before her. My Dad didn’t really intend to stay, but built a life and never left.

For my first holiday abroad, aged 24, I wanted to go see where my family came from. I had heard stories from my parents, so I wasn’t surprised when I arrived, but it was still taken aback. There were so many houses, that in the UK, we would class just as sheds! Wooden shacks that held a whole family.

I spent three weeks out with my uncle, seeing where my mother grew up in the countryside, and my father in the city. I then went back in 2010 and still wonder why my parents would leave the place! The greenery is amazing, there are things growing everywhere. Everyone is happy and does everything in their own time. The culture and atmosphere are the things that make it.

I’d never really thought too much about Jamaican independence, but if I spoke to my parents, I think they would say that it changed the country a lot. It gave it that culture, that atmosphere. But it may have taken away some of the structure around the place. It is still a day of celebrating though. To recognise where they came from, and where they are now.

Janet Taylor

Janet Williams:

My Mom and Dad were married in Jamaica and my Dad came to the UK in 1958, my Mom followed him the year after, they left 8 children behind them and 3 of them are still living in Jamaica today. My Mom and Dad were part of the Windrush Generation, they had good jobs already in Jamaica but wanted to come to the UK to aid the country rebuild after the war.

Mom and Dad did not really tell me too much about Jamaica, but my Mom always said that she wanted to go back as it was a peaceful and beautiful country. I have not been before, but my family still lives there. It is still not a wealthy country but the culture is brilliant. I would like to go one day and take my son and grandchildren. My favorite dish is Ackee and Saltfish, but I enjoy to cook many of the Jamaican dishes.

I was born in the UK and a lot of my Jamaican friends and family are proud that it is independent. However, a lot of the people I know who are from Jamaica originally do talking about returning home one day in their retirement.

Emma White

I was born in the UK, however, Dad was born in Jamaica and came to the UK in the 1950s. He came here to help the country recover from the war and was part of the Windrush generation. He had a large family, one of nine brothers and sisters, he and two brothers came to the UK, the rest remained in Jamaica.

Dad used to tell me about what it was like in Jamaica, he told me it was such a laid-back country with lots of fields. He explained that on his land he actually grew a lot of his own food and would climb the trees to pick the foods.

I went to Jamaica in 2017 as I wanted to find out more about my history and roots to share that with my children. I remember landing in Jamaica and was struck by how beautiful it was because of all the greenery and mountains. Driving to my resort, the route took us across the island and through many towns, there were a lot of half-built houses, although it was very interesting I was quite shocked as it was different to how my dad had explained, but the culture there is amazing and the people are so welcoming. What was also interesting was how many of their towns were named after UK towns.

Growing up, my dad and my grandfather, who was also from Jamaica, were very traditional and we would always have fish on Fridays, Saturday soup on Saturdays, and always curried goat on Sundays.

As I was born here, I don’t know what it was like, but my Dad and other family members are happy the country has its own independence. Being born in the UK and of mixed race, I have always felt welcome in the UK, however, this was different for my Dad, especially when he arrives. He said he feels more welcome now, but sometimes still faces difficulties

Wolverhampton is my home. I help to run a community centre which has been running for 40 years. I have been running it for 20 and it’s been a great success.

We support lots of the community. The city has supported us and we have supported the city.

There is a good Jamaican community in the city, but we are not just for black people, we are here for everyone. It’s about coming together.

We provide lots of training, floristry, computer skills, hat making. Lots of courses are available to people. The last 18 months have been very hard and we had to close due to the pandemic, but next year, we will be open again. We usually open sunrise to sunset when people need us.

Claudette Nembhard

Wolverhampton centre church community centre

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