What a day we had!
We began with the March Past at the war memorial in Windrush Square, Brixton – its third in total since being unveiled three years ago. It was truly spectacular while being an emotional experience with Maas Roy laying a wreath. While this was certainly a fitting tribute to those African, Caribbean and Asian military personnel who fought for our freedom during WW1 and WW2, those heroes, who made the ultimate sacrifice have been far less celebrated than their due. We will remember them always.
After a chance to thank and congratulate those we were blessed to meet there, it was over to Lambeth Town Hall to help out with (that was my privilege) and to have lunch with (that was Maas Roy) some 200 exceptional people. During the event, there was an exclusive screening of the absolutely must-see film, ‘Hero’ featuring the extraordinary life and times of the Trinidadian RAF veteran Ulric Cross. The film was introduced by his son, who also took part in the Q&A session along with director France-Anne Solomon, Dr Jak Beulah and facilitated by Paulette Germaine-Harris.
On this occasion, in Maas Roy’s words, it was “the perfect end to a perfect day” when we appeared as guests on Dotun Adebayo’s Remembrance Sunday programme on BBC Radio London. My father and I talked over what he might be asked but what else could we do but provide truthful answers to Dotun’s line of enquiry. We didn’t know exactly what he was going to talk about; there was no script, but we knew he’d read our book and Dad was prepared for that.
We were the first act on, if you like, and Dad got a chance to share a taste of his wit, sense of humour and experiences of being in a conflict zone. I felt it appropriate to talk about some of the effects of his experiences on us, as a two-member family unit, while I was growing up. This is something that one of Dotun’s callers, an ex-military veteran, felt comfortable enough to speak about on air later on, which was immensely emotive and his pain was palpable.
We felt honoured and humbled to be amongst the illustrious guests Dotun had invited on to his programme. There was:
Neil Flannigan MBE, an aged RAF serviceman who served in WWI and gave a great insight into the Black contribution in war conflicts and is recognised as one of the driving forces behind the West Indian Ex-Servicemen and Women’s Association, based in Clapham, London.
Nairobi Thompson, a gifted performer and poet, read a thought-provoking and emotional poem, which she had only completed that morning. Nairobi’s poem, in essence, forced us as human beings to ask why the contribution of animals in WWII is more recognised than that of Black service people.
Dr Jak Beulah, who was the leading force behind the war memorial in Windrush Square, Brixton. Jak is also responsible for us understanding the importance of putting up blue plaques for Black people who have made important contributions and have lived in the UK.
And lastly but certainly not least, Major Jared Flurry, an American serviceman from West Point who flew in specially from the US to offer his views. He felt the march past in Windrush Square was significant enough to warrant leaving his young family and possibly missing the Memorial Day celebrations back in the US the following day on the 11th November. Major Flurry’s knowledge of literature was nothing less than astounding and of course, he was in the best possible company with our terrific and erudite host, Dotun Adebayo!
I must say that the talks we had during the news breaks were phenomenal, including advice about our book, ‘Life According to Maas Roy’, from our host, and Major Flurry expressing his belief that it was up to artists (e.g. writers, artists, poets, filmmakers, playwrights etc) to now take over telling the story of how Black people contributed to the war effort.
Funnily enough, this was something Dad and I had talked about before going on air. For example, how people in Jamaica were required to give bananas, cows, sugar – any type of food stuff – to feed the British troops serving during wars.
In truth, the entire experience was all a little overwhelming and Dotun and his researcher Akua did a sterling job of bringing us all together. I got messages from people who said they were glued to their radios during Dotun’s show, totally incapable of leaving! I tried my best to capture this special time with photos but I think I forgot at a few crucial moments because the vibe in the studio was all too much – but in the best possible way!
Sunday 10 November 2019 8:00pm – Maas Roy preparing for the live interview.
Maas Roy waiting to be called into the studio
Maas Roy waiting to go live on air
Neil Flannigan MBE and Nairobi Thompson
Maas Roy with Dr Jak Beulah
Major Jared Flurry from West Point