Derby pastor recalls racist abuse he received after coming to the UK

This post first appeared on Derby Telegraph. Read the original article.

A Derby pastor has told of the horrific racism that he experienced when he moved to the UK as part of the Windrush generation.

Pastor Keith Channer was among the many people who made their way to the UK from islands in the Caribbean during the 1960s and 70s.

The migrants became known as the Windrush generation.

When he arrived in December 1960 from Montego Bay, Jamaica, Mr Channer moved to West Bromwich to live with his sister.

While many arrivals from the Caribbean went into rented properties, Mr Channer said he was grateful that he didn't have to do that.

The pastor recalled numerous "To Let" signs outside of rented properties which said "no dogs, no Blacks, no Irish".

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Mr Channer said: "I came here in December 1960, I had my sister here and some relatives here, they wanted me to come.

"When I decided to come there was no continuity of work in Jamaica.

"You'd get six months and then you're laid off and then get some more work.

"There were lots of advertisements in the papers in Jamaica that there were jobs in England, over the radio you would hear it as well.

"Travel agencies were coming to Jamaica at the time and they would advertise jobs and get you to move to England.

"You would go anywhere if you know that there were jobs and we were invited."

When he travelled over to England in the 1960s, Mr Channer did so as a British citizen as part of the Windrush generation.

In 1948, the British Nationality Act gave citizenship status and the right to settlement in the UK to anyone who was a British subject.

These included people born in British colonies such as Jamaica and India, among others.

Describing his first impressions of the UK, he said: "It was cold and dreary, I was used to wearing maybe two layers of clothing at the most, just a shirt and a vest.

"But when I came here it was an overcoat, a cardigan, a shirt and two layers underneath, it was cold and smoky.

"At the time there was a lot of fog, thick fog that you could almost feel and winters with foot long icicles hanging down."

Keith Channer pictured with his wife Alice and their first child in 1965

Mr Channer took on jobs at construction sites around Birmingham as a contractor where he had first hand experiences of racism.

He said: "One that stands out to me was when I was working for a construction contractor and there was a digger driver there.

"He would say to me 'you better go back to your jungle'.

"I don't know of any jungles in Jamaica, there's more jungles in the UK than in Jamaica.

"Another time, I was carrying some timber planks on my shoulder and he took the digger, wheeled it around and hit the timber off my shoulder.

"I cried."

Back then, Mr Channer said people "associated all Black people with Africa" and "all Black people were called Jamaicans".

"Even if that isn't where they were from, any story you hear of anybody committing a crime they were Jamaican," Mr Channer added.

"People even asked me sometimes whether Africa is in Jamaica, they were so ignorant."

Mr Channer became a Christian at the age of 17 and his faith followed him on his journey to the UK, where he became a minister.

In 1978, he moved to Burton to serve as a pastor at the New Testament Church of God for 11 years, before he was moved to Derby to serve as a local and District Pastor.

He said that while his dealings as a minister were "mostly with Carribbean people" he had interactions with local communities too.

Keith Channer, now retired, has been a pastor at different churches in Derby and Burton, and served as the District Pastor for a number of years

When he relocated his congregation to a church in Brighton Road, in Alvaston, Mr Channer described the local reaction as "difficult".

He said: "It was 1994, I tried to integrate into the community as best as I could, we had opposition when we bought the church.

"In a sense it was racism, because it was a predominantly white area and you have a black congregation coming in, they would give you some problems.

"One day we had a service and there were too many cars in the car park, so me and my wife had to park on the street and someone slashed our tyres.

"They behaved in difficult ways but we tried to show to them that we were not aggressive people or those who were against them."

Until 1971, commonwealth citizens such as Mr Channer were allowed to travel to the UK and work freely, as British citizens.

This ended with the 1971 Immigration Act, when Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain.

After this, a British passport-holder born overseas could only settle in the UK if they had a work permit first.

They were also required to prove that a parent or grandparent had been born in the UK.

However the government at the time didn't issue any legal paperwork to those who had been granted leave to remain.

This lead to the Windrush Scandal of 2018, which resulted in lots of people who were part of the Windrush generation being wrongly threatened with deportation or prison.

During that decade, Mr Channer made it a priority for him and his wife Alice, 79, to get their British citizenship so they could be dual citizens of both Jamaica and Britain.

Because of this, the 83-year-old said he has not suffered the same treatment as many individuals who came over as part of the Windrush generation.

Mr Channer said: "My wife and myself took citizenship, although I am in disagreement with how people were treated and are being treated now, I reminded people from the pulpit every Sunday to get out their British citizenship.

"I've heard the stories, I've read them week after week, it's sad, I don't expect the government to treat those people the way they are treating them.

"But if they had taken it out they would've been able to stay, I used to say it every Sunday morning to my children from the pulpit."

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The citizenship process cost roughly £70 when Mr Channer applied but successive Governments, in particular the Conservatives hostile environment policy, has increased the cost.

Mr Channer added: "We came here as British citizens but then the government said that was no longer valid.

"I had to buy what I was, I didn't give it a thought at the time but only in hindsight I realised I was British and I had to buy what I was."

Since moving to his Burton home 39 years ago, Mr Channer said the situation for Black people in this country has "improved."

He said: "I think there have been improvements because of laws as well, what people could've said to you in the 60s they can't say it to you now.

"They would be in trouble, there's laws that every successive government has brought in, we are feeling comfortable living here, I've heard stories but we can't complain."

The retired pastor, who has four adult children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren now spends time keeping fit and is still involved in the church.

https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/local-news/derby-pastor-recalls-racist-abuse-4255411