Angela Nation Barnes. Windrush Cymru: Our Voices, Our Stories, Our History 2019

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Transcript of oral history interview with Angela Nation Barnes, discussing her experience of growing up within a family which migrated from the Caribbean during the 1970s. Angela Nation Barnes was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in She docked in Southampton with her dad aged 13 in 1971.

Date of Interview: August 29th 2019
Length of interview: 30:33

Part 1 [00:00:00]
My name is Angela Barnes and I was born in 1956. My parents' names were Lolita and Lionel Nation, and I was born in Kingston Jamaica.  From what I recall, and I'm not gonna remember every single thing, but I know that I had a good childhood. I was brought up in church to attend Sunday school and I know that that was good for me that was a good seed planted in my life for present that I'm dealing with now, and I went to a girls school St John's girls school, I'd won a scholarship to go to Excelsior high school, I got a scholarship because I passed the exam to go into that school, there was an examination entry but I didn't go because I was preparing myself to come over here to my dad.

Part 1 [00:02:25]
I can't remember right back onto my near child,  when I was four years of age, but I'm just speaking from, like, say, when I was 12.  I was aged 13, but the process started from age 12, 1971. I know my journey in Jamaica,  from what I can remember it was a very, very happy time more than I would say here, it was a very happy childhood and I enjoyed my family's company and of course  there were times that it was rough and difficult, but I was still happy. I was still happy to be there because of course we know that it is an  island of sun and beaches and those were enjoyable, to look forward to going to the beach or going to the Christmas market because our Christmases were more outdoors. You just went in to eat and of course we used to go to the Christmas market to buy our Christmas toys which is different from here. Your Christmas is brought to you in the house with your family but you are still family based, but it was more outdoors and friends would get involved as well. It wasn’t  a strictly just family like in this country, you have just a family based thing at Christmas from and what I can remember, I had in my mind as my future ambition to become a stenographer however I never got to that. I diverted when I came here.  I just liked the name, I knew more about the name than the job, but I just wanted to be a stenographer and it's a shame I didn't get to do that. But things changed after I came to England to my dad.

Part 1 [00:05:07]

I came on the ship actually which I cherished because I did not make the decision. It was made between my mom and dad, but I am glad for the experience because it was a nice experience. My mum stayed in Jamaica. It took  three weeks and we stopped in Tenerife and we stopped in Vigo (sp?) in Spain and we stopped in South America, Venezuela, and those were the three stops, but it was exciting. It was like I suppose, going on a cruise. I haven’t been on a cruise but I've had experience of travelling on a ship and stopping off in different countries.  I docked in Southampton

Part 1 [00:06:10]

The first week of course,  you feel sick because the ship is actually moving fast on the water and the air from the water as well. Of course, things are going round in your tummy because you are walking, you can’t walk steadily, but then after a while,  after a week it was okay because, of course, my body got used to it.  One experience was that the food was very nice and that's when I started eating Jacob's cream crackers because I didn't know about them. When I was in Jamaica I ate  Excelsior crackers which have a different sort of taste, the food was nice but there was once when I asked what meal was this and they said sharks liver,  and I said ‘oooh I don’t want it’. So I mean, that was the only thing that I didn't eat when I was on the ship, but it was a nice journey.  I met nice people, a Trinidadian lady I met, but of course down the years, you lose contact and so then I was guy came over to Britain and we were in Southampton on the way back to Wales, and  I said ‘ oh I’m in a freezer it’s so cold, I want to go back’  and you know you find there was with a culture shock,  for me in the wintertime, and of course, then I remember my first meal of steak and kidney pie and I thought ‘Oh, this is quite nice’ , but of course, not knowing that it would be a big change of food because of course I'm out of my country where  I'm used to chicken and rice and peas, and Ackee and Saltfish,  and I'm not saying  that you can't do that here, but it doesn't taste the same, so it was a culture shock for me and I was coming over with my brother but my brother was older than me, so he  didn't have to stay with my dad but I had to stay with my dad until I am of age.


Part 1 [00:08:15]
I have three brothers and one sister. But of course I came over with one and two was left in Jamaica and my sisters well just myself and my brother before me came to my dad and it was a café where of course they did cook rice and peas and that it wasn't the same rice and peas and chicken. My dad owned a  café in Bute Street,  Nations Café so they used to come and play  dominoes there. There were a lot of Irish people coming there because we do Irish stew which they liked. What I liked about that, my dad was very hospitable, even though they didn't have any money, some of them, to buy their meal and he would give them a meal which I thought was very nice and it was that kind community spirit to help those who didn't have. But then I could only stay there for just a little while, because of the fact that there were too many men coming there. I didn't want to leave my dad but I had to go into an adoption sort of thing, fostering so I stayed with a few different people. I stayed with this lady named Sadie, she’s dead now. They were not black people, but they were very nice to me and I stayed with another lady called Maureen, this was all around the Butetown area, she was very nice to me. She was a good cook. Although she wasn’t from the West Indies, she cooked rice and peas and chicken, very nice. I still say to her I’m going to visit her house for a meal. They treated me well, I can't say that I have a bad thing to say, they were like parents, yeah, and she’s still alive,  Maureen and I appreciate what she had done, she’s from the bay, but she never let me feel any different, and she was from the Bay and I had experiences with other people from the bay who like said to me, my own black people they weren’t Jamaicans, but they were black and told me to get back to Jamaica, get back to my own country and ganged up on me.


Part 1 [00:10:55]

I don't know, I fight my way out of it but that’s  the only way I could get release from it, however, I forgive them because I know that I am the life I'm living now as a Christian I am able to forgive and I have made mistakes because I'm human, but I know only God is perfect, but I came to the Lord, and I used to go to clubs and, I used to cook sometimes fry dumpling and saltfish, and most most of the guys knew me from down the bay, because they like my cooking.  This wasn’t in the cafe because I was young then, but when I got on my own. I remember all  that I was taught from home. Of course, creating my own recipes as well and so I used to cook when we used to go to the blues I would cook there and give fried dumplings and saltfish, but I have cooked rice and peas and chicken and so forth.

Part 1 [00:12:17]

Starting from there, enjoying cooking, cooking was my passion because even though I'm disabled,  I can sit down and somewhat with someone helping me now I'm okay.  Then I venture out and I went to Fitzalan High school, it was a good school. I did learn a lot. I came second in accounts and I so sorry that I didn't take up that subject further, because now maybe I could have been a chartered accountant, but I just wanted to work to gain money.  In school I have had the cane because I was  late but I did get caning in my hand which I got in Jamaica as well so I knew about it but I mean, of course, it's not a nice feeling. I did pass some in-school exams with my colleagues but didn't take up any examination as such.


Part 1 [00:13:48]
I was part of the community for my cooking, then yeah, after I left school and I went to Littlewoods pools to work and it was nice there because they sent us on holiday.  Cecil Moore was the director of Littlewoods pools and sent us to Scotland, to one of his houses there and spent time there.  Within that time, I saw that I was pregnant, but it was enjoyable because in Littlewood's pools I had second place in Miss Littlewoods pools. Yes, so it started from there and so many of those photos I haven’t got now, moving about. Things get lost as well. That  was my first competition and then further down in the 70s, I came second in Miss Butetown in the bay, and that's my two awards  then in the beauty pageant side of things. I was taking different courses because I found that yes, good to have some ambitions. I didn't really want to be pregnant but I became pregnant but I still took a lot of different courses which you can see on the table and built myself up from there and built myself up in the community, not knowing that I would be coming into place as a Windrush Elder and had community awards with them, and I've also had a high Sheriff award. Uzo has been very helpful to me and my family and she thinks of us. I found that that built me up because Uzo helped to build up confidence because coming from a negative situation which I've had in the Bay and I've had good experiences as well. It's nice that someone in a position like that, would want to sort of promote people. There's other people in the community who have been supportive to me after Uzo, like Maria from woman connect first and because I used to work there as a computer tutor, step-by-step, not it was a still a special area like basic computer skills build up from there, had other certificates left Littlewoods pools and I went to Barnardos to work, it was very promising, but I got made redundant, then I went to a receptionist work and got made redundant again and I just thought it’s time for me to, and went into the admin work over the head office of Barnardos in Cardiff, then got made redundant, so maybe about 2- 3 times I got made redundant so I moved on from there and I am now working at British Gas, as a customer service assistant but I was working with conduit before which was contracted by British Gas.  British Gas, is a bit more promising, some of the bosses which I was really close to in Conduit,  when the redundancies were going on they left to go other places, so of course lost track of them.  I’ve had some experience which I did not expect, but coming to British Gas is sort of a blessing as well because we get free cereals, free fruits free coffee and discounts as well. I think coming from a different country has affected me, because it is a different way of life, different culture, different country.


Part 1 [00:18:08]
I didn't know about prejudices and that you know, disliked because of your colour and from your own people as well. When I said I encountered ‘go back to Jamaica’ and that was the Bay community and I've experienced it in work, at Littlewoods when I was working there, because they thought  to isolate me.  They never actually called me a name but they isolated me.  They just  did not speak to me. They just grouped themselves the majority and that wasn't very nice so I experienced racism may be indirect, but which wasn’t very nice but I still lived through, because I had belief in God,  I had faith, and that's what keeps me going, even now, when I face negative situations.


Part 1 [00:19:19]

I’ve lived here quite a long time,  so I’ve sort of adapted  to things and being a British citizen, but I still miss home.  I wish I could go home every year. Second, sometimes my accent is very strong in Jamaican, but I of course in the culture. In my heart I feel Jamaican I thank God for the support that I've had some of the support I've had in Britain.


Part 2 [00:00:00]

I used to get  home sick,  cry for my mother and I want to go back home. When I had my daughter, It was like a change in my life because she was just so sweet and so forth. And now she's 40. She was born in 1978. So now she's forty and I have a grandson that's 22 and  they are both lovely in their own way and helpful and support me with my disability and, of course, you know, sometimes I have carers and that's been very helpful for me because just being  fit and then finding out that your health deteriorates because you've got anaemia and different things like that, and I’m diabetic. It's hard to deal with and other disabilities along with it, but I just don't give in to them. I try to fight them and I think because I look after myself and look good people have the impression that I'm making it up, but I'm not. I am ill, but it's internal so maybe because my face looks good…  their attitudes speak louder than words. Sometimes in some sarcasm that they use only that makes me feel that way, but I must say, for some time I go through severe chronic pain and then sometimes you have too much medication that is not good for you as well because I can ’t really get all that fresh stuff like you get in Jamaica, organic stuff and all those plants,  more variety than here.


Part 2 [00:01:58]
I've been  back to Jamaica on holidays, a few times. When I’m there I think I'm back home and I really don't want to come back. But then I have  to come back to my family, my daughter, my grandson, and of course my husband is here. If they would want to come back, because of the different upbringing, I would take them there. My grandson is not too much wanting to go back. As such, because he don't know the place because he only went there when he was a baby, but my daughter does, she would go back. My faith keeps me going, because if I wasn’t  in the church I think that I would be isolated,  and I’m thankful for the Windrush Elders as well because we come together and do things, but I would be isolated because of having a Christian family and I'm not saying we don't have our difficult times, but it's very nice because we can pray together, we can say our experiences together, it is solid and healthy, it’s a healthy upbringing. I did not imagine I would become an Elder in this country. I did not know what being an Elder would feel like as I would have done a lot more that would have been more effective in my life.  I have regrets,  because I like to be independent. I could have been more independent if maybe I’d purchased property in the sense that that could be like rented out and help me because I really don't like to,  the  word is sponge off the benefits. I would really like to have my own financial help, but you know that's not what happened, but still is still a provision for God's I thank him, you know even just for me getting benefits to help me.


Part 2 [00:04:32]
The advice I would give myself is that if I could have stayed in Jamaica and done more for myself, but I was young then  and I wanted to give  my Momma relief as well for my dad to take it, he’s been over here for a while for him to do, although he’s  been supporting  to do some more for me because my mother's at me all that time and I mean I've watched her really work hard to help us. So I would have loved to have stayed in Jamaica and become maybe based ina ???  a ???? post  or maybe become a manager or some director or something like that so I could have lived off that money because then I wouldn't have to come here, but as I came here I still made the most of it by gaining certificates, gaining friends, you know, gaining community friendship having my community awards that has made me feel really good,  because when I show it to people, one of my bosses was saying something funny to me the other day and I said, well, the community doesn't think that, here is my award.  So I had something to make him think because he was trying to embarrass me in front of agents and I just said here's my award from the community so the community doesn't think that's a concern.


Part 2 [00:06:21]

I have been through some tough times and I am cast down, but not defeated, like the Lord has given the strength to get back up even sometimes with my health I don’t feel strong enough when his give me that strength to come back up and fight for the good and think positive and move on for my children. I think the future holds for me, I would love to… because I have written poetry and songs,  my daughter is a good singer,  I'd like her to sing some of my songs  that I've written , some I've lost and I would like to be of help in my community. I like to raise funds for my community. I've raised funds for the sickle cell society in the hospital and I raised nearly £200 and when I had difficulty in that sickle-cell yes, but I mean I won’t say too much about that. I'm hoping I will get better, but it's something that people have from birth, and of course I have got other disabilities, but helping them earning nearly up to £200 and which was from collection boxes which I gave in town thanks to others who helped Conduit,  where I used to work which is the same British Gas but contracted to British Gas and I hope to do more am giving out collection boxes to earn more for different things, even for the Windrush.


Part 2 [00:08:25]

I enjoyed my ambition in wanting to  achieve all these  certificates because those uplift me and make me feel good that I've done something good and it makes my daughter and my grandson feel good and that has helped them to gain their certificates that they haven't got altogether where they are going on their journey, but they've appreciated it that I've been like the backbone for them in that way, and my daughter, they are both very gifted and bright, and I thank God for that and they've done things for the Race Council Cymru and they've also had awards,  work for radio Cardiff and my grandson has cared for my daughter through prayer, and Elders praying for her in the church she's been healed from fibromyalgia. The doctors have given medicines and sometimes you get … but they  prayed for her and she doesn't have it anymore since last year 2018. She came in a wheelchair. She went out skipping.  When she went home and of course God did touch her again. I'm not saying she's - sometimes she still gets certain things, but I mean she, I believe that we can have total healing, but it depends on what God wants to do.  Yes I am a missionary, I do lay hands and people have said that they feel the lord working through this. I thank God for that is nothing for my glory it is  for God's glory, but as a missionary that that's a great achievement for me because I want to buy the school and had a distinction in one of my marks and I became a missionary in the church doing missionary work so that I do. That's a great achievement for me as well.