Every generation lives a new manifestation of the experiences of the previous one. Often it is difficult for us to see how much we mirror the actions and ideologies of our forefathers. This four-part series aims to be both a mirror and a looking glass. As you, the reader, look at the lives of the Windrush generation, it is hoped that you will be able to see your reflection and gain an appreciation for how their courage and sacrifice has shaped you.
The most prominent buildings in this town are made of coral stone and brightly painted. Their balconies brush each other like chossels in an illicit affair. Its wrought iron design is intricate, bending and curving over and around itself. The Constitution River runs up into the Careenage which is just behind the high street, Broad Street. There, young men in white shirts and folded pants bring the lighters ashore to clean them.
When the town wakes, horse-drawn buggies crowd the dusty streets. Some are carrying heavily salted cod from the coast of Newfoundland, and cheese from the milk of cows that graze on the plains of New Zealand as well as lamb, butter and corn beef. Others are laden with bolts of cotton and silk from India, some single coloured and others multi-coloured; from these, women will make blinds, bedding and with the nicest of the fabric, dresses.
On a small side street, a mass of women in long cotton dresses with puffy sleeves that reach their wrist go about their dailies. Some have empty baskets casually slung over their arms; others have full trays balanced on their heads. A bread man pushes along his cart filled with the fresh pastries for the day.
The street is home to a cluster of small two-storey establishments. One of them is a black-owned grocery called Eudora’s. The grocery is downstairs, and the owner lives upstairs. Inside, a young man is climbing the stairs into the home of his employer for the first time. He is tall and of a slim build with a small afro. When he reaches the top, he is greeted by big eyes. They belong to a woman of plump build. She has a small waist and thick, wide hips.
“Good afternoon ma’am, name’s David.” He outstretches his hand. “Eudora sent me to collect today’s deliveries.”
She wipes her hands on the apron that covers her pink dress. It has circles of blue and white flowers on it.
Shaking his hand, she says, “Gwen, well, Gwendolyn but everyone calls me Gwen.”
* * *
The night’s air is cool and crisp. The tangy, salty scent of the Constitution River lingers overhead. A crowd of people are gathered outside the whitewashed coral stone building. The lights from inside the looming structure cut the stark darkness. Its impressive neon sign reads ‘Globe’ and inside, a small cluster of workers prepare for the next batch of viewers. They sweep the floor of popcorn and prepare the 35-millimetre reels. Standing across from the entrance, David nervously fidgets with his tie. He drops the box of chocolates he holds in his hands when he sees her.
Gwen walks towards him in a purple and grey pleated dress. David pats his head with his handkerchief, places it back in his coat pocket and fixes his tie.
“Good evening Gwen, I’m really glad that you could make it.” He smiles nervously.
“I’m really glad you invited me.”
Gwen takes his arm and they cross the road together joining the mass of people who are lined outside. The gates open and they slowly mill into the building paying their 12 cents each to sit in the pit. He pays for her. They nestle together as the other patrons take their seats. There is a buzz in the room. The hum of the projector pierces the noise, and the screen comes to life. As the fillers are projected, everyone goes quiet. First, an advertisement from a local business hoping to capitalize on this massive audience is shown; then a short documentary from the mother country. Finally, the movie starts.
Part two will be published on Monday.
Jade M. Gibbons is a writer and film-maker with a passion for telling stories that matter. To find out more visit https://www.jadegibbons246.com