Paulette Wilson: Windrush campaigner’s life honoured with ceremony and plaque

Wolverhampton's Windrush campaigner Paulette Wilson has been remembered at an emotional ceremony in the city she called home.

Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Greg Brackenridge with friends and family of Paulette at the unveiling of the blue plaque
Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Greg Brackenridge with friends and family of Paulette at the unveiling of the blue plaque

Paulette died last year, just a month after delivering a petition to Downing Street to call on the government to deliver justice to the thousands affected by the Windrush scandal.

In 1968 she had arrived from Jamaica as a 10-year-old girl, before making her home in Heath Town.

Friends and family gathered to honour her life with the unveiling of a permanent blue plaque memorial at Wolverhampton Heritage Centre in Whitmore Reans. The funds for the plaque came from surplus money donated to a fund to remember the mother and grandmother, who had faced deportation.

The plaque carries the phrase 'Likkle but Tallawah', a Jamaican phrase meaning 'Little, but Powerful'
Photos and flowers of Paulette Wilson were displayed during the celebration of her life

Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Greg Brackenridge, said the plaque celebrated the life of the 64-year-old and also marked the Windrush campaign.

It is only the second blue plaque to be installed in Wolverhampton for a person of colour, following Rev Oliver Lyseight, the founder and leader of the New Testament Church of God (UK) in 2013.

There was a symbolism to the unveiling of the blue plaque in honour of Paulette, coming on Windrush Day and being unveiled on the side of the Wolverhampton Heritage Centre, once the headquarters of Enoch Powell MP.

Natalie Barnes, Paulette’s daughter, spoke

The topics of the infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech by Powell and the Windrush scandal were highlighted through the speakers on the day, led by social campaigner Patrick Vernon and deputy mayor of Wolverhampton Councillor Sandra Samuels.

Mr Vernon spoke passionately to those in attendance, which included members of the Windrush generation and family members of Paulette, about the hostile environment and how the work of the likes of Paulette Wilson should never be forgotten.

His speech followed those by the mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Greg Brackenridge, who said the Mayor’s office stood with everyone affected by the Windrush scandal and the former mayor, Councillor Claire Darke, who had helped to begin the process of getting the blue plaque.

Daughter Natalie Barnes is comforted

Councillor Brackenridge said the plaque was a perfect symbol for the fight that Windrush campaigners are fighting.

He said: “That campaign continues on and although there are those in this country who seek to divide and rule, we cannot allow these people to win.

“When we come together as communities, we achieve far greater, and it has been an honour for me to be here today to honour a lady like Paulette Wilson, who went out to help others in the same situation as her.

“She truly is a remarkable person.”

Members of the city community united at The Wolverhampton Heritage Centre

Emotions were high during the ceremony, especially from Natalie Barnes, daughter of Paulette Wilson, who managed to offer a few thanks to everyone who had contributed to the plaque.

She said: “I would like to thank each and everyone who donated to the GoFundMe for us as a family to bury mom and to have a blue plaque put up in her name.

“We are honoured and grateful for the support. It means a lot.

“Mom just wanted to help others and get justice and I will not allow my mom’s name to go in vain.

Tributes poured in to Paulette Wilson

“I will do whatever it takes to make sure mom’s name will forever be spoken as a single mom who didn’t give up and fought for her rights.”

Some of those in attendance were seen wiping away tears as the various speakers spoke of their own experiences and how they wanted to pay tribute to the work of Paulette Wilson.

There was also poetry from local solicitor Maurice Malcolm, who invoked a spirit of outrage in his piece “Hostility”, which looked at the climate of fear, the Windrush generation and the hostile environment.

Passionate and powerful, the poem struck a chord with everyone present and provided a fitting backdrop to the unveiling of the blue plaque by Councillor Brackenridge, a moment which was applauded warmly.

The plaque carries the phrase “Likkle but Tallawah”, a Jamaican phrase meaning “Little, but Powerful”, a phrase Partick Vernon said described Paulette perfectly.

He said: “It does what it says on the tin, basically, as she was little, but she was powerful and impactful and in the context of the Windrush Scandal, it highlights her determination and courage to find justice.”

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