Blue plaque unveiled in honour of Paulette Wilson

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In her home city of Wolverhampton, Paulette Wilson's legacy stands strong. On Windrush day, Tuesday 22 June, a blue plaque to honour her was unveiled on the side of the Wolverhampton heritage centre by the city's mayor, Cllr Greg Brackenridge. The campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE thanked the public for their support and noted that the location of the plaque was apt given its historical context.

"This was the former constituency office of Enoch Powell MP where he wrote his speech Rivers of Blood, ironically the same year in 1968 when Paulette arrived in Wolverhampton as a ten-year-old.

“The reclaiming of this building by the community and the installation of the plaque reminds us of a poetic justice of history and social change." 

Cllr Sandra Samuels who is the Deputy Mayor of Wolverhampton and was the first African Caribbean mayor in the council's history also noted that the heritage centre held particular importance to Paulette, stating that she "loved" going to the centre to meet friends and socialise. For Cllr Samuels, this was also the ideal site to have the plaque.

More than £20,000 was raised in memory of Paulette Wilson after her passing. The money for the plaque comes from surplus funds from her memorial GoFundMe fundraiser.

“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.”

Wolverhampton Cllr Greg Brackenridge.

Paulette's daughter, Natalie Barnes, also eulogised about her mother. She thanked all those who donated to make this possible and vowed not to let her mother's name go in vain while injustice was still prevalent.

“The day mom died I remember saying ‘what am I going to do?’ I didn't think I would have lost my mom at such a young age it still is a shock that she is not here. She is missed every second of every day by everyone, as much as it hurts.

“Mom just wanted to help others and get justice. I will not allow my mom’s name to go in vain. I shall continue the fight until the lessons learned are put right so again me and my family are honoured to be able to put a blue plaque in honour of my mom. 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."

Natalie Barnes

This was a recurring theme during the ceremony. James Vukmirovic of the Express and Star reports that the poetry of local solicitor Maurice Malcolm invoked what he describes as a spirit of outrage in his piece “Hostility”.

Frustratingly, this is one of the takeaways from the latest Windrush Day. A day which should see the nation celebrate the incredible contribution of the Windrush generation to British society (and in many homes it undoubtedly would have been) is still marred by Home Office failings both past and present.

It is worsened by recent reports that suggest that victims of the Windrush scandal are still facing long waits to receive compensation. This has prompted calls to overhaul the system, with a public petition demanding the Windrush compensation scheme is fixed now boasting more than 106,000 signatures.

We can only hope that the change in which Paulette hoped to see comes to fruition. May she rest in peace.

Context on the importance and legacy of Paulette Wilson

Paulette Wilson was wrongly detained and threatened with deportation by the Home Office. In speaking up about her treatment, the national media turned the spotlight to the several other cases where discrimination had seen members of the Windrush generation fighting mistreatment and systemic obstacles to proving their legal status. It helped further unearth a number of other cases which had seen members of the Windrush generation deported, denied access to the NHS, lose their homes, jobs and several other benefits - in short, Paulette's account of her treatment helped to further expose the hostile environment policy and is said to have inspired many other survivors to share their story, but she wasn't done there. She continued to advocate against the abuse of members of the Windrush generation until her death in June of last year.

Mayowa Ayodele

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