Next in our series of short interviews with grantees of our 2018 Courageous Citizens grant call is Cherelle Harding. She initiated the Windrush Strikes Back project in Warwickshire, United Kingdom. She answers to the same questions as all other grantees.
Cherelle, what was your idea about?
Windrush Strikes Back: Decolonising Global Warwickshire (WSB) is a community-engaged history project facilitated by the Global Warwickshire Collective (GWC). The project is focused on uncovering the hidden histories written by British African Caribbean peoples in historic Warwickshire, including Coventry, Birmingham and the surrounding areas. The GWC mentors and trains descendants of the Windrush generations, as "Decolonial Detectives." Through training and engagement, the intention of this project is to inspire community members to take more active ownership of and involvement in the production of our histories, and to challenge the exclusivity of historical scholarship in Britain. Together we work towards decolonising the entangled "glocal" histories of Shakespeare's county, Warwickshire.
Did participation in the incubator workshop help you transform your idea into a project?
It was an excellent way for us to dissect our ideas and become clear on the impact that our projects would have. It allowed us to critique and SWOT analyse our ideas, as well as build confidence in what myself and the team were doing. It was also great to meet other grantees, establish connections, share ideas and learn about other grassroots organizations around the world.
What were difficulties you had to deal with? And, how did you overcome those?
There were a few difficulties that we faced in the initial stages of the project. Sadly, three members of the collective each lost one of their grandparents within the first six months of the project beginning. Many of the rich stories our grandparents share with us are often never documented. WSB is about preserving the histories of those that came before us, so although this time was difficult, it was also a reminder to each of us as to why we started this project. It gave the collective more inspiration to fulfill the project & train members of our community to become 'decolonial detectives'.
The workload at the beginning of the project was overwhelming, however as The Global Warwickshire collective consists of a collective of activists, academics and engagement practitioners all with different strengths and expertise, we were able to set different task and roles to specific people. This benefited the project and helped us over come many issues. Having a team with the same vision and passion helped us through challenges.
Could you share with us a story of success and one of surprise?
The small moments of glory were definitely moments that reminded us why we started the project. The two launch events were huge successes and generated a lot of activity online. This was a great start to the project as it was well-attended and served to communicate the project to a wide range of people. This taught us that this type of project was needed and something Black African Caribbean people in 'Warwickshire' had wanted for a long time. There is much to discover here but with very few resources and opportunity to do it. Seeing the impact that the project was having on the decolonial detectives was always encouraging.
The biggest surprise would be the amount of support the project received. It was well received by the community and University. We had many people wanting to support or contribute to the project by means of publishing our work or delivering training. We had people enquiring to participate throughout the course which showed that there was interest should we wish to continue/extend the project.
Another surprise would be the research areas from our ‘decolonial detectives'. These ranged from local politics (involving interviews with politicians), African Caribbean healthcare workers in the NHS, everyday material culture, and histories of community solidarity. It was great to see that they were choosing to do their research on a variety of subjects.
Did you achieve what you dreamt of? What impact did you generate?
We have been successful in delivering several project outcomes to date these have included presentations at a Midlands-based History festival. Our other successes include a small exhibition and blog posts for History Workshop Online as part of a special feature on Black community history - History Workshop Online delivered a training and introductory session to the Detectives to show them how they would be able to contribute to its collaboratively-produced site. Some of the Detectives will contribute to the special issue planned to come out in Winter 2019. A reflective piece by the Global Warwickshire Collective is also to be published on History Workshop Online.
Do you see a further development of your project in the future?
Most certainly. Elements of the project entails a sustainable legacy, such as the results of training and engaging community members in academic scholarship and research skills. Another feature of the project that will be sustainable is the production of enduring outputs that will be a reference point for other similar projects, creating an archive for Black history in historic Warwickshire. WSB has also served as a model for how academics can work with community members in the research and co-production of history. This could develop into schools and other forms of education.