By Thomas Wootton
”My mom and my family’s encouragement and unconditional love is how I got to where I am today” said Patrick Bernard of Bernard Solicitors in Leeds.
Mr Bernard’s parents were part of the so-called Windrush generation.
The Windrush Era beginning in 1948 saw a wave of immigration from Jamaica and neighbouring islands to the UK in order to help fill post-war labour shortages in economy.
Thousands came to the UK on promises of being welcomed and given a better life, however for many they experienced hostility and racism upon arrival.
Bernard’s parents were all to familiar to such treatment whilst living in Leeds.
”My parents faced a huge shock when they came, especially the overt racism of the time. My dad was a welder and my mum became an NHS nurse, and they experienced racism in their jobs.
” It was hard in those times, the times of ‘No Black, No Irish, No dogs’, especially when trying to find somewhere to live or rent.
”Fortunately my grandfather had saved the money he had earned working at the railway and eventually bought several properties in Leeds, so my parents had somewhere to raise me and my siblings.”
For Mr Bernard racism was common when growing up in Chapeltown, where people would roll down their windows shouting racial slurs and there existed no-go zones where they would be beaten if they dared enter.
School presented Bernard with the worse experience of racism in which fellow classmates and even teachers would routinely tell him he would never become a lawyer.
”People would say, with me being a black boy, he will never become a lawyer, that it wasn’t possible and that I should abandon such an ambition.”
However these cruel taunts, instead of deterring Bernard, only motivated him to study harder and longer in order to reach his ambitions.
”In the face of these taunts, I could go either left or right, to either crush or motivate me and I chose for it to motivate me; if they studied for one hour I studied for two hours.”
”I had to prove not only to them but myself that I could and would become a lawyer, to help and inspire those who faced and continue to face the things I experienced.”
Mr Bernard attributes him becoming a lawyer to his Mum and his family who continued to push and encourage him to pursue his dreams, so that he would have the opportunity to lead a better life and inspire the next generation.
Mr Bernard was one of several influential people interviewed about the Windrush era by Leeds Trinity journalism students at Unity Business Centre for an upcoming Exhibition.
Set to open on the 22nd June, the exhibition will showcase the interviews in order to celebrate the remarkable achievements of influential people and descendants of the Windrush era within the Chapeltown community.