Belonging and Brexit: Revd Dr Evie Vernon

At CMF’s seminar, Belonging and Brexit, USPG‘s Dr Evie Vernon spoke of her own life, putting the discussion of belonging into historical context, looking at colonial relationships and highighting the contributions made to this country and in the Caribbean.

“My uncle flew with the ‘boys of the Royal Air force’, while my aunties were nurses through the blitz. They did it for ‘King and country’, but for which country? They certainly thought it was this one. They expected to be treated like other British people, and sometimes they even were. Other times, well, they didn’t dwell on that too much …”

“They never complained. It was much later by reading novels such as Zadie Smith’s ‘Small Island’ that I got some idea of how painful it must have been for them. In Jamaica we say that ‘kin teet kibba heart bun’, which can be translated ‘Skinned teeth, or a grin, covers heartache’. It hurts to be excluded when you think you belong.”

“This did not stop the U.K. from aggressively recruiting nurses and teachers from those places which used to belong, but no longer did in the same way. This created somewhat of a moral dilemma for recruits from countries such as Jamaica, as their home government had invested heavily in their training in order to look after their own national interests, but could not afford to pay them enough to care for their families properly. So they came here and sent money home.”

As a Jamaican, Dr Evie says “We are are fantastic because our labour builds two or three economies at the same time.” She asks “When can everyone be empowered and truly belong?”

Read Dr Evie’s paper in full. The seminar was kindly hosted by Westminster Abbey.