Faces and Places: Sarwan Singh and the Indian Workers Association
[Submitted by Sarwan Singh]
On the 3rd of October 2008 Birmingham Stories held an event entitled 'Race and Racism' in Birmingham Central Library. At this session, Dr Kevin Searle introduced the new archive learning guide called race and racism in Birmingham (see link below). Sarwan was invited to deliver a talk on 'Race and Racism' from his own perspective. The text below is the script for his speech.
My name is Sarwan Singh. I came to this country in 1960. I have lived all my life in Handsworth and worked in Birmingham. I am a member and office bearer of Indian Workers Association from long time. Indian Workers Association head office is at 346 Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham.
RACISM IN HOUSING
I came to this country in December 1960 during the Xmas holidays. I arrived from Jersey to Southampton by ship and came to Birmingham by train. It was early in the morning. I went to Ballsall Heath Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham by taxi at about 4am. My cousin was living at that address. There were three of us in the taxi. I knocked at the door and after a short while a person not known to us opened the door. He asked us whom we wanted to see. I told him my cousinís name. He was in the house and he was called to the door. He was very happy when he saw me. We were asked to come into the house. We entered the house with our belongings. There was hardly a place to put our belongings in the room. There were three double beds in the front room downstairs and six people were sleeping in the beds. It was a very cold night, and there was no heating system in the room. We were given tea and something to eat and then we went to sleep.
Next morning when we got up we were introduced to other people living in the house. The house was three-storey house and about twenty people were living there. We were shocked to see that so many people were living in a house. I asked my cousin the reason why that was happening. He explained to me that the white people own most of the houses and they do not keep any black lodgers in the house because they think we are second-class citizens. They do not like black people. The white people do not even sell their houses to the black people. If there is a house for sale in the street and you go to the sales agent and ask for details, the answer is that the house is sold.
I lived at that address for about two years and we saw that this was happening. When black people started becoming a majority in an area, white people felt this was time to move from the area and then they started selling the houses to the black people. They were frightened if there are too many black people in the area the house prices will come down. The white people started moving from the area to another area where mostly white people lived. I bought my first house from an Irish man in Handsworth, Birmingham.
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