The work Remember Oluwale did with the Leeds carnival took the theme All Ah We Are Migrants. As we said in our postcard, distributed at the carnival, ‘every human has a migration story’. To illustrate this theme, we are posting a series of interviews about migration to Britain  over the past 50 years or so.

In this first posting, our student placement Heena Siddiqi records the interview she did with her mum.

Shahnaz’s Migration Story

Shahnaz Ali was born in Pakistan and came to England with her family, at the age of 3, in the summer of 1965 and grew up in Bradford. Heena  Siddiqi (her daughter) interviewed Shahnaz to get an insight into her life, and her migration story and also what she remembers of her parents’  life living in England being Pakistani.











When discussing with Shahnaz what she remembers from her parents  migration experience she told  me “My father Ali Mohammed took up the voucher scheme that the British offered to men in India and Pakistan at the time to come and work in Britain.”

Talking of her early days , Shahnaz said: “My very early memories were being mostly scared. When starting school at the age of five there were maximum five brown children across the entire school. I was the only one and felt very vulnerable.”

Shahnaz discussed her Integration experience into white culture “Later it became clear to me that all these experiences were internalizing the racism because as a child I was beginning to think that if I acted and became more ‘English’ I would be accepted more. By my early teens I thought  that, if I behaved more like my English friends, and pretended I couldn’t speak my native language, I would be more excepted.”

Shahnaz discussed her involvement with activism and how it all started. “When I was doing my A-Levels  on the weekends I would use Bradford Central Library to do my homework. In 1979 I came across a couple of members of the Asian Youth Movement. They gave me leaflets about the proposed Nationality Bill and my first response to them was ‘Why do I need to go march about Nationality Bill I’m British?’ This is where my awareness and education was further developed. They continued to talk to me at the library and made me more aware of what was going on in terms of national policy and legislation which was discriminatory towards immigrants.

Shahnaz was involved with the Bradford 12 campaign in 1981-2. She shared her experiences through this time.  “As the “United Black Youth League” in Bradford we were always gathering local intelligence about national events, and we could see that both in Liverpool and Brixton when the far right came to attack the black communities the police didn’t protect them, which lead to many arrests in those cities. Therefore, the United Black Youth League began to plan to protect themselves and communities in Bradford from the far right, which resulted in 12 of the members of the United Black Youth League been arrested and charged with conspiracy to make explosive substances. It was the first ever case and campaign that used ‘self- defence’ as an its only defence strategy in court. After 9 weeks of trial in Leeds all 12 were acquitted.”



“These experiences led me to be an activist and a change-agent fighting discrimination in many of my roles in the public sector 30 years after the Bradford 12. My passion and track record of delivering on inclusion, equality and human rights led to many changes particularly in my former years in the NHS, which I am very proud of. I remain passionate and committed to fighting all forms of oppression and discrimination.”

By Heena Siddiqi

Digital Media Student on Placement with the David Oluwale Memorial Association (August 2017)