Thelma

Listen to Thelma's story, as part of The Making of Black Britain oral history project

By The Making of Black Britain

Thelma and her late husband, Keith Buck, with her eldest son Tamar, on her wedding day (1987)The Making of Black Britain

Thelma was born in Jamaica. 
She came to England when her British-born husband returned home in 1988.
She was warmly welcomed to the UK.

Thelma was interviewed for The Making of Black Britain on 28th July, 2021.

Thelma, London (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain

Thelma talks about arriving in Britain
00:00

"We do speak English in Jamaica, you know"

I was very welcomed and people wanted to show me around. My then husband, he was working in Burger King and he had a lot of friends and all of them wanted to see his wife and his baby, 'cos I'd arrived with this young baby. And I would leave the baby with Keith, his name was Keith, and his friends, girls and boys that would take me all around London, on the buses, to wherever, just to show me around

Thelma discusses her education
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In university, they call me 'superwoman'

I was nine months pregnant, when I was supposed to finish my degree. And I was sick during the last bit, and I couldn't stay because I kept vomiting. And I didn't realise that I had done enough credits already, because I was going for the honours. So, they wrote to me and said, “Oh, we've condoned the last thing, and you've got your degree.” I know, that was the happiest day of my life.

Thelma talks about her family
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We didn't moan, we just got on with it.

You know in Jamaica, they just very, I don't know, secretive, or maybe they don't think it was important to tell us – they just say “He died.” But I find people out there very resilient. They don't really speak much about if the child has died, and they don't show a lot of emotions. I don't know why, maybe that's just how it always is.

Thelma tells a story about a flood in Jamaica
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I am going to school, nothing's going to stop me

...All our parents were standing in the local square, waiting for us to come home, and they were crying ‘cause they thought they would never see us again.

Thelma and her friend, with their children, after a year in Britain, 1989, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Thelma, London (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain

Thelma talks about rape culture
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You don't want nobody to know our business, that shameful.

It's like a culture, it's a rape culture, but they can't see it as rape. Because where they come from, and what they're used to, it's become the norm. So they don't think they are being inappropriate.

Thelma's wedding, 1987, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Thelma, London (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain

Thelma discusses an attempted assault from her past
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The people in there knew. They knew what he was doing.

And at the end of it, he said, "I've never met a young girl, so strong in my life." That's what he said. When he didn't succeed. My hands was full of bruises  because I had those plastic costume jewellery  bruises and cuts from fighting with this guy.

Thelma playing the guitar at a Church Camp in Jamaica, with a visitor from Minneapolis, 1979, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Thelma, aged 17, in her room she boarded while attending Sam Sharpe Teachers college in Jamaica, 1983, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Thelma, London (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain

Thelma discusses her marriage
00:00

I've never told this story.

I ran out the door. In my bare foot, I went to the police station, was behind the house, police station behind on the other road. So, I went there and told them that he tried to attack me. And before that he had sold the furniture, he’d sold this and everything, came back and the police locked him up. And that night, they called the Women's Refuge.

Thelma (2021)The Making of Black Britain

Thelma, after telling her story for The Making of Black Britain, 2021.

Now listen to Edna Mae tell her story for The Making of Black Britain.

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