The time was 1968. The country was the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Wales. The place was Thames Television, London. Barbara Blake Hannah, the daughter of a noted Jamaican journalist and magazine publisher, Evon Blake, became the first black television journalist to appear, on camera, on a British television station. She worked for nine months and was fired, because viewers complained about seeing a black woman on their television screens. “Get the nigger off the screen.” Little did those racists know that this was but her first frontier breaker. There were many more to come. She organized the first-ever film festival in Jamaica, wrote the first book on the Rastafari religion by a member of the faith (Rastafari The New Creation), was the first Rastafarian to sit in Jamaica’s Senate when she was appointed an Independent Senator in 1984. She was
Barbara Blake Hannah, the little girl from the parish of Portland on the northern coastline of the island, who attended the Hampton School for Girls in the southern parish of St. Elizabeth, grew up to become a multi-talented woman. She is an author, music journalist, film maker who has her own company, an international lecturer, public speaker and consultant on Rastafarian history and culture.
In 2020 the British media periodical, Press Gazette, launched the Barbara Blake-Hannah prize to recognize emerging talented journalists from minority backgrounds.
Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah is not the only frontier-breaker in her family. Her father not only founded the Press Association of Jamaica in 1943, the first of its kind in the Commonwealth Caribbean, but challenged the discriminatory practices of pre-independent colonial Jamaica, by diving into the ‘whites-only’ pool at the then famous Myrtle Bank Hotel in downtown Kingston.
In 1998, at age thirteen, her son Makonnen was appointed Youth Technology Consultant to the Ministry of Commerce and Technology. He became the youngest consultant ever to be appointed by the Jamaican government.
She is currently the Executive Director of the Jamaica Reggae Film Academy which organises the Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival, first organised by her in 2008 and held annually thereafter.
“I try and live my life to achieve that high crown, but even if I don’t, I hope that the good spirit I generate in the flesh leaves some good essence behind, so that my son who will remain and his children can be touched.” – Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah
UNIQUE: To be unique is to be in a class by yourself, to be only one of a kind, to be second to none.
Photo – Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah