Black Hair & Black Pride, the book of memoirs of Barbara Blake Hannah who made history in 1968 becoming Britain’s first Black TV journalist, was launched October 28, 2010 at the Bob Marley Museum, Kingston by Mrs. Beverley Anderson Manley, former first Lady of Jamaica. Mrs. Manley, who shared a London flat with Barbara Blake, spoke with humour of their adventures and said: “It’s not an accident that this launch is taking place here at the Bob Marley Museum,” making strong comparisons between the revolutionary spirit of Bob Marley and that of Blake Hannah.
Mrs. Blake Hannah, author, film maker, former Independent Senator and daughter of noted Jamaican publisher Evon Blake, writes about growing up with kinky hair that was a mark of shame producing an inferiority complex that built the negative self image she, like all Black people, had in those days. Moving to London in the early 1960s, she worked as a secretary until landing a job as PRO for Jamaican tourism, making friends among the young and trendy Londoners at a time when the city was the center of world pop culture.
Speaking at the launch Mrs. Blake Hannah said she was shocked to encounter the depth of racism she encountered in England, especially after becoming chosen the first Black of three on-air journalist/interviewers on the daily TODAY TV programme. But she also describes the balance and self-learning that came from being in England at the time of Swinging London, Flower Power and the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movements. GROWING OUT describes her process of acquiring a positive racial self-image by accepting all aspects of her Black history, reality and physical attributes. She said her journey helped her to understand “natural was beautiful”. And with that realisation, beauty really became about “self-awareness and knowing yourself”.
The book has received positive reviews in the Jamaican radio, TV and press. Leading entertainment blog TALLAWAH wrote: Growing Out is Blake-Hannah’s wry compendium of her life-altering experiences, wit and vivid storytelling.
Journalist Michael Edwards writes: “Growing Out is very good indeed. Its only in the last ten years or so that memoirs have come into vogue in Jamaica, and in that still-growing field, this tome stands out. Fluid, witty and heart-felt, Growing Out is important for the present generation of Jamaicans (adolescents included) who have little or no clue of the travails endured by Jamaicans who went to the UK in the 50s and 60s, nor of the breadth of their impact on that society. Memoirs are also distinguished by inside info, and whether its on the BBC, London High Society or the interantional marketing and promotion of The Harder They Come, Growing Out succeeds in this regard. Poignant too, are the scars of racism that over toe the book, as well as the “backstory” of Mr Jones that runs concurrently.”
According to Mrs. Manley, “This book is essential to Black people everywhere, particularly those who went ‘home to their ‘mother’ in the search for who we are, for acceptance, for our identities – only to discover that the ‘mother’ didn’t want anything to do with us. Barbara’s authobiography helped me recognize that our quest to make that trip back to Africa (physically and mentally) is the most fundamental task we face. It is something that has to be realized in our collective consciousness.”
And an English guest at the launch commented in her online blog: I think this book is written precisely for us, so that we understand and overcome any prejudices we still have and forgive our parents and ancestors for their mistreatment of Jamaicans and other non-whites. I am very much aware of my British ancestry here in Jamaica and fully aware of the inequalities of the past finding myself wanting to apologize for past injustices. We should be shocked and angered at our crimes.