Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah (born 5 June 1941) is a Jamaican author and journalist known for her promotion of Rastafari culture and history. She is also a politician, film maker, festival organiser and cultural consultant. She was the first black person to be an on-camera reporter and interviewer on British television when, in 1968, she was employed by Thames Television's evening news programme Today. Hannah was sacked because viewers complained about having a black woman on screen. She later returned to Jamaica and was an independent senator in the Parliament of Jamaica from 1984 to 1987.
Early life and fatherEdit
TV and journalism career in BritainEdit
She arrived in Britain in 1964 to work as an extra on the film A High Wind in Jamaica (1965). In the next few years she wrote for The Caribbean Times, West Indian World, The Sunday Times, Queen and Cosmopolitan. Hannah was appointed in 1968 as a reporter on Thames Television's Today, then presented by Eamonn Andrews. In the role, she interviewed prime minister Harold Wilson and actor Michael Caine.
After nine months she was dismissed without formal explanation, although her producer said the company was under pressure from a negative response from viewers for them having a black woman on television, and said that the station had had calls from viewers, telling them to "get the Nigger off the screen". Blake-Hannah then worked for the local news programme broadcast by ATV in Birmingham. She was unable to find a hotel that would allow her to stay, and had to commute from London each day until she found a room at the YWCA. She was deliberately kept away from the studio on a day when Enoch Powell was being interviewed. Following this, she worked as researcher on the BBC's documentary series Man Alive.
Return to JamaicaEdit
Chris Blackwell and Perry Henzell offered her a job in 1972 as public relations officer for The Harder They Come, the first Jamaican feature film. She returned home to Jamaica permanently. Here Blake-Hannah had a successful career as a film-maker and has also been an independent senator in the Parliament of Jamaica from 1984 to 1987. Thus, Blake-Hannah also became the first Rastafarian representative in the parliament.
She has written several books, including a 1982 account of the Rastafarian religion, and produced several more films, including a documentary for Britain's Channel 4, Race, Rhetoric, Rastafari (1982). Blake-Hannah's 1982 memoir Growing Out: Black Hair and Black Pride in the Swinging Sixties charts her life and career in Britain.
In April 2020, Blake-Hannah gave an interview to Bryan Knight's Tell A Friend podcast, where she candidly spoke about her experience working in Britain. She spoke of the racism prevalent at the time and her journey to black consciousness.
The British media periodical Press Gazette launched the "Barbara Blake-Hannah prize" in 2020 to recognise emerging talented journalists from minority backgrounds. Her son, Makonnen David Blake Hannah, was appointed in 1998 aged 13, as a youth technology consultant by Phillip Paulwell, then Minister of Commerce and Technology, and was the youngest consultant ever appointed by the Jamaican government.
- Rastafari – The New Creation, 2012
- Joseph – A Rasta Reggae Fable, 2013
- The Moon Has its Secrets: A novel, 2014
- Growing Out: Black Hair & Black Pride In The Swinging Sixties, 2016
- Home The First School: A Home-Schooling Guide To Early Childhood, 2019
- Growing Up – Dawta of Jah, 2020
- Blake Hannah, Barbara (28 October 2008). "It wasn't Trevor or Moira - I was the first black British TV presenter". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
- Bree Johnson-Obeng, "Barbara Blake Hannah - the first black female journalist on UK TV" in Sky News (London, 2019)
- Jolaoso, Simi (23 October 2020). "Barbara Blake Hannah: The first black reporter on British TV". BBC News. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
- Jones, Ellen E. (7 January 2021). "Barbara Blake-Hannah: how Britain's first black female TV reporter was forced off our screens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
- Johnson-Obeng, Bree (31 October 2019). "Barbara Blake Hannah - the first black female journalist on UK TV". Sky News. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
- Leahcim Semaj, "From Peace and Love to 'Fyah Bun': Did Rastafari Lose its Way?" in Caribbean Quarterly: A Journal of Caribbean Culture (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2013).
- Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah, "Reggae Film Festival 2011" in United Reggae (Saint-Clément-de-Rivière, 2011)
- Knight, Bryan (26 April 2020). "Living Legend (feat. Barbara Blake Hannah)". YouTube.
- "Barbara Blake-Hannah prize launched as Press Gazette bids to improve British Journalism Awards diversity". Press Gazette. 13 August 2020. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
- "Jamaican government hires whiz kid (13) as adviser". The Irish Times. 31 July 1998. Retrieved 18 February 2021.