Why Beverley Manley Deserves a Documentary
At 80 years old, Manley is appalled by the continued existence of issues she sought to tackle in her early days. (Source: Adtelligent)

"For the next few weeks I will share with you four exclusive takes on the documentary series, Beverley Manley Uncensored. The first episode of the documentary premieres today, Sunday, July 31, at 3:00 pm on Adtelligent TV’s YouTube channel. It is my hope that you will — as indeed I have — develop a deeper appreciation for this Jamaican icon as she speaks openly about her personal and political history and national impact.”

Joelle Simone Powe, cultural anthropologist and documentarian, director of Beverley Manley Uncensored

Beverley Manley Duncan is the most complicated and fascinating woman in Jamaica. She is one of the first of a few black women in the Western hemisphere to have large-scale national political influence. Long before there was Mia Mottley, Portia Simpson Miller, or Michelle Obama, there was Beverley Manley.

As the wife of the most favoured prime minister, Michael Manley, Beverley punched way above the public's expectations to pose with babies and cut ribbons. She radically defined a new role by amplifying the struggles of black women and the working class. She pioneered important contributions to gender equality such as maternity leave, free education, and equal pay, and even, shockingly, advanced the conversation of rights for prostitutes in Jamaica. As founder of the Jamaica House Basic School, she expanded the communal role of Jamaica House in the 1970s.

A newly wedded Beverley Manley is flanked by her husband Michael and "mother of Jamaican art" Edna Manley. (Source: Adtelligent)

There were many issues she raised in public, but far more that she whispered into the ears of the prime minister in the bedroom. She knew how to exquisitely exercise both hard and soft power.

As Michael's partner, she was also his mentor. Through their symbiotic relationship, she shaped him as he shaped her. Neither of them would be the same without each other.

In the upcoming documentary, Beverley Manley Uncensored, Beverley speaks openly about her personal and political history and national impact.

As Manley reflects on her controversial past, there is a complex mix of pride and disappointment. (Source: Adtelligent)

She rose to national prominence in the 1960s, when she was only in her early twenties, as a broadcaster, model, and actress. She was the Yendi Phillipps of the era, being multi-talented and a role model for young black girls.

A search of the name "Beverley Anderson" in the Gleaner archives yields thousands of mentions from the 1960s of Beverley acting in plays, modelling, hosting radio interviews, and emceeing at events. She was prolific in her interests and capabilities, and a stunning representation of black intelligence and style. And all this was before she even met Michael.

Her marriage to Michael Manley was a controversial signpost of the changes to come in Jamaica. Even though she was already a renowned public figure, as a dark-skinned black woman, questions and objections were raised about her marrying into "white" Jamaican political royalty.

Celebrated Jamaican painter Barrington Watson captured Beverley's young and powerful essence in a life-size portrait. (Source: Adtelligent)

Together, Michael and Beverley became global superstars of the rising Non-Aligned Movement. They were the voices of the disaffected at home and abroad.

Beverley's life story is shocking and unusual as she speaks openly about what others wish to hide in the shadows. She is unapologetic about the choices she has made. Her struggles, victories, and failures are intimately linked to Jamaica's struggles, victories, and failures. Through her words, we have a deeper understanding of ourselves as Jamaicans. She was a keen eyewitness and participant in the most politically charged decade in Jamaican history — the 1970s. Too much of this history has been swept under a rug and most of it has not been passed down to my generation.

Behind the scenes of Beverley Manley Uncensored are many young talents and minds that include director Joelle Simone Powe and photographer Richard Stewart (Photo: BM)

As I grew up close to Jamaican politics (Grandpa DK, Aunty Imani, and Aunty Tricia), I realised that much about what happened to Jamaica post-Independence was being lost. I did not wish this to happen.

Over 800 Jamaicans were killed in political violence from the 1970s to the 1980s. Why?

Despite grand plans for national development, we have failed to build a nation that provides equal opportunities for all. Why?

Beverley Manley Uncensored is a docuseries produced by Adtelligent and directed by Joelle Simone Powe. (Source: Adtelligent)

Hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans would rather be second-class citizens in another country than build their own. Why?

These are the pressing questions my generation needs to understand if we are to take up the baton and move the country forward.

As many political figures have said, we have not yet had our Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And we are running out of time.

Manley reaches out to the people. (Source: People's National Party Archives)

Many political stalwarts of the 70s have passed on. DK Duncan, Michael Manley, and Edward Seaga are all dead. We will never know their honest telling of what happened to us. Some of them, such as DK, simply refused to speak or write, while others such as Michael and Eddie have been very selective about what they have written.

But, in Beverley Manley Uncensored, Beverley becomes our last link to our post-Independence past. History becomes HERstory. Agree with her or not, this is her line in the sand, and she provides a place for us to start a discussion.

As founder of Jamaica House Basic School in 1974 and advocate of early childhood education, Manley enlightened many. (Photos: Beverley Manley Duncan)

Young people do not know our political history. It's never taught in our high schools. What is taught is our colonial history. However, knowing the postcolonial leaders of the country, their work, struggles, and what they stood for is just as important as knowing the various colonial powers that have possessed Jamaica, and their impact. Assimilating Jamaica's political history is a part of becoming a full Jamaican, in taking ownership of, understanding, and relating to our past, the one founded by those who were sons and daughters of the soil, rather than the imperialists.

I hope that this documentary is seen far and wide in Jamaica and the diaspora and that it creates a renewed vigour and discussion. My highest aspiration is that it be watched by high school and university students in classrooms to instil a new interest in national politics.

In her early career, Beverley Anderson was an esteemed broadcaster at Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. (Photos: Beverley Manley Duncan)

On a personal note, my introduction to Beverley was as the woman who stole my grandmother's husband. As the granddaughter of Grace Duncan, the second wife of DK Duncan, making a documentary on Beverley was not well-received by many members of my family. It was difficult for me, but I forged ahead anyway. I felt that this story must be told.

Beverley is the last living intimate line to that volcanic past. This project is bigger than me, Beverley, and the love triangle between herself, DK, and Grace. She is national history, which I have access to, and I am choosing to share with Jamaica.

Joelle Simone Powe, cultural anthropologist and documentarian, director of Beverley Manley Uncensored.

Produced by Adtelligent and directed by Joelle Simone Powe, Beverley Manley Uncensored Part 1 will be released online on Adtelligent TV's YouTube channel on Sunday, July 31, 2022, at 3:00 pm Jamaica Time and the remaining parts 2, 3, and 4 will be released in successive weeks after.

Link to the trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KGpnlSc73o

The docuseries Beverley Manley Uncensored, will be released today, Sunday, July 31, 2022 at 3:00 pm. BM
As the Caribbean's golden couple, Michael and Beverley Manley gazed into each other's eyes for a British Vogue photographer. (Source: Beverley Manley Duncan)

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