Blake Hannah elated at national Honour

By Sade Gardner
Observer writer

Friday, September 07, 2018

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AUTHOR and film-maker Barbara Blake Hannah was scrolling through Facebook when she discovered she will be invested with the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer next month.

The national award is being bestowed on Blake Hannah for her contribution to public service in the field of culture and cultural heritage preservation.

“I'm very pleased to be honoured by your own country,” she told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Splash. “I never thought it would happen. I never expect these things; there are so many great people and I myself have nominated people in the past, so it's a huge surprise.”

The daughter of respected journalist and author Evon Blake, Blake Hannah was inducted into the Caribbean Hall of Fame for Outstanding Contribution in the field of film in 2014. This came three years after being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Black Entertainment, Film, Television and Theatre Awards (BEFTAA) in the United Kingdom for her work as a journalist.

“My cultural interests stem from me being a Rasta, so there are certain things I uphold, my love for Marcus Garvey and his teachings, my love for black culture, my insistence that education should have an imprint in Rasta history,” she said. “The national honour just adds to everything, so just like you'd go to school and get your OLevels then degree, masters and PhD, it's just steps on the way of life.”

While Blake Hannah embarked on a career in journalism at age 17, public relations and cultural consulting would ultimately spark her interest. In fact, it was the 1972 film The Harder They Come that brought her home from London, and she spearheaded its promotion worldwide.

Blake Hannah was also the principal behind the Reggae Film Festival which had its inaugural staging in 2008 with Government assistance. She said it was difficult sourcing funding for the event thereafter, which ultimately led to its cessation in 2013.

Blake Hannah still receives work from film-makers worldwide hoping to be in the festival. However, that chapter is closed.

“Every week people write to me about a film they want to show in the festival. Someone in California contacted me to talk about having the festival there, so who, knows what will happen,” she said. “There's a possibility it will return, maybe not under my leadership. I don't like to live in the past; I've moved on to other things. I'm an old lady you know, I don't think it's time to do that.”

Even though she trods a different path, Blake Hannah still monitors the local film industry.

“I'm seeing a lot of films now about our music. Unfortunately, most of these are being made by foreigners,” she said. “It's a great opportunity to showcase reggae culture and memorialise it. We're lacking scripts and that's one area I would say needs attention. I told the JCDC (Jamaica Cultural Development Commission) that the literary competition should include a script-writing competition. If we had that we would have more feature films.”

Blake Hannah is working on her sixth book. Her last novel, The Moon Has its Secrets (2014), was inspired by National Hero Nanny.

“I count my blessings and see what the future holds. I just hope people can look at me and my life and see that it is possible to do your own thing and follow your own path.”

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