One of Manley’s many signature looks – Afro, suit and dark glasses – Black Revolution uniform (Beverly Manley Duncan)
Beverley Manley Duncan is, in my opinion, Jamaica’s first fashion icon. In the year In the 1970s, she married a flair for diplomacy as she sported vocal African prints and a high Afro as she met with world leaders. The wife of Prime Minister Michael Manley, the founder of the Jamaican women’s movement and a rousing voice of the people, communicated equally well with her words and her image. She built a powerful persona that meets the legend. Even today, many call her a queen. She has won the respect and admiration of her people. Before Beverly became a social justice powerhouse, she picked up the camera and was admired as a professional model. This was one of her many jobs as Mrs. Beverly Anderson.
Beverly brought her passion into her political life. Her outfit was memorable and meaningful as she went on to change her life. Beverly understood the magic of an intentional wardrobe. She is dressed to express courage, power and importance. She proudly adorns herself in fashion representing Jamaica’s diverse cultural heritage. Her outfit sang “Out of many, one nation.” She wears traditional Chinese cheongsams, Indian saris, sophisticated African prints, formal western gowns and dozens of outfits from top local designers. She combined African and European sensibilities. She made political statements with fashion without walking the lines of the invisible and accepted. Her strength lies in the many black hairstyles she has adopted over the years. There were afros, semi-dreads and long turbans. Beverly’s natural hair has made powerful statements in influential circles. Beverly’s Afro commanded respect from US President Jimmy Carter, Canada’s Pierre Trudeau and British royalty. I am black and I am proud. Black is powerful. Black is important.
There was self-righteousness in her unapologetically coiled hair. “You can’t imagine what happened when Africa walked into Jamaica House,” said UWI lecturer Kamau Brathwaite of the tumultuous public reception to Beverley’s Afrocentric style as a political figure in Jamaica. Beverly’s African fashion sense and natural hair Only a decade after independence, many Jamaicans were so demented that they equated blackness with something worthless. Colonists believed that being black and African should be less than that. Many who subscribe to this myth are shocked when Beverly flaunts her blackness. She received a lot of hate mail. Critics begged her to ditch the African dress to relax her hair. Beverly braved the criticism. She also displayed signs and symbols of a proud black woman. She took those controversial images to places where they were never expected or expected. She was among the black icons of the world, such as Winnie Mandela, who famously wore an afro and wrapped her hair in beautiful African fabrics, such as Angela Davis. In Beverly’s early years, black natural hair and African fashion were controversial.
Today, if Juliet Holmes, MP and wife of then Prime Minister Andrew Holmes, had worn her natural hair and African dress, the occasion would have been celebrated and highly photographed. As Jamaica has evolved, so has our thinking. Today, many Jamaicans embrace natural turbans and enjoy the freedom to wear Afrocentric fashion. Black pride has become fashionable as African boutiques like Ital and several natural hair product lines are gaining popularity. Beverly’s struggles with Afrocentric aesthetics in the 1970s, in contrast to the rise of black aesthetics today, show that Jamaica has progressed in embracing Afrocentric aesthetic ideals. At the same time, shaving remains a problem and dreadlocks are not allowed in all schools in Jamaica. We have come a long way, but there is still room for growth in embracing our Black African heritage. As we celebrate 60 years of independence, we must reflect on where we have come from and where we are going. Before it went cold, Beverly Manley showed Jamaica that black is beautiful and powerful. Until every black Jamaican man and woman and the surrounding communities embrace the skin, hair and physical attributes they were born with, Jamaica still has a long way to go to embrace our roots.
Photos: Beverly Manley Duncan, Wayne Sutherland and Jimmy Carter Library, Carter White House Photograph Collection
Beverley Manley Censorship is a 4-part documentary series. Directed by Joelle-Simone Powe and produced by AdIntelligent, the first and second parts of the documentary are YouTube Channel, Adtelligent TV. The next episode starts next Sunday, August 14 at 3:00 PM.
The statue of Beverly naturally lends itself to modeling. (Beverly Manley Duncan)
Today, Beverly models sister locks. (Photo: Wayne Sutherland)
Afrocentric aesthetics reflected black pride and power in influential circles.(Beverly Manley Duncan)
A young woman, Beverly, had a unique sexual desire.
Beverly and Michael Manley chat with US President Jimmy Carter. (Jimmy Carter Library, Carter White House Photograph Collection)
Beverly was often dressed in Afrocentric prints and beautiful head wraps. Here she stands with Dr. Albert Manley, Spelman College’s first black president, and his wife. (Beverly Manley Duncan)
Beverly’s posture is always regal and poised. (Beverly Manley Duncan)
Joel Simon Pauw, cultural anthropologist and journalist, director of Beverley Manley Censorship.
Penetrating eyes command respect and intrigue. (Beverly Manley Duncan)