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Ambitious Angela - From Beeston Street in downtown Kingston to PNP vice-president, Brown-Burke still has more to give

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Angela Brown-Burke

Erica Virtue

Senior Gleaner Writer

For years, Angela Brown Burke was satisfied being a community worker offering service through youth clubs, serving in various executive capacities. After all, it was a learnt function from her mother in particular.

Community service would later turn into a successful run in the municipal elections and she was elected councillor for the Norman Gardens division in the East Kingston and Port Royal constituency.

She was quite satisfied with remaining a councillor and continuing community service.

That was until she was campaigning in the St Catherine South West constituency in 2005, when a Comrade thanked her for her community service and told her she had much more to offer.

Brown Burke said she backed away from the comments, but it was only after he told her she needed to have "little political ambition" did she stop and think.

One year later, she was vice-president of the People's National Party (PNP), swept in on the wave of female political fervour in the party.

The only woman to be a PNP vice-president before her is the current party president, Portia Simpson Miller.

"Individuals always say people asked me to run for a vice-president post, and yes, they did. But when someone told me that I needed to have some political ambition I really looked into it.

"For I read it that people shouldn't small up themselves. The more persons talked the more I looked into it and made the decisions that I would throw it out the window," said Brown Burke.

"It wasn't because I didn't have political ambition per se. It's just that I didn't think that going for a party position other than what I had was not ambitious or diminished my contribution. But, among the biggest contributors to my decision would have been the leadership change in PNP in February 2006. No doubt that being on the slate of the party leader played a part in my winning. But I would like to think that I was not elected just because Portia Simpson Miller became PNP president," said Brown Burke, who is also the mayor of Kingston.

She remembers the night in 2006 when she was first elected but couldn't remember how many votes she received that night. When she became vice-president in 2006, she was the only councillor to make it that far. The other three were members of parliament.

In 2008, again running on a Simpson Miller slate, Brown Burke received 2,562 votes to remain a vice-president.

Now 10 years after she was first elected, Brown Burke finds herself in a race with

Dr Fenton Ferguson, Noel Arscott, Dr Wykeham McNeill and Lisa Hanna for the four vice-president slots.

"I will say that when I was first elected, I did not jump into any shoes left by the party leader in that role, absolutely not. But to understand Angela as the political woman, you have to understand the influences.

"I grew up in the Michael Manley '70s. So you come away with the idea of being socialist in an egalitarian society where there is a place for all of us and this is our party. And then I left high school and went to Cuba. In Cuba, at that time, there were many students from parts of the world, where the independence movement was very strong.

"Many of them were children, or relatives of individuals in exile, fighting the liberation struggles ... ."

INDEBTED TO THE PNP

That was the wind which blew her back to Jamaica, having completed her first round of tertiary education through a scholarship from the PNP.

"I am indebted to the PNP. It is not an indebtedness that would cause you not to speak your truth. And I have spoken my truth. For me, though, I am one who benefited and I am giving back service to my party," Brown Burke told The Sunday Gleaner.

"So I want to tell the delegates of the PNP that there is work to be done, and I am willing to do it as long as you will have me. I give you my word that I will continue to be your voice where it matters most. I will be your voice in the room. I will never sit on the fence," declared Brown Burke, who was an integral party of the two most recent acrimonious

leadership elections in the party.

According to Brown Burke, nothing that has happened so far would cause her to take a political back seat, having paid her dues by serving on PNP bodies such as its political and internal affairs, group secretary, councillor, mayor and senator.

The woman who grew up on Beeston Street in downtown Kingston, from where nothing good was expected, has climbed the political ladder and has no plan to step down now.

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erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com