Shelly-Ann Thompson, Freelance Writer
Beverley Anderson-Manley during a Flair interview. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
ON MONDAY, March 2, 1992 at 6:00 a.m. the commanding voice of Beverley Anderson-Manley assisted that of Anthony "Tony" Abrahams to bring to life the Breakfast Club on KLAS FM.
Fast forward 13 years to Thursday, March 31, when Anderson-Manley signed off the popular morning programme for good.
Having invested 13 years as a co-host and co-producer of the morning discussion programme (aired for the past nine years on Hot 102 FM), it was a difficult decision, she said.
But her book (the title remains a secret) which she started two years ago needs completion.
"I'm called to write my memoirs. I've toyed around with it for a long time...but it's never been my number one priority. So now I need to make the sacrifice."
The former wife of the late Michael Manley, People's National Party (PNP) leader and prime minister, she said that she has been approached by a number of young women who say, "we know what our parents tell us about the '70s but we want to hear your story. (We want) to see the period through your eyes".
Anderson-Manley added that it was important for people to know her story of going from a lower middle class neighbourhood to becoming an accomplished woman.
She grew up in Rollington Town, East Kingston. Her father was a railway station master and her mother a housewife. In the 1960s she came to public atten-tion as an accomplished model, radio broadcaster with the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) and businesswoman. She became instantly recognisable, however, when she married Manley in 1972, at age 30, and threw herself into various women's and children's groups during the 1970s and '80s.
A POLITICAL MIX OVER BREAKFAST
It was her mix of broadcasting experience and political background that brought Abrahams (a JLP Cabinet Minister in the 1980s) knocking when he was looking for a co-host for the Breakfast Club.
She explained that the Club started because, "an increasingly large percentage of people was turned off both political parties, so we had a group of people we referred to as uncommitted. In addition to that, PNP and JLP were meeting for the first time in a particular kind of way. So what brought us together was almost a need for voices that represented that group of uncommitted".
By creating a forum that brought together warring factions to talk to each other, the Breakfast Club created an explosion on the airwaves.
Still, recalled, Anderson-Manley there were the sceptics who did not believe that the show could stay on the air.
The Club has survived those sceptics. "Tony and I built it together. Building it meant setting up a database of experts from all over the world that we call on for almost any issue."
The programme which has become a trailblazer for discussing controversial issues -- gender, politics and economics -- commands an audience that includes the island's top decision-makers.
This success, she reckoned, was mainly possible because of the synergy. "With radio you can put anybody on air but what makes the dynamism on air is the personality."
She added that often it's like a social activity of my day. We are chatting all the time whether on air or off."
SIDEBAR: THE BOOK
It's not about Michael Manley -- although she will talk about being married to him.
The focus will be on the 1970s -- politics and feminism. "I want it to be a book that university students are able to pick up... the whole issue of race and class will be in the book." It will not end in 1970s, she noted. "It will also be about how I was able to reinvent myself after my marriage ended, picking myself up, getting on with my life."
It's scheduled to be on bookshelves within 12 months. Anderson-Manley said she hoped to inspire many persons, especially young women.
MORE ON BEVERLEY
SHE HAS SERVED AS... Jamaica's representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and was influential in helping to change laws that discriminated against women and children.
TUN YUH HAN' MEK FASHION... that term was often used to refer to me. However, it was in the wider perspective of self-reliance, a big theme of Manley's regime. It meant that before you use what you have to the fullest so that we can in fact then go further. At Jamaica House we started a garden, and a part of this was to encourage women to grow their own food.
WORST THING ABOUT BEING A PRIME MINISTER'S WIFE...In retrospect, I would have liked to spend some more time with Natasha. I really made sure she went up and down with us (to meetings) but I still wish I would have been there more.
But, I'm getting ready now and I hope one day I can be a grandmother and I can really spend time with my grandchildren.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING A PRIME MINISTER'S WIFE...Being able to help people. I grew up in that kind of service. That life was not about making money but serving and service at highest levels.
WORST OF MOTHERHOOD...I had a premature son (David) at seven months in that tumultuous year of 1980 -- the election year. (Seven years before she had given birth to daughter Natasha.) I was totally unprepared. It was a traumatic time for me because David was born weighing about two pounds nine ounces. I didn't know if he would live. But, now he is...six foot three.
BEST OF MOTHERHOOD... Watching my children succeed academically and getting on with their lives. Natasha has a degree in English, History and Arts and is a freelance events planner in London. David has a Masters in Journalism but has switched to a computing career. I think children really come to teach us wisdom and often we miss that wisdom as adults we don't think we should take that wisdom.
I HAVE A PASSION FOR... what I call transformation. I love doing workshops to facilitate the process whereby people can look at themselves and transform themselves.
MARRYING AGAIN...I never say never, I have been in a committed relationship for at least 20 years. I don't need money, what I need is somebody who loves me enough to allow me to be me in a non-judgemental way.
Why we'll miss her at the Breakfast Club
ANTHONY ABRAHAMS, CO-HOST
"She has been a wonderful partner and I think she's Jamaica's most talented female broadcaster. What will be missed most is her on air input. She has a tremendous natural gift of the gab. She smoothes the programme along."
SUSAN GOFFE, GUEST CLUB MEMBER
"Her long-standing political experience and knowledge of Jamaica's political society serve well in discussions of issues. She will be missed because she has years of experience in women's issues, politics, social issues. She can raise conversations on these issues."