Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:She walked a mile every day from home to Ferncourt High School. At times, there was no money for lunch. There was also no money for pencils, pens and books sometimes.
But poverty was no excuse for Dr Hume Johnson whose upbringing is not unique. Many rural families today, she argues, face similar issues and, like her, being poor did not stop their achievements.
Johnson is an author, journalist, professor and political analyst.
Early in life, she mastered the art of discipline, focused on her goals while putting poverty aside.
"My mother was an early-childhood educator on a stipend with three children to feed and send to school. So there were excruciating economic challenges," Dr Johnson tells Outlook Magazine.
"We were poor, but we were never allowed to complain and moan about it," she says. It was the grace of her mother, the laughter at their circumstances and the faith to never give up that strengthened this family's resolve.
"So challenges do not deter me. I laugh at them and carry on," boasts the professor of public relations and media communications at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island, New York.
She is one of five black lecturers on that campus and one of two Jamaicans flying the black, green and gold flag high.
True to form, long before the professors at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, where she gained her PhD and the lecturers at the University of the West Indies, Mona, experienced the 'Hu-mi' brand, the teachers at Ferncourt High School, in Claremont, St Ann, recognised her as a trademark.
By graduation, Ferncourt sent her off in fine style with the coveted 'Best Community Spirit' award at age 16.
It was in high school that she developed a keen awareness of civil society and saw the value of civic engagement and participation.
She was a member of the Claremont Community Action Development Committee (CLARECODAC) and actively participated in the executive of the Claremont Police Youth Club.
Her mother, Elizabeth Tucker, seemed to have crafted the trajectory her life would take.
"My mother saw the name Hume in a newspaper in 1975 and liked it. She cannot now recall whom it was associated with, but I know it's usually a surname and a man's name."
Johnson did not like the name growing up. "It gave me great trepidation when people asked me what my name was. I literally would brace myself for their responses, which would range from shock to being puzzled."
And yes, she was mocked a little in high school. This she said could have destroyed her self-esteem, but she coined "Hu-Mi" to make it easier for people to digest her name. "I am very comfortable with it now and proudly say it and watch in amusement people's varied responses."
Last Thursday evening, in the midst of two former prime ministers, Percival James Patterson, Andrew Holness, and several members of civil society, Dr Johnson, inspired by life in Jamaica, unveiled her first book titled, Challenges to Civil Society: Popular Protest and Governance in Jamaica. The book is dedicated to her mentor, the late Dr Barry Chevannes, and her mother.
Ranked among the leading communication specialists in the country, Johnson says she wrote the book because she is convinced that "We cannot sit and be mere spectators in our own society".
She served as an executive member of P.J. Patterson's Youth Advisory Council and this also furthered her interest and curiosity about citizenship and civil society.
"I have been following her progress and she is one of the most diligent young scholars of the current generation," is how Patterson describes her.
"Her background in broadcasting, journalism and political history gives her a unique perspective from which she writes after thorough research," says the former head of state.
He says her book heralds the emergence of a new generation of scholars who have benefited from the tutelage and erudition of the likes of professor Trevor Munroe, the late George Beckford, Carl Stone and Norman Girvan.
Dr Johnson will tell you that this book was buttressed when, while as a working journalist, she witnessed first-hand the 1999 gas riots, and other kinds of protest action over the years. "I observed with great distress the models of protestation that our citizens adopt in their attempt to express their grievance and force the agencies of the state to act in line with their interests."
So she wrote the book, she says, "Really out of a genuine curiosity - about the types and nature of political expression - street demonstrations and roadblocks - that was coming from the base of the Jamaican society."
With more than 15 years of professional experience in television and radio broadcasting, public relations and strategic political communication, paired with poise, strong public speaking skills and a sharp political instinct, Johnson is an emerging powerhouse in the Caribbean political and sociocultural arena.
Her expertise in political communication and active engagement in the Jamaican public sector and creative industries sector won her top-notch clients, including high-level government officials, entertainers and business executives.
Nowadays, Johnson manages a global academic career extending from Jamaica to Australia, New Zealand and the United States.