Betty Ann Blaine is an historian, children’s rights activist, university lecturer and former talk show host. She recently added political leader to her resume. Blaine heads the New National Coalition (NNC), the 46th 3rd party in Jamaican politics since Independence in 1962.
Blaine says “her mother was a country girl from Westmoreland who was selling in Coronation Market in Kingston – her father a white-skinned Jamaican man from a fairly well off family in St. Andrew.” When her parents married the paternal side rejected the couple. She says while her father’s family lived comfortably, her family lived relatively poor in Kingston. She was educated in Jamaica and in 1971 she left the island for the U.S. to attend Medgar Evers College where she obtained an Associate Degree and Hunter College where she earned her B.A. She then attended Columbia University on scholarship and obtained her Masters.
Her intention was to become a Professor of History but before she could pursue her PhD she read of an organization in Jamaica that was about to close down for lack of funding. She decided to try and help and together with some friends she staged a concert in New York with sponsorship from Air Jamaica, The Apollo Theater and others. The concert starred The Melody Makers, Nadine Sutherland and Junior Tucker, all of whom performed free. The sold out event earned enough to keep the organization afloat.
After the concert the urge to return home was strong and although she resisted her inner voice as long as she could, she eventually gave in and returned home to Jamaica where she focused on children’s rights in the poorer areas of Kingston and founded a lobby group “Hear the Children’s Cry”.
In 2001 she became a founding member and Vice-President of the now defunct United People’s Party (UPP) but resigned shortly after the party was launched and continued her work as a children’s advocate. She launched the NNC in August with 10 founding members and hopes in the next general election (due in 2012) to emerge victorious. She realizes the road to the top will be a huge challenge, both financially and sociologically. “You have to begin to appeal to that Jamaican who has been turned off from the current system. My life experiences, I think, will allow me to be a good leader.” She also says she would like to see more women entering into the political arena.
If her party should win in the next elections, Blaine would be Jamaica’s second female Prime Minister following Portia Simpson of the PNP who held that office from March 2006 to September 2007 and now sits as opposition leader to PM Bruce Golding’s JLP government. Over the last 50 years Jamaica has been shaped by two major parties – Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People’s National Party (PNP). There have been numerous other parties formed periodically but none have survived. Blaine hopes her NNC will be the exceptions and is prepared to work hard to achieve that goal. She is known to have strong views on Separation of Powers, term limits, HIV/AIDS. Homosexuality, and abortion. Other issues include tax reform urban housing and rural land reform,