This Jamaican-native, former British Black Panther, pioneered teaching black history in classrooms
In the 1970s, Beverly Bryan joined Britain’s Black Panthers in solidarity with her friend who was the victim of a police assault. Since then, she has used her training to intentionally spread black stories, black culture, and black history.
Meet Beverley Bryan in her early years
A college professor of education and political activist, Bryan was born in 1950 in the Fairy Hill neighborhood of Portland, Jamaica. His parents are fromGale” generation – people who emigrated from Afro-Caribbean countries during the post-World War II period to Britain, Northern Europe and the United States. From Jamaica, Bryan’s family eventually settled in the Brixton area of London, which became a hub for a growing Caribbean community.
In 1968, Bryan graduated from Keele University, a high school in London. Her aspiration to become a teacher led her to enroll at the University of London. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Master of Arts in Language and Literature in Education, and a Ph.D. a degree in philosophy in language teaching in 1976.
Bryan joined Britain’s Black Panther party
After her friend Oliver Morris was brutally assaulted by police in 1969, Bryan joined her in the civil rights group. Morris, who would become a leading figure in Britain’s anti-racism movement, served as a catalyst for her friend to help the British Black Panther Party not only take action against police brutality, but also serve the local community.
“The way Olive was tackling it was by being part of an organization that campaigned against police harassment,” Bryan said. The Guardian. “And so I joined too.”
As a member of the Panthers, Bryan was instrumental in combating racial discrimination in education and teaching children about black history, according to the outlet.
“The Panthers wasn’t just about politics, it was about youth interaction as well,” Bryan recalled. “We found purpose in the work we were doing, but we also found fun.”
Bryan ran one of the group’s Saturday schools, where she offered extra lessons in math and English. The group basically operated as a free child care service.
The organization of the Brixton Black Women’s Group
After Britain’s Black Panthers disbanded in 1973, Bryan founded the Girl Group Brixton Black next to Liz Obi, British activist and feminist, and Morris. When the organization emerged in response to racism and police attacks, it primarily focused on the experiences of black women in Britain.
In 1985, she co-wrote with two other members of her group, The Heart of Race: The Lives of Black Women in Britaina sociological essay documenting the daily realities of black women in Britain, including their personal and political struggles.
A lifelong educator continues her work
In 1992, at the height of police violence in the UK, Bryan returned to Jamaica with her husband and two sons. She started teaching at the University of the West Indies as a lecturer in educational studies, then became a professor in 2011.
Her expertise in Jamaican Creole literature and language landed her a position with the Jamaican Ministry of Education as a consultant in primary education and literacy improvement. She also published a book in 2010 titled Between two grammars: research and practice for language learning and teaching in a Creole-speaking environment.
“I was in a privileged position when I returned to Jamaica, being in a comfortable middle-class profession,” Bryan said. “But you always have to recognize what you can do with your privilege and the work that needs to be done.”
Now retired, the author and activist is still a prominent figure both in the black community in the UK and in her native Jamaica. She continues to speak and advocate for women’s lives while building Afro-Caribbean culture and identity.