OBV Profile: Cllr Betty Evans-Jacas

On May 4, 2006 Betty Evans-Jacas was elected as a councillor for Brixton Hill in Lambeth. Prior to and since her appointment she continues to be one of the most vocal people in her constituency.

Having been a member of the Labour Party for over 30 years she says that her decision to join the party came about because "obviously there were very few Black people actively engaged or who had political presence or positions in government".

Today, as a councillor some of her key responsibilities include sitting on a number of London Council Forums like Crime and Public Protection; and The Children, Young People and Families Forum.

Her previous positions have included work as a Community Development Worker in Lambeth and later became the Deputy Director of an inner-city partnership unit which helped bring funds to the borough to help improve it. She also worked as Social Work manager for a day care centre.

Noted as referring to Martin Luther King as her political hero, Cllr Evans-Jacas herself has made considerable contributions to the fight for equality.

In 2004 she, together with three other individuals, launched the Integrated Voices Project. The project was established in an effort to encourage ethnic minorities to put themselves forward as candidates for safe Labour seats, particularly in Lambeth.

She says that the project made a considerable difference with an increase in the number of ethnic minority people coming forward and becoming more politically aware.

"It was actually through this that I was encouraged to put myself forward as a candidate," she adds.

Cllr Evans-Jacas, a Streatham resident, refers to the church as one of the places which was central to engaging and educating the community about politics. She says the church was key to getting people registered to vote but not only that but to educate people on the importance their vote and politics.

"People fought and died for the vote so we should use it. We have decisions being made around us and it is only our right that we should be part of that decision process."

As a youngster, the American born Cllr Evans-Jacas was very much influenced by her grandmother who was very active within the church and essentially became a community activist becoming heavily involved in public programs on issues related to health and poverty in rural areas of Alabama.

She grew up where racial tensions were very high, and through this she later went on to become highly involved in Black power movements while attending university. She took part in marches and joined regular meetings while completing an associate degree in Social Science. She later went on to attain a double Masters in Policy and Planning - Social Work Administration.

Referring to the importance of churches at that time she says, "We weren't nationally organised politically but it was through the church that we came together to be able to work on strategies for issues like harvest distribution."

She later immigrated to England in the 1970s with her husband and later had three children together.

The councillor became strongly involved in the Jamaican High Commission helping combat some of the issues faced by many of those who immigrated to England. For one she became heavily involved in the Mary Seacole Association, helping raise funds for disadvantaged children.

One of her proudest moments was the event 'One Vote' where the former Prime Minister Tony Blair visited churches in Lambeth to support the Black community to come out together with the churches and politically educate each other about the value of their vote and the need to vote.

Cllr Evans-Jacas shows no sign of ending the commitment to her constituency and plans to continue fighting for equality and maintaining her role as a community activist.

Discussing the prospect of the first Black US president in her native country she believes that a huge jump has been made since she was last there.

"I am really proud that in my lifetime that the opportunity to have the first Black president is likely to happen, it shows how far we have all come," she says.