Marcus Garvey’s Work Transcends Tribes, Geography and Creeds

By April 3, 2017Commentary

Marcus Mosiah Garvey 1987-1940

By Valerie Dixon

Marcus Garvey was 22 years old when Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah was born in Ghana, and so, Garvey could easily have been his father. Under the chapter heading “Africa for the Africans” in the book Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, Marcus Garvey is reported as saying that “…for five years the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) has been advocating the cause of Africa for the Africans those at home and those abroad – that is, that the Negro peoples of the world should concentrate upon the object of building up for themselves a great nation in Africa.

When we started our propaganda toward this end, several of the so-called intellectual Negroes who have been bamboozling the race for over half a century said that we were crazy, that the Negro peoples of the western world were not interested in Africa and could not live in Africa.”

He went on further to say that “…the old time stores of African fever, African bad climate, African savages have been repeated by these “brainless intellectuals” of ours, as a scare against our people in America and the West Indies taking a kindly interest in the new program of building a racial empire of our own in our Motherland.”

It is always best to begin at home before going abroad, which means we need to first look at how Marcus Garvey was treated with contempt by some Black people in his own country of Jamaica. As the Lady President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) in Jamaica, I recently received as a gift, a folder that contains personal notes and many pages of quotations collected by the late Ken Jones, along with a booklet entitled “Marcus Garvey Said” and the foreword is by John Henrick Clarke.

In leafing through the pages I came across a heading which read ‘Colour Prejudice in Jamaica’. Garvey wrote “I really never knew that there was so much colour prejudice in Jamaica, my own native home until I started the work of the UNIA. The daily papers wrote me up with big headlines and told of my movement. But nobody wanted to be a ‘Negro’.

Now this is interesting – according to Garvey “Men and women as black as I am, and even more so had believed themselves to be “white” under the colonial West Indian order of society.” He went on further to say that he had to decide whether to please his friends and be one of the “black-whites” of Jamaica and become reasonably prosperous, or come out openly and defend and help improve and protect the integrity of the Black millions and suffer. This decision would be his downfall and was the greatest sin that he had committed against the “coloured-black-white” society in all of the West Indian colonies and in the United States of America. He said “I was openly hated and persecuted by some of these brown-coloured mulatto men of the island who did not want to be classified as ‘Negroes’ but as ‘white’”.

The brown ruling-class was not the only group of people who gave Marcus Garvey the ‘Trudeau salute’. In the book Philosophy and Opinions under the heading ‘Traitors’, Garvey laments that “in the fight to reach the top, the oppressed have always been encumbered by the traitors of their own race, made up of those of little faith and those who are generally susceptible to bribery for the selling out of the rights of their own people.”

He makes the point that “the traitor of the other races is generally confined to individuals who are mediocre or irresponsible, but unfortunately, the traitors among the Negro race are generally to be found among the men highest placed in education and society.”

It would appear that part of the problem why Garvey has been side-stepped and disrespected could lie in his continuous usage of the word ‘Negro’, as most of the Black race have been brain-washed into hating the Spanish word for the colour ‘black’ which is ‘negro’. One school of thought theorized that when the European conquerors first came to Africa they had never seen black faces before and did not know the name of the Black race which is ‘Alkebulan’.

According to the following resource: Kemetic History of Afrika; the definition of Alkebulan is as follows: “The ancient name of Africa was Alkebulan. Alkebu-lan”mother of mankind” or “garden of Eden”. Alkebulan is the oldest and the only word of indigenous origin. Jun 28, 2011. Africa’s True Name | Drive South Africa

To say that the majority of the grass-roots peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora have been shafted by so called mostly foreign-educated and trained Black leaders is putting it mildly, and it would appear that the same category of Black people who held Marcus Garvey in contempt during the early part of the 20th century is the same category that still holds him in contempt now, the early part of the 21st century.

Quoting from SELF HELP NEWS – “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” we should pay attention to what is said here “If we are to survive as a race, then Alkebulan or African peoples cannot afford to be left behind. We will be left behind if our minds, hearts and spirits are not equipped to join the power-chess game currently being played globally.” To evidence his early advocacy for Pan Africanism, Marcus Garvey eloquently asked “Where is the Black man’s government? Where is his President, his country and his ambassador, his army, his navy and his men of big affairs?” I could not find them and then I declared “I will help to make them”.

Let me state that Garvey was not the first to advocate for Pan Africanism. It is said that he was greatly influenced by Edward Wilmot Blyden. Blyden is declared as the father of Pan-Africanism, and was an educator, writer, diplomat, and politician primarily in Liberia. Born in the West Indies, he joined the free black immigrants from the United States who migrated to the region. Wikipedia

He too seems to have been side-stepped by a tiny minority who are now advocating for a Pan African Federalist Movement. So it appears that Blyden influenced Garvey and Garvey influenced Nkrumah.

In these present times our Black leaders have not yet been invited to the Games Table, partly because Africa’s and the Diaspora’s apparent state of dependency suggests that Africans, both at home and abroad, have little or nothing material to add value to the geopolitical power game being played.

A Pan African Federalist Congress has been slated to take place in the latter part of 2018. Among other things, this is what Prof. Kwaa Prah, A Ghanaian leader in the Global Pan African Movement said that should help to demystify the shroud of defeatism that seems to be engulfing many Black people, both in Africa and the Diaspora, due primarily to poor Black leadership, as many former Black colonies have not been able to show prosperity over the past 50 years since many gained their so-called ‘Independence’ from their European owners.

Prah said “Pan Africanism is more substantial than the occasional congresses that have in the last twenty years taken place. The tradition and organization of these congresses have lost the meaning they had in the colonial period. They have become jamborees invariably serving opportunistic interests.”

He went on “… The reason behind the struggle for a United Africa State is wholly to mobilize Africans under one Federal government with immense independence. This is not a struggle to be powerful nor famous but a struggle to attain wisdom over the oppressor The struggle for the United Africa State desires us to be committed, not for any other motive but for the goal-tagged unity and independence of the Pan African struggle.”

It seems that at the crux of Black peoples’ problems is the problem of poor or misguided education that our leaders seem to possess.

To those who may wish to declare that Garvey is no longer relevant and so can be side-stepped and be relegated to the footnotes of history, Garvey said “Not until we settle down as four hundred million people and let the men who have placed themselves in the lead of us realize that we are disgusted and dissatisfied, and that we shall have a leadership of our own and stick by it when we get it, will we be able to lift ourselves from this mire of degradation to the heights of prosperity, human liberty and human appreciation.”

Many Black People born on the Continent of Africa are naturally tribal, based on their traditional culture. Historical Afrikan Diasporans were tribal- orientated before members were kidnapped and taken to foreign and hostile lands, beaten, murdered and subjugated. Most Historical Diasporans are not like that today, because our natural tribal intents were forced out of us by our ‘Massas’ (name for slave-owners).

Our Alkebulan kith and kin on the Continent, though colonised and placed under the yoke of racism and apartheid and genocide in some extreme cases like in South West Africa (now Namibia) and the Congo, had not experienced the same consistent and protracted levels of oppressions as those in the Diaspora. Continentals were, unlike their kith and kin in the Diaspora, able to keep their languages, basic tribal structures and traditions. Later these deteriorated to current levels which progressive Africans now seek to address and arrest. Some of these deficits are still oozing from some backward looking African leadership, those at home and those abroad.

Many Africans now living on the Continent do not know about the basic history of their kith and kin in the Diaspora. Many don’t even know that these existed, except when they saw them on TV during international events – track and field – Olympics, boxing, football, big televised concerts, head lined by Africans like Muhammad Ali, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Burning Spear, etc. But most Continentals know about Ghana.

They might not know about Nkrumah, but when they are told that he was a Ghanaian leader, many easily warm to him and follow his teachings. This approach to Garvey is different, because, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah might have learnt from Garvey, but contemporary Afrikans on the Continent don’t know that and, probably, don’t care.

Some of those who know about the supreme work of Garvey are looking to create a different type of Continental collective identity. And Garvey, born many thousands of miles away in a foreign land, would not fit the bill as front runner for that position. Nkrumah fits this bill better in their minds.

True, we must educate and not castigate them. Many of them don’t know Garvey. We are required to teach them. After all, it is only recently when they learnt about the great work of Marcus Garvey, many of whom came to that realisation via by Dr Vince Hines, “VISISONS AND STRUGGLES WALK TOGETHER”, a comprehensive multi-media documentary, uploaded to YouTube, the Internet, during 2016.

His Excellency Marcus Mosiah Garvey is Jamaica’s National Hero – not the Continent of Africa’s; not even the Caribbean’s. And so, we should not be surprised that Continental Alkebulans gave their first attention to Kwame Nkrumah. This is likely to be the case in the future.

What Garveyites and the Pan-African Movement should seek to do is to ensure that Marcus Mosiah Garvey secures his historical seat among Global Africanists, including Pan Africanists. As writers, we should always write positive and not reinforce negative generalities that “Garvey is forgotten or disrespected”.

He is not. Garvey is more popular today than he might have been since 1940 after his death. It took the historical Jesus Christ almost 400 years before his great work came to the surface internationally. Two thousand years later, history speaks for itself.

We should not compare Garvey with his current critics. Garvey’s work should be able to withstand criticism motivated by envy and jealously and rigorous academic enquiries.

Garvey’s popularity continues to rise. His work is being known by various generations, and every time we speak of African Unity, we are quoting and parroting Marcus Mosiah Garvey. We must embrace Garvey because he is the link to the people of the Continent of Africa and the Historical Diaspora – the children of those kidnapped from Alkebulan.

What we need to say to the UAS organisers is that they are to ensure that in all their planning, Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s place is prominently displayed at all times, second to none, based on his great work, with regular and perpetual references and how it added value to the African Collective Personality, in the past, currently and likely to do in the future. We build on his intellectual and visionary legacy, as bequeathed to all Africans, those at home and those abroad.

Garveyism has become a driver for Global Africa and the Pan-African Movement. The progressive Global African Leadership active today recognise the power and substance of Garvey’s life long work.

In clarifying the Pan African Federalist Movement position on Garvey, Joomaay Ndongo Faye wrote, “When the United African States will be proclaimed; Pangool (Saint and Seer) Marcus Garvey will be listed as their FIRST PRESIDENT.

Everything that Pan African Federalists are DOING is GEARED toward making the dream of the First Pan African Federalist in History, Pangool Garvey, to materialize. For that Reason, Pangool Garvey’s Legacy is a Common Property of ALL AFRICAN PEOPLE wherever they may hail from. Du Bois, Nkrumah, Diop and all those whom we are quoting on issues regarding African Unity, were singing the Pangool Garvey’s song.”

Joomaay continued, “The Pan African Federalist Movement is ALMOST A COPY of Pangool Garvey’s Political Strategy. I say ‘almost’ because we are trying to modernize it.” Joomaay Ndongo Faye, Harrambee Pan African Federalists! Africa can be united/L’Afrique peut etre unie.


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