Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey

"I do not speak carelessly or recklessly but with a definite object of helping the people, especially those of my race, to know, to understand, and to realize themselves."

   --Marcus Garvey,
   Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1937

Life and Lessons
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In several ways, and certainly from political and cultural standpoints, we are still weighing the monumental impact of Marcus Garvey around the world. His clarion call of "One Aim, One God, One Destiny," and "Africans for Africans at home and abroad," still resonate, having an especially significant value in the spiritual and psychological outlook of Black people wherever they reside.

Born in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, August 17, 1887, Garvey would be celebrating his 110th birthday this coming summer. Garvey was virtually self-taught, reading voraciously from his father's extensive library. By 1910, and then residing in Kingston, he quickly established himself as a orator, a skill that was the hallmark of his illustrious political career.

For the next four years or so Garvey traveled throughout the West Indies, Central America and Europe, primarily working as a printer and an editor. In England he worked briefly at the prestigious Africa Times and Orient Review, where he came under the estimable influence of Duse Muhammad. Upon his return to Jamaica, he was convinced of a need for an organization to uplift the downtrodden people of his island. Thus was born the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

Two years later, after being completely captivated by Booker T. Washington's autobiography "Up From Slavery," Garvey wrote to the great man and was soon thinking of building his own institution modeled after Washington's Tuskegee Institute. Through the correspondence with Washington, Garvey made plans to visit the United States. Unfortunately, when he finally arrived in America, Washington had died the previous year in 1915, but a visionary like Garvey was not deterred by this setback.

As part of his introduction to the states, Garvey toured the country, lecturing and establishing contacts. It took the energetic Garvey only a couple of years to place the UNIA on the political map, and this notoriety was ushered along by his extremely potent weekly the Negro World.

At its peak, some historians have written, the UNIA boasted a membership of more than four million, with almost as many sympathizers. How it rose to this prominence and its ultimate eclipse which has been insightfully discussed in the works of Robert Hill and Tony Martin. What is apparent in their exhaustive studies is the powerful impression Garvey left on our spiritual and mental health. His fervent nationalism, his belief in self-reliance is an indelible stamp that marks our progress as a people. We salute the magnificent Garvey on this 110th year of his birth, knowing that his prodigious soul-force will carry us through the 21st century and beyond.

Ethiopianism includes the appreciation of Ethiopia's ancient civilization as well as its role in the Bible. To blacks, Africa (interchangeable with Ethiopia) became a glorious, Biblical homeland equated with Zion. The recognition of African roots and the desire for repatriation has been a central theme in New World black religion before and since emancipation. Ethiopianism became a "black religious reaction to pro-slavery propaganda."

Marcus Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement developed the spirit of Ethiopianism to its fullest extent.

...since white people have seen their God through white spectacles, we have only now started out (late though it be) to see our God through our own spectacles. The God of Isaac and the God of Jacob let him exist for the race that believe in the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. We Negroes believe in the God of Ethiopia, the everlasting God -- God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, the one God of all ages. That is the God in whom we believe, but we shall worship him through the spectacles of Ethiopia.

A. J. Garvey, The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey

Garvey's words planted the seeds for most "Black Cod" movements in the US and Caribbean. Stressing the superiority of the ancient Africans and the dignity of the black race, he inspired many successful nationalist movements and numerous African leaders from Kenyatta to Nyerere.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born in St. Ann, Jamaica, in 1887, descended from the fiercely proud Maroons. He founded the newspaper The Negro World, which took as its motto his nationalist cry, "One God, One Aim, One Destiny." In 1917, he founded UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) in Harlem. Its aims were described in a speech delivered by Garvey in 1924 at Madison Square Garden, New York:

The Universal Improvement Association represents the hopes and aspirations of the awakened Negro. Our desire is for a place in the world, not to disturb the tranquility of other men, but to lay down our burden and rest our weary backs and feet by the banks of the Niger and sing our songs and chant our hymns to the God of Ethiopia.
Garvey's goal of repatriation was expressed in his famous slogan "Africa for the Africans." His well-known Black Star Line steamship company was established to trade and eventually carry New World blacks to Africa. This prophet of African redemption was not always successfull in his countless business ventures, but by the 1920s Garvey was the most powerful leader among the black masses in the United States.

In 1916, before he left for his US campaign, Garvey's farewell address to Jamaicans included the words "Look to Africa for the crowning of a Black king; he shall be the Redeemer."

How Marcus Garvey Influenced Trinidad

By: Kim Johnson
August 23, 1998.

Throughout the whole of last week, Marcus Garvey's birthday was commemorated at the Adiadama Centre for Lifelong Learning. There were lectures and displays on things African, music and food from the motherland, all in celebration of the great leader of the African Diaspora who was born on August 17, 1887 and died on June 10 1940.

Today he is vaguely known in Trinidad mainly through the influence of reggae music, but in the 1920's and 1930's he is the most loved and most hated black man in the world. Garvey's organisation, the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), had millions of supporters in branches throughout the world; his newspaper Negro World was sold-and banned- wherever there were Africans. And Trinidad was on exception.

Further more, Trinidadians played central roles in the Garvey movement, starting with Charles Zampty from Belmont, who met Garvey in Panama. Zampty migrated to New York in 1918 and by the following year founded a branch in Detroit. In 1922 he was the UNIA auditor-a post he held until 1977 when he met Tony Martin.

But it was the 1919 dockworker's strike which revived the dormant Trinidad Workingmen's Association TWA and introduced Garveyism to the masses. Howard Bishop, the leading light in the TWA reprinted articles from Negro World in the Association's Labour leader. TWA secretary James Braithwaite was on occasion president of the Port of Spain UNIA.

Such was the fear Garvey instilled in the colonial authorities that Negro World was banned in Trinidad as in many British colonies throughout the world. Braithwaite, calling the 1919 strike, was jailed for 30 days. Other TWA leaders were deported, including Grenadian John Sydney de Bourg, who went to New York where he became the UNIA's leader of the Negroes of the Western Provinces of the West Indies and South and Central American.

De Bourg became Garvey's right hand man and he was made a Knight Commander of the Nile and Duke of Nigeria and Uganda, and was awarded the Gold Cross of African Redemption. Sadly, de Bourg fell out with Garvey and testified against him in the infamous 1932 trial. Trinidadians also held shares in the UNIA's Black Star Line. Randolph Flanner and Allan Berridge, both workers from the Government Foundry, became engineers for the Lines ships. Joshua Parris was a fireman there too. But links between Trinidad and Garvey grew closer in the form of the flamboyant Herbert Fauntleroy Julian, aka the Black Eagle.

Repeatedly the first black man to qualify as a pilot in the US, Julian flew a Curtis biplane painted with UNIA slogans as a surprise for Garvey's 1922 convention. He buzzed the parade - there were as yet no restrictions against low -flying - and later Garvey introduced him to a mass meeting as an example of black achievement. By then there were over 30 UNIA branches in this country (Jamaica had only 10). Garvey's historian Tony Martin lists the following as having UNIA branches : Balandra Bay , Carapichaima, Caroni Cedros, Chaguanus , Couva, D'Abadie, Enterprise Gasparillo, Guico, Iere village, La Brea, Los Bajos, Mucurapo, Marabella, Matura, Morne Diablo, Moruga, Palmyra, Penal, Port of Spain, Princes Town, Rio Claro, St. Madeleine, San Fernando, Siparia, Tableland, Victoria village, and Williamsville.

These organisations stimulated African racial pride and self reliance, but doubled as Friendly societies to pay death benefits. In march 1922, the charter for the Port of Spain branch was Unveiled at the Ideal Hall on Tragerete road.

The meeting started at 3p.m.with UNIA youths and UNIA choir. Local UNIA President Stanley Jones, V/President Thomas O'Neil, Chaplain Reginald Perpignac, Black Cross Nurses director Louise Critchlow and Commissioner for Trinidad Percival Burroughs followed before a detachment of Black Cross Nurses.

Dressed like an Ethiopian Queen Nauma Brathwaite unveiled the charter. Burroughs presented each officer with his emblem of office- a gavel for the President, a Bible for the Chaplain, and so on. TWA leader Howard Bishop delivered the Featured Address. Burrows eventually became the UNIA commissioner for district 5 of the Foreign Fields-which included Trinidad, Grenada, St. Vincent, Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela.

Surprisingly, one Hucheshwar Mudjal, who was born in India and grew up in Trinidad before moving to the US and was Foreign affairs columnist for Garvey's daily Negro times . Cyril Critchlow, a Trinidadian in New York, was the official UNIA reporter and he moved to Liberia whit Garvey when the Latter Attempted to shift base to Africa.

Critchlow got into a squabble with the Liberian union leader Gabriel Johnson and Critchlow sought the assistance of the US minister in Monrovia and sued Garvey for back pay.

Due to hostile propaganda but also because of it's latter day connection with Rastafarianism Garvey's message is thought to be a simplistic one of repatriating all Black people to Africa. Actually, Garvey preached that the Negro race needed a strong nation which would necessarily be based in Africa for the protection of Black people the World over. Much as Europeans and Americans are protected by their country.

Nor was Garvey's idea of racial pride a matter of envy towards other races, rather he advocated self-discipline as a basis of pride and was severely critical of complainers: "We are to envious, malicious and superficial, and because of this we keep back ourselves".

By the time Garvey finally got permission to visit Trinidad in 1937, the UNIA had been broken by internal corruption and US Government harassment (both given great assistance by Trinidadians). He was given a big welcome at the Globe Cinema, smoke from June 19 was still in the air, but Garvey agreed not to hold public meeting his friend Captain AA Cipriani had criticized Butler and the strikers and Garvey was succumbing under the conservatism that age brings. Three years later he died of heart failure in London.

Dr. Tony Martin is the Leading scholar on the works,words, and deeds of both Garvey and the UNIA-ACL founded in 1914. He has written many books and is recognized by the UNIA-ACL today as the Leading Historian on Garvey. Check the Website: www.themajoritypress.com.

Excerpts from Look Up, You Mighty Race!

Garvey's Legacy in Context: Colourism, Black Movements and African Nationalism by Ayanna Gillian

Two Speeches by Marcus Garvey

Books About Marcus Garvey

The poetry of Marcus Garvey

The Marcus Garvey Youth League

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