February 26, 2001 - By: Julius W. Garvey, M.D.

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Garvey's Son Responds to PBS Film

"Marcus Garvey – Look For Me in The Whirlwind"

Letter 1: To the Editor of the Jamaica Gleaner

Dear Sir,
I would like to make some comments relative to the PBS documentary on Marcus Garvey, "Look for me in the Whirlwind", that was shown at the Little Theatre in Kingston on February 20th.

My two major areas of criticism are (1) Factual inaccuracies and slanderous statements without even attempting to substantiate them and (2) The absence of any in-depth analysis of what Marcus Garvey stood for or was trying to do.

I will attempt to deal with some of the former that I consider to be of major importance.

(1) The early incident of Marcus Garvey being left in the grave is dramatized and the statement is made that his father was teaching him ‘Never to rely on anyone'. The incident is factual, but the reason given to me by my mother is that my grandfather was teaching Marcus not to be afraid of anything!

It may seem initially like a small difference, but it sets the stage for later gratuitous statements that Marcus Garvey was always alone, never confided in anyone, did not take advice and was dictatorial.

So right from the beginning we have psychodrama and psychohistory.

Incidentally the technique of leaving someone in a graveyard for an extended period of time is a well-known Tibetan Buddhist practice, used for centuries to test an initiate's fearlessness and stability of mind.

(2) Statements that Amy Ashwood was the cofounder of the UNIA is an exaggeration in that Marcus Garvey returned from England to Jamaica on July 15th 1914 and within 5 days founded the UNIA.

It is unlikely that a 17-year-old girl had the vision to be anything more than an early member.

It is said that Amy Ashwood's mother did not consider Marcus Garvey the right type of person for her daughter to date, as he did not have a solid income. Well at this point he was a world traveler, a master printer, a journalist and the founder of an organization that had her daughter as one of fifteen members of the "board of management". Incidentally, both Amy Ashwood's mother and brother were on the UNIA payroll.

Marcus Garvey was elected president and TRAVELLING COMMISSIONER of the UNIA at its founding.

I emphasize this latter with good reason. Incidentally both Amy Ashwood's mother and brother were on the UNIA payroll.

(3) Marcus Garvey grossly mismanaged the funds of the organization and used them for his own purposes.

Again, not only is there no proof of this, but the opposite is true in that Marcus Garvey gave a public accounting of how the funds were used. At this early stage the organization was mostly uplift and philanthropy. It was a literary and debating society, did charitable work such as feeding and entertaining hundreds of poor and sick people, especially on Emancipation Day and at Christmas.

Garvey never ran away from Jamaica or left in a hurry. This was carefully planned and there are letters to Booker T. Washington and his successor, Moton, to prove that Garvey's visit to the U.S. was to see Tuskegee Institute, which he viewed as a model industrial institute, and to raise funds for a similar institute and farm in Jamaica.

I think he was clearly carrying out his duties as TRAVELLING COMMISSIONER.

Also he never abandoned Amy Ashwood in Jamaica, as she had already left for Panama.

(4) Marcus Garvey is portrayed as being awed by the bright lights, richness and tall buildings of Harlem.

He had already had 4 years of world travel under his belt, 2 in the Caribbean (Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and 2 in Europe (England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy).

I do not think he was overly impressed with Harlem, New York, U.S.A.

He is said to have been so nervous at an early speaking engagement that he shook like a leaf and LITERALLY fell on his face.

Marcus Garvey even prior to leaving Jamaica in 1910 took part in debates and elocution contests and he trained himself in this area. He studied the speaking style of many ministers in Kingston, he spoke in public on many occasions in Costa Rica and Panama. He studied the speakers in London's Hyde Park, at Speaker's Corner. He participated himself. He also sat in the gallery of the House of Commons and studied the speakers there engaged in parliamentary debate.

He did not have to go to the U.S. to copy the speaking style of someone named Billy Sunday and he certainly would not have "shaken like a leaf".

His topic, by the way was ‘Jamaica' and the audience was largely West Indian.

As to literally ‘falling flat on his face'. This is an outright lie, as to fall flat on one's face, one would have to be in an altered state of consciousness so that the normal defense mechanism of putting out one's hands to break the fall would not be operational.

The one fact in all this is that Marcus Garvey fell off the platform while speaking on May 9th, 1916 at St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church Hall at 57 West 138th Harlem, N.Y.

How one gets from this one fact to the tissue of lies and fevered mental projections is quite a leap.

By the way he got up and continued his speech. He needed no medical attention for a broken nose, busted lip or bruised head as he would have done if he ‘literally fell flat on his face' from the platform.

(5) Garvey is said to have been authoritarian, antidemocratic, naming himself and others with fancy titles, etc.

The UNIA was an organization with a constitution. Marcus Garvey was elected Provisional President of Africa by 25,000 delegates from all over the world at the first international convention of the Negro peoples of the world in N.Y. in 1920. He was opposed by Dr. Lewis from Nigeria, but he won the election.

Important matters relative to the objectives of the organization and how they should be carried out were discussed at convention and by the delegates in committee and the recommendations voted upon democratically by the delegates present. Not autocratically dictated by Marcus Garvey.

There were 8 such conventions. The first in 1920 and the last in 1938 in Toronto Canada. WWII started in 1939. Garvey died in 1940.

(6) He is said to have fired his lawyer and no reason is given for this except to say that Garvey wanted to impress the jury with his oratory.

The fact is that his lawyer wanted to plea bargain and Garvey refused, protesting his innocence and therefore fired him. Nevertheless he hired lawyers to advise him on court proceedings, as he pleaded his case.

He did this well enough to have a hung jury. At which time the presiding judge instructed the jury not to ‘turn the tiger loose'. They came back in 15 minutes with a guilty verdict.

The only piece of evidence was an empty envelope; the address was not in Marcus Garvey's handwriting.

(7) A handbill is shown advertising and seeking subscriptions to buy a boat called the ‘Phyllis Wheatley'. This is said to be a gross misrepresentation, as the ship did not exist.

Well the ship did exist, and $20,000 had been paid down on it and the organization was raising funds to complete the purchase and rename the ship the ‘S.S. Phillis Wheatley'. The fist ship of the Black Star Line was the ‘Yarmouth', renamed the ‘Frederick Douglas'. The third ship was the ‘Kenawha', renamed the ‘Antonio Maceo'. The fourth ship was to be named the ‘Phillis Wheatley' after Afro-Americas first female poet and one of its most celebrated.

How this can be called misrepresentation requires a wide stretch of the imagination.

(8) Finally, the last scene that was dramatized showing Garvey, ‘the failure, who had come down, in the world', being stoned by children and walking toward a hovel, presumably his home.

A despicable lie. We lived at 53 Lady Musgrave Rd., St. Andrew from 1927 to 1937. My brother and I were both born there. The house still stands and was lived in by the Hendricks family and subsequently housed the Indian High Commission.

I do not need to tell a Jamaican readership of the many accomplishments of Marcus Garvey between 1927 and 1935 in Jamaica.

To end a documentary on Our 1st National Hero, Hero of the Americas and a Hero to millions of Africans, those at home and those abroad, climaxes the many distortions of fact, lies and character assassinations that are so numerous that I cannot include them all here.

One can only ask, Why?

Perhaps it is a situation of ‘who pays the piper calls the tune'.

I prefer to be charitable and say, ‘My father forgive them for they know not what they do'.

Julius W. Garvey, M.D.

Letter 2: To The Editor of The Observer ( Jamaica)

I would like to make some comments relative to the PBS documentary on Marcus Garvey, "Look for me in the Whirlwind", that was shown at the Little Theatre in Kingston on February 20th.

My criticism is twofold: (1) the film was rife with factual inaccuracies and slanderous innuendo and; (2) it lacked any real understanding of what Marcus Garvey stood for or was trying to do or what he ultimately achieved. I will attempt to deal briefly with the latter.

First was a sense of identity.

African people had the longest history and culture of all peoples and could be justly proud of same. They created the first civilizations in Africa, which were the prototypes of all others. Only recently in world history were we brought down from our pinnacle of civilization and enslaved.

Not withstanding European propaganda we were not subhuman, but we were once great and could be great again. As he said, "History is the landmark by which we are directed into the true course of life". The history of a movement, of a nation, of a race is the guidepost of that movement's destiny.

So we must know our history and our past accomplishments and that will give us the strength and courage to accomplish even more.

Second was self-reliance.

We do not need to depend on others for our own development, but must use our own intelligence and creative genius to solve the problems that we currently face and to determine our own agenda and hence our destiny.

He said, "Man is the individual who is able to shape his own character, master his own will, direct his own life and shape his own ends. Man is therefore the architect of his own fate and master of his own destiny.

Third was Unity and Nationhood.

A united people with a strong sense of identity had to have land where they could develop according to their own idealism. This was the basis of Nationhood.

He said, "Nationhood is the only means by which modern civilization can completely protect itself. Independence of Nationality, independence of government , is the means of protecting not only the individual, but the group. Nationhood is the highest ideal of all peoples".

This is what he wished for African people.

This Pan-African Nation had to have a land base in Africa, (The Liberia Project).

It is only through Nationhood that African people could be supported and protected globally.

Fourth, only through a strong economic base could the above ideological framework be carried out. He said, "Every student of economics knows that the race can only be saved through a solid industrial foundation. Take away industry from a race, take away political freedom from a race and you have a group of slaves. A race that is solely dependent upon another for its economic existence sooner or later dies.

Africans, where ever they were therefore (a) had to be in control of their resources and the means of production (b) Africans needed to constitute a trading block made up of those on the continent and those in the Diaspora.

Today numbering 600,000,000; (c) they also needed to control the means of transportation and the means of communication amongst each other.

Fifth, only those who had mastered the physical and psychological sciences would be able to prosper and dominate competitively in the future. Therefore education of all ages and in all locations was paramount. He said, "The battles of the future, whether they are physical or mental, will be fought on scientific lines and the race that is able to produce the highest scientific development, is the race that will ultimately rule.

The significant caveat for African people was that spirituality had to control the knowledge of and use of scientific developments. This was the only way to combat the evils of modern scientific materialism.

Sixth, one had to apply these principles pragmatically, depending on time and place and using one's creative genius.

A host of solutions were put forth in the early 20th century that were needed at the time. (A) The weekly newspaper the, 'Negro World', published continuously from 1919 to 1933. The largest Negro weekly in the U.S.A. (B) The Negro Factories Corporation. Employing over 1,000 people in N.Y.C. alone. (C) The Black Star Line had four ships in all at a time when shipping was the means of transportation for raw materials and manufactured goods worldwide. (D) The Black Cross Nurses; (E) the African Orthodox Church; (F) the African Legion, etc.

Seventh, Garveyism represented a way of life that did not separate the spiritual from the secular and therefore represented an integrated view of man and indeed a New African Humanism based on the Father/Motherhood of God and the brother/sisterhood of woman/man.

God was a formless permanent, spiritual force that created the universe and everything in it and was both immanent and transcendent simultaneously.

In order to discuss or image God one had to resort to anthropomorphism. Each race, ethnic group or cultural entity could picture God in their own image.

This was necessary to make God, universal Love and human transformation towards perfection, relevant to a specific time and place on the material plane. Garvey thus wrestled God away from the white race and gave her to everybody.

Ninth, Garveyism was a Philosophy, Theology, Psychology and Social Action Plan and as such is timeless and can be applied by all peoples in any location.

A useful mantra for humankind is, One God ! One Aim! One Destiny! One Love!

Even though Garvey's organizational structure was largely dismantled by J. Edgar Hoover, the Justice Department, 8 fulltime agents, countless informants and saboteurs, as well as internal dissension, the depression and the second world war, Garvey's brand of Pan Africanism was resurgent by 1945.

Dubois had called my mother to ask who to invite to the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester. Both himself and Padmore had at this point given up on communism and acknowledged that Garvey was right.

Amy Ashwood Garvey was there, Jomo Kenyatta and other Africans that would lead many national liberation movements in Africa, were also present.

Nkrumah, Azikewe, Kenyatta, Lumumba, Nyerere, Mandela, have all attested to Garvey's influence on their thinking and development of national consciousness.

In the U.S., Garvey is the father of all Nationalist Movements. El Hajj Malik el Shabazz (Malcolm X) was his most direct ideological disciple.

His influence as anti-colonial champion and on all political independence movements in the Caribbean is well known.

He is Jamaica's first and most popular National Hero.

His bust rests in a prominent position in the Hall of Heroes of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

Marcus Garvey never set foot in Africa is well known, however my mother, his widow, Amy Jacques Garvey was invited by the government of Nigeria to attend the inaugural ceremonies of the installation of Dr. Nnamdi Azikewe as Governor-General in November 1960. This was a tribute to the memory of Marcus Garvey, who he considered a mentor.

She then went to Ghana as the guest of the government and was honored there. She met Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, King of Kings, Elect of God, and Lion of Judah.

The Emperor conferred on Dr. Nkrumah the Exalted Order of the Queen of Sheba, and he in turn conferred on the Emperor the Exalted Order of the Star of Africa, the Black Star.

So much for those who speak of Garvey's megalomania and Penchant for Pomp.

I will close by quoting Frank Hill in the Daily Gleaner, 17th August 1960 under the caption-"The Prophet of Black Zionism", he states in part; "What makes a man great? It is, I think, the universal quality of the contribution he makes to the civilization of his times. The accent is on the word universal, for the quality of his vision must be such as to be able to hold the attention of mankind, rather than mere isolated pockets of men grouped in special circumstances....."

I agree with the attestation of Frank Hill to Garvey's greatness and I am equally sure that he would agree with me that mediocrity cannot tarnish the brilliance of our shining Jamaican Black Star, MARCUS MOSIAH GARVEY.

Julius W. Garvey, M.D.

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