Marcus Garvey: A True Hero and Role Model
Greetings from the RASTAFARI COLLECTIVE on the 114th Earthday Anniversary of our beloved hero, friend and brother, the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Born in the island of Jamaica Aug. 17th 1887, he has left us with a very rich legacy in commitment, justice, honesty, hard work and devotion. Garvey cared for all humanity and gave his lifeís work to that section of humanity that needed him the most, the African people of the world from whom he was descended.
Rasta Board / Rastafari Speaks
Garvey grew up in St Ann's Jamaica and later moved to the capital Kingston at the age of 16, filled with dreams, vision, inexperience and youthful exuberance. Many of his later ideas had already begun to be formalized in his head and he left for Central and South America five years later at the age of 23 in 1910. There he saw more of the suffering and oppression of African people which had earlier stirred his emotions and imaginations and his life's journey was well under way, leaving for England in 1912 to join his sister there.
It is in England that Garvey honed his Political skills, getting involved in public oratory, journalism and political activism. From there he visited several other European countries, which strengthened his resolve to seek the Blackman's redemption. He left England in June 1914 and headed back to Jamaica his head brimming with ideas and full of possibilities. It was on the ship back to Jamaica that his Covenant and his Mission dawned upon him like a bolt of lightening and his life's purpose was forged in the crucible of the reality of the times and that night as he lay in his bed on the high seas he asked himself aloud "Where is the Blackman's Government?", "Where is his King and Kingdom?", "Where is his President, his Country, his Ambassador, his Army, his Navy, his men of Big Affairs". He immediately realised he woud have to do it, if it was to be a reality and set himself the motto "Up you Mighty Race, Accomplish What You Can" and this he did with all his might and strength and resolve.
He was to write about that night later like this " My young and ambitious mind led me to flights of great imagination. I saw before me then even as I do now, a new world of Blackmen, not peons, serfs, dogs, and slaves but a nation of sturdy men, making their impression upon civilization and causing a new light to dawn upon the human race ".
As he came of that ship filled with enthusiasm, 5 days later he registered the U.'A'.I.A, the Universal ĎAfrican' Improvement Association, which as the name implied set out to do just that. It is from here onwards that his nature, soul, courage and indomitable human spirit was bared for all the world to see. Spending no more than 2 years in Jamaica nurturing his organization he then left for the United States in March 1916. It was there he strode across the world stage like a colossus, which was extremely remarkable for the time and era he attempted what he had to do. He later however fell victim to organized persecution which saw him being arrested, detained, jailed and deported by his enemies.
In the USA Garvey worked hard to build his organization which was to represent his race and it remains one of the largest ever built and was extremely successful. Dr Tony Martin Official Garvey biographer gave the reasons for this as " His dedication and tireless work, his oratorical skill was a big help, he also had charisma, the power to attract people and hold their loyalty. He could exert tremendous power over an audience, He could stir their emotions and sweep them along with the power of his words. Many thought of him as a super human being who had been sent to rescue the race from suffering and oppression and the time was suitable to the spread of Garvey's message." Garvey himself said at the time that " Classes, Nations, and Races which have been quiet for centuries are now asserting themselves and demanding a readjustment of things. The despised ĎAfrican' who has been kicked about and cuffed for over 4 centuries and who has been the hewer of wood and drawer of water for other men, who has merely borne abuse, insult and humiliation for many generations, whose patience, docility and forbearance can only be compared to the Prophet Job, has likewise lifted his bowed head, looking up to God's skies and cried out." I am a man and demand a man's chance and a man's treatment in the world."
Garvey's UNIA was reputed to be nearly 6 million strong in membership and active supporters around the world, was used as an example of how the new Black nations should conduct themselves, bearing in mind their were few of them free at the time. He created the 'African' Factories Corporation which included Restaurants, Groceries, Laundries, Printing Presses etc, the ĎAfrican' World Newspaper. The Black Star Line Shipping Co., the Universal African Legions, the African Motor Corps, The Black Cross Nurses and other auxiliary organizations and groups. He and the UNIA became the voice of Black people everywhere and the world stood up and took notice. The name Marcus Garvey and the UNIA was feared by many, but adored by millions as his fame stretched and wide all over the world where ever there were Black people. His finest hour and greatest spectacle however was the hosting in 1921 of the First International Convention of the ĎAfrican' Peoples of the World. It was an occasion that drew over 25 thousand people to Madison Square Garden in New York City and remains one of the significant gatherings of Black people in History, right in line with the 1963 Civil Rights march on Washington DC and the later Million-Man March at the same venue. It was the grandest of events which brought representatives of African people from all over the world together, in the interest of their own survival at a very crucial time in the history of the nations of the world. A truly remarkable feat indeed. In a hugely symbolical move, Garvey was elected as the Provisional President of Africa and looked rather magnificent in royal splendor and regalia to complement the act. Serious decisions about the directions and demands of the Race was also taken, and many of which we have incorporated today.
Beginning around 1921 Marcus Garvey had emerged as the most popular and famous Black person and leader in the world. But all this could not be achieved with out retaliation from the enemies of the fight for equality and justice for African people. An attempt was even made on the life and another saw his jailing and eventual deportation from the US. Garvey had drawn national and international attention and a lot of it was not pleasant, but at his trial on some trumped up charges about mail fraud, in which he defended himself, the system saw to it and took the opportunity to destroy a genuine and popular leader of African people and his organization and they did achieve some success in that regard. There were large demonstrations around the world and outside the Trial Court House, there were many petitions, rumblings, telegraphs, lobbying, rumors of impending violence all in an effort to get Garvey free, as a compromise the US President at the time Calvin Coolidge intervened and ordered the deportation of Garvey to colonial Jamaica who tried their best to stop his return to the island, so great was the fear and the power of the man. When he left the American port of Southampton there were thousands to see him leave, when he arrived at a stop in Panama, there were thousands more to welcome him and when he finally arrived in Jamaica that day in 1927, there were thousands upon thousands to welcome him home. A hero had returned triumphant and brave, having taken on the world on behalf of his beloved people, with his message of Africa for the Africans, those home and those abroad.
Once settled in Jamaica he again started his political activities but was of to England in less than 2 years time, to try and salvage his organization which was under attack from hostile forces both externally and internally. He tried his best to run his organization from England and together with his frequent long and arduous travelling, was unable to do so effectively, as he would have liked. The ban on re-entering the US was a crippling blow to him and the UNIA. It did not stop him though from travelling the world on behalf of the Organization and he accomplished as much as he possibly could, but in June 1940 he passed on from ill health aggravated no doubt during his earlier detention of 2 years and 10 months in the US. He had lived a full and blessed life, he influenced liberation movements, political parties, social organizations and the likes around the world, from Africa to the Caribbean, from Europe to the Americas, and from Australia to Asia, both directly and indirectly, and was seen as a major threat to Colonialism and Colonial governments from declassified documents, but as Garvey said to his followers they can jail the tiger but the cubs are running free, and that even in his death he would return to urge us on, and to assist us, and surely we know once he is not forgotten, he is not dead, our very own Saint and Archangel.
The Rastafari movement developed together with Marcus Garvey and the UNIA and his prophecy before he left for England in 1928 was to "Look to the East a King would be crowned and that would be your sign" and so the Coronation of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Sellassie of Ethiopia took place on November 2nd 1930 and so began in it's modern incarnation our beloved and blessed RASTAFARI NATION.
The simple message of Marcus Garvey to each and everyone of us is thus "Each man is entirely responsible for his own fate. His success or failure in life depends solely on the extent to which he applies his intelligence and industry. He has no one else or a superior being, God for example, to blame but himself. What is true of the individual applies also to a race." God and Man 1929.
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