By DERRICK McLENNON
February is dedicated to the celebration of Blacks who have made significant contributions to their communities, countries and the world in every aspect of life yet, too often, those of the younger generations are not aware of many of these heroes.
As elders, we must make a deliberate effort to ensure that our children are educated on the significant contributions these Blacks have made to the world as we know it, to ensure that our contributions and significance are never lost or diminished.
I attended a few Black History Month celebrations and presentations, and I was happy to hear mention of Norman Washington Manley, a great hero who, through discipline and proficiency in the judiciary system, was able to make many of Jamaica’s institutions accessible to the poor and oppressed. I was, however, gravely disappointed and a bit distressed to see that, amidst the many exhibits on display, I could not find any reference to hero, editor, philosopher, entrepreneur, visionary, world leader, Jamaican and African, The Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
In “A Tribute to Marcus Garvey”, D.E. Grant wrote:
Searching your stone carved face
So still with peace,
I thought to myself
How dark was the night
Your face did find,
But like an unyielding candle,
You lit their way with
Encouraging words of wisdom
And pride in themselves,
Compelling your mighty race to march
In your epic footsteps
To claim their rightful place in society,
And in their mind your memorable name
Embedded always with great respect.
Marcus Garvey was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, in August 1887, nearly 50 years after the abolition of slavery. He obtained his educational foundation from private tutors and Sunday schools, and was later self-educated.
Garvey worked in the printing industry in Jamaica where he was actively involved in local politics, cultural organizations, trade union development and journalism. He became a central concern of the colonial system as he frequently and vehemently argued for a better standard of living for Jamaica’s poor and oppressed.
Garvey’s leadership would eventually extend through Latin America, the U.S., Canada, England and Africa, where he established Black organizations and newspapers and campaigned vigorously on behalf of the marginalized, disadvantaged and oppressed. Despite several setbacks and challenges, Garvey pressed on and, in 1914, he formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the first mass movement in Jamaica and North America.
Garvey’s leadership and philosophies have inspired people the world over, and they continue to do so through his many speeches, writings and legacy, including various branches of the UNIA which are still active today.
In my view, Marcus Garvey got it absolutely right: the Black man must build his world of wealth by creating his own rules and regulations, overseeing his own businesses, and crowning his own kings and queens, because only then will he be able to progress in accordance with his God-given potential and talents – and they are many. Only then will Black people have access to a level playing field.
Garvey died in London, England, in 1940. His remains were brought back to Jamaica in 1964 and re-interred in the National Heroes Park where he was proclaimed Jamaica’s first National Hero.
His success as an entrepreneur included the launching of the Black Star Line, a shipping line intended to facilitate the transportation of goods and, eventually, African Americans throughout the African global economy. Unfortunately, the White world did not appreciate this economic initiative, but rather saw it as threat to their state of international dominance. Consequently, Garvey was falsely accused and later convicted with mail fraud. In recent years, the Jamaican government has petitioned the U.S. Congress for a pardon, but to no avail.
In recognition of the timeless impact this great Black man has made on the world, we celebrate him today and always. I encourage all our young men and women to be knowledgeable of our heritage. As Garvey himself said, “Black man, know thyself.”
It is rich and powerful!