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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Happy Marcus Garvey Day!

By Damion Boycott

The importance of Marcus Garvey can never be minimized. In the early 1900s he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and The African Communities League. They both turned out to be the largest black organizations ever. There has never been another black organization that could claim the amount of numbers that Garvey had. There were U.N.I.A. Chapters the world over. Places like Africa, The Dominican Republic and even Brazil all had chapters.

Garvey was born in St. Anns' Bay, Jamaica on August 17th in 1887. In 1916 he made his way to the United States in an effort to meet Booker T. Washington, a meeting that would never occur because Washington died before Garvey landed on the shores of America. Originally Garvey came to America in an attempt to open a school. When he realized how pervasive racism was in America, he soon shifted his focus. His goal from then on was to help improve conditions for Africans in America and indeed the world.

He is best known for a wide range of innovative ideas. He promoted concepts of social, political and economic freedom for African people- ideas that were not entertained before his time. He taught racial pride during a time when black people were afraid to speak about such topics for fear of white retaliation. He taught that an understanding of Africa is central to black dignity, black self respect and black self determination. He expressed the idea that blacks should not think in the ideas of the slave master, and that black people have to think for themselves instead of thinking with the colonial mentality. Garvey is noted as saying "A man with knowledge of self becomes the master of his environment, captain of his own ship, the director of his own destiny and the accomplisher of his own ends." Garvey always demonstrated a remarkable ability to tailor his message to his audience.

The teachings of Marcus Garvey has influenced some of the most prominent black leaders in America, as well as some of the most influential black organizations. A lot of the ideas and concepts taught by Malcolm X were inspired by Garvey. In fact, Malcolms' parents, Earl and Louise Little,  met at a Garvey meeting in Canada. Therefore the teachings of Marcus Garvey were ever present in the Little household.

Even Malcolms' mentor, Elijah Muhammad was in the Garvey movement in Detroit years before the start of the Nation Of Islam. The philosophy of Marcus Garvey is very evident in Elijah Muhammads' teachings. The Nation Of Islam later gave rise to The Nation Of Gods And Earths, so Garveys' teachings influenced what was known early on as The 5% Nation. Even The Universal Zulu Nation uses the red, black and green flag that was designed by Garvey as their official colors.

In addition to teaching the philosophy of African Nationalism and Pan-Africanism, Garvey went so far as to build economic institutions to help secure the financial future of black people. He said "African people will not be free until they become an economic power." He formed The Negro Factories Corporation in 1919 which gave loans to black Americans that wanted to start businesses.

Garveys most not worthy achievement was the launch of his steamship company called The Black Star Line. He bought ships for travel and international trade. However, his steamship company was sabotaged by The FBI under J. Edger Hoover. Infiltration by the FBI brought the short lived Black Star Line to an end. Angry black men are not preferred in America and are always perceived as a threat. Therefore, the ruling class always finds a reason to vilify black freedom fighters.

Greater efforts are now being made to keep Garveys' name and philosophy alive. There are plenty of organizations that function in the tradition of Marcus Garvey- some of them include The Institute Of The Black World, I Am U (Ubuntu) and The New Black Panther Party to name only a few.


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