Marcus Garvey 1887-1940
Aug. 17 will mark the 126th anniversary of the birth of the great Black nationalist leader, Marcus Garvey, who was persecuted by the racist U.S. government for his heroic stance on the right to self-determination for the oppressed Black masses inside the U.S. and throughout the African diaspora. Political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote this tribute to Garvey on Aug. 22, 2012.
Unless one is Jamaican, or raised in a household suffused with Black consciousness, it is unlikely that the name Marcus Garvey is familiar to you.
There was a time, during the first quarter of the 20th century, when he was among the most famous men in the world.
Raised in Jamaica, Garvey was a fiery orator, a gifted writer and a master organizer. Although he left this life a generation before the 1960s, no Black leader, before or since, has ever amassed more members in its grassroots organization.
Garvey, upon coming to the U.S., built the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA); its affiliate, the African Communities League (ACL); and opened chapters in every major Black population center in the country. Headquartered in Harlem, N.Y., Garvey’s paper, Negro World, brought Black news to readers in English, Spanish and French.
His organizations grew rapidly and touched the lives of millions. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that disaffected members would conspire with government agencies to disrupt the UNIA, jail him and later deport him.
For Black nationalists, their efforts are ever measured against the enormous success of Garvey, against whom they are often found wanting.
His voice and his presence gave hope and purpose to a community choking on the twin toxins of racist violence and white supremacy.
Among such a constituency, the name and life of Marcus Garvey should be, and will be, long remembered. n