Garveyism more relevant today than ever
THE black race needs Garveyism now more than maybe ever before. It appears that, for the most part, the majority of Africans are not conscious of their own dignity and the dignity of their fellow black brothers and sisters. We have failed the younger generation in this regard, in that we have not imbued them with any sense of pride about what it means to be a member of our noble race.
If the current generation of black leaders and parents were properly steeped in Garveyism, then every person, regardless of age, would live in a state of being conscious that they are worthy of respect, as they would have learnt the lessons that Marcus Garvey taught on topics such as having a sound character. He said: "Men and women who want to be of use to themselves and humanity must have good character. The greatest prop to character is honesty. Honesty is the best policy. Let no one believe that you are dishonest. If they believe you are dishonest you are doomed. You will never be able to rise to a position of respect and trust — except by some mere accident."
It is my belief that one of the best and worst things that ever happened to the black race in the Diaspora was the granting of Affirmative Action, a policy borne out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was the best policy to attempt to eradicate discrimination, particularly against members of the black race and women in general. However, on the negative side, it lulled black people into a drunken, drugged-out delirium that caused many to think that they were "free at last, free at last". To my mind, it removed Garveyism from the forefront of black people's minds and it was the gains that black people had made at the height of the Garvey movement that were eradicated instead; especially in places like the United States and the West Indies.
For the young people who may not know, millions joined Garvey's Association called the Universal Negro (Spanish word for 'black') Improvement Association-African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). As Christopher Reed wrote: "...supporters extolled group pride, self-help principles and solidarity (uniting and supporting each other". At the height of Garvey's movement in the United States, the West Indies and elsewhere, Black businesses thrived and flourished, and Harlem in New York was the home and Mecca for the fine arts and black culture. One can only imagine what the value of those Black businesses' shares would be worth today. The leading business shares quoted on the New York Stock Exchange could have been those of some black-owned businesses.
We have much catching-up to do. Unfortunately, this catching up may not materialise under the current crop of black leaders in Africa and the Diaspora. Many seem to have lost their way, as they appear hypnotised and mesmerised away from their African identities and the teachings of Marcus Garvey. Many of these leaders would like to think that the foreigners who seem to be leading them are their 'time-tested friends' who mean them well, as they are showered with material gifts and pampered with great hospitality in some splendid castles and houses mostly painted "white".
Most young people probably know what happened to the people of an ancient place called Troy and how the Trojans were conned and destroyed by those described as "time-tested friends". The story about one particular gift that caused them to open their gates to accept it has come down through history and is referred to as the "The gift of the Trojan horse". If I were writing this piece during the time of Marcus Garvey, some young people would be inclined to go to a library and read about the story of the Trojan horse. Many young people today are so devoid of pride and dignity, that they are probably busy doing things that will cause them to be incarcerated. For this, we need Garveyism more than ever. This is what he said on the topic of intelligence, education, universal knowledge and how to get it. "You must never stop learning. The world's greatest men and women were people who educated themselves outside of the university with all the knowledge that the university gives, you have the opportunity of doing the same thing the university student does — read and study. One must never stop reading. Read everything you can read that is of standard knowledge."
I also believe that Affirmative Action returned us to the time of slavery, when the slaves were divided into a class struggle. Those enslaved Africans who toiled as servants in the white masters' households were indoctrinated into thinking that they were "better than" their brothers and sisters who toiled in the fields. Marcus Garvey's teachings had put a pause to that way of thinking. Unfortunately, the Willie Lynch syndrome reared its ugly head once more, as so-called middle-class black people formed themselves into an opposition movement to Garvey's and dubbed it the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). Christopher Reed reminds us that Robert S Abbot, owner of the Chicago Defender, was the leader of the Chicago branch of the NAACP. Today, Chicago probably has the highest crime rate in the US. These so-called middle-class men and women were committed fully to aspire to enjoying the promise of the white American dream lifestyle.
This American Dream lifestyle is a delicate and sensitive matter, but it needs to be tackled. Some of our black leaders were given scholarships to assist their upward mobility, by persons who were protagonists of the Apartheid System in South Africa such as Cecil Rhodes, for whom the Rhodes scholarship is named. Then there is J William Fulbright from Arkansas in America, for whom the Fulbright Scholarship is named. The black winners of these scholarships excelled in politics, government, business and industry, fine arts, natural and physical sciences, mathematics, social sciences, the humanities, etc.
Marcus Garvey was a firm believer that every race should look after their own. If the countries of Great Britain and the United States and others were to tell these scholarship winners — who can be found as leaders in Africa and the Diaspora — that they are to turn over all the natural resources, including land, minerals and oil to them, can these leaders tell their benefactors 'no'? What about the few black folk who have gained upward mobility in the music industry, have become television and other media moguls, and those in other fields of endeavour where a handful of blacks can be found due to tokenism; are they going to be or are they now the new house slaves, who betray the confidence of less fortunate blacks who wish for full liberation?
This is what the Prophet said in 1923: "I have also held and still believe that it is only a question of time when the black man, economically dependent as he is on the white man, would be forced to the wall, and that the solution of the problem in the future would not be so much by wholesale killing, or wiping out of the black populations by fire or force of arms, but by the well-organised plan of economic starvation."
It seems that the most recent summit attended by African leaders is a stark and dire warning that this plan could be unfolding before our very eyes. Maybe if our leaders had knowledge of Garveyism they collectively could have avoided what may be a trap. How do we know it could be a trap? It happened before, so it can happen again.
Every black person needs to realise that Garveyism, the body of thought and organisational activities associated with Marcus Mosiah Garvey of Jamaica, is still very relevant today. I sense that there is some resentment by some Africans on the continent towards their African brothers and sisters who were forced to live in the Diaspora, mainly as a result of chattel slavery. This is how Garvey, the Prophet, addressed this concern: "Fighting for the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine does not make the American Jew disloyal; fighting for the independence of Ireland does not make the Irish-American a bad citizen. Why should fighting for the freedom of Africa make the black person outside of Africa disloyal or a bad citizen?"
Garvey understood many of the negative attitudes that plague the black race and to this he said that the greatest weapon used against the negro is disorganisation. This is the main reason he organised the UNIA-ACL, even though he knew that he would be criticised and ridiculed.
For those who wish to improve themselves, Marcus Garvey laid out very clearly the aims and objectives of the UNIA-ACL as follows: To establish a confraternity among the race; to promote the spirit of pride and love; to reclaim the fallen; to administer to and assist the needy; to aid in the development of Africa and its Diaspora and to promote racial consciousness among the race; to establish institutions for the racial education and culture of our people; to conduct worldwide commercial and industrial intercourse for the good of the race and to work for better conditions in all negro communities.
Not every black person will strive to be proud and independent. However, of one thing we can be certain, it is that if the black race can find the will to break the chains of mental slavery that cause the majority of the race to act and behave in servitude to the other races, and even to their own kind, then the aims and objectives of the UNIA-ACL and Garveyism will forever be relevant.
"Up you mighty race you can accomplish what you will." — Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
Valerie Dixon, MBA, is an educator and the Lady President of the UNIA-ACL, Jamaica. Comments to: Valeriecdixon1@gmail.com