GARVEY is much misunderstood. He was called an "ugly black man" and God knows he is no stunner, but he had a beautiful mind. Had he been born earlier we might have had as flattering a portrait as Europe did for Jesus. He wasn't even theirs, but they cared that no one saw an onion nose or man boobs, only the visage of an aquiline Da Vinci palette. How would we portray Garvey? What is black beauty? How different from any other? Still, Garvey is valued for his mind, though I concede looks sell most things.
Marcus was a polymath of sorts. He was not oblivious of his worth, was confident, self-assured, despite being bruited by whites and his own people. He was not afraid to go against the tide and he took risks. He was as popular as Jesus in his day, but his message was not as inclusive. He brokered deals with the KKK because he accepted the world and was determined to succeed within the colour grid. He was not trying to change anyone else that badly, he just wanted to re-image and prosper his own people.
Despite the seasonal adulation here, Garvey is a cult figure with no impact on our lives and he has no influence on Government. In the Bolivarian republics of Latin America, Simon Bolivar's view has impacted every day. Here, Garvey's has none. He was and still is a victim of racism and our self-hate. Some even refer to him in the negative black tenor of WEB DuBois. We never had a prime minister like him, and the bleaching and "browning" phenomena means we are not comfortable in our own skins as even those we elevate are not of our hue. Pictures of Michael, Bob, Busta, Seaga, Portia, and the fair-haired counterfeit Jesus abound, but Garvey's is not an adornment for our homes, we reserve his likeness for public spaces.
Garvey is a cipher to most and paid ritual homage as hero. He is so much more, to be memorialised in an affluent global foundation or a Garvey Enterprise Award coveted globally as our iconic venturer. He ran the first black multinational corporation touching four continents. Today, pan-Africanism is spoilt milk, tribal war is real, and repatriation is mouth water as millions can but choose the white man's land and do not even prosper their own. We are twice as smart as Garvey, but not half as wise; we aver his greatness but follow not one jot of his wisdom, hence we are poor in body and spirit.
Vision Garvey was not a politician trying to seize or keep power. He was not Che whose power came from the barrel of a gun. He studied European and American systems; he knew money was power. Politics was a small part of his vision. He did not think all should go back to Africa as "some (negroes) are no good here and naturally will be no good there". His major message was economics, aka business, not politics. People hear politics as that is what they want to hear. They hear easy and politics is easy. To build the economy is hard stuff. The "mouth-organists" hear "Black Power" not the hard graft to build a shipping or manufacturing empire. The 99 per cent who reference Garvey quote his politics, but Black Power merely anchored his life's work -- economic power. Father Manley saw it later. His goal was not to get black people elected, as the threat to white power was not his politics, but his economics. Later in the 60s, via Rosa Parks, it was not politics, but a transport and economic boycott which broke American apartheid -- "Hit a man in his face he gets mad, hit him in his pocket he surrenders!"
Education was his first love. His brain was his tool pan, and by his 20s was off to see the world. His father had a library and he an avid reader. He did tertiary education in the UK but was largely self-taught. Marcus spoke English, edited newspapers in several countries, and planned universities for black people long before UWI. How do we celebrate this legacy? He would be shocked that after 50 + 1 years of Independence we do not speak much English and are struggling in schools. Will we make good by 2030? 2080? What is our legacy to the next generation? Let us bequeath an educated people.
Communications is a field Garvey understood well. He knew the marketing systems of the white man and used them. He was broadcaster, marketer, orator and serious writer; the finest role model a poor black man could ask. If you love books your kids will love them too. A dumb parent is the bane of a child's life and frankly, your parents could underdevelop you. English opened the world to him; he spoke with clarity, pride and passion and his oratory compelled on four continents. He is our great communicator and marketer and his techniques are worthy of study. He was no failure.
Marcus understood the value of transportation in economic life. His Black Star Line was a challenge to Cunard's White Star Line as an economic asset. Back to Africa was politics, but transportation was power. Black people should own the most modern rail and shipping. He was also passionate about manufacture and distribution. The Negroes Factories Company would produce consumer goods for the world from factories in Africa, the Americas and the West Indies. Garvey's industrial plan is still valid and Grace may merit the Garvey Trophy for a near vision of world domination. Garvey is not used in entrepreneurship or investment promotion. His picture is on phonecards abroad; here? Maybe his image is not what JAMPRO or the Tourist Board want on billboards and TV? Is Garvey too black for us? Many who say Garvey should not be taught to kids do not know his views.
Garvey is now in schools. Portia should set Garvey homework for MPs; his words are good but his works are massive; policemen, parents, teachers, civil servants should all do CPD on Garvey. So "a race without authority and power is a race without respect" and he was talking economic power not politics. He was a black man with a brain and found things hidden in plain sight -- books! We do not have a Garvey Monolith 50 feet tall in 100 tonnes of stone to make us all look up. Great nations create myths and statuary which enure to pride, survival and growth; many out of great suffering. Where are our bards? My spiritual guru says: "Adversity has slain thousands, but prosperity tens of thousands!" so he would not like us to strike oil until we learn to love one another as we would self-destruct with surfeit. Marcus was the voice of his time and also ours as we are still at ground zero in growth. Can he empower us to meet IMF terms, free us from debt and create the prosperity we long for? We need Garvey in business, at work; a Garvey campus? a prize in journalism? Be a winner and live a little Garvey, my friend!
Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. email@example.com