Farewell, Dr Donna McFarlane, warrior in the battle to preserve Garvey's legacy

Sunday, January 28, 2018

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Jamaica's first national hero, The Rt Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, is one of the most important men in the history of the world who will always be remembered for leading the largest and most influential international movement of people of African origin.

Not enough has been done in his own native land, Jamaica, much less the rest of the world, to preserve his legacy. Yet his ideas continue to be relevant in the contemporary situation where racism is resurgent, Africa is still underdeveloped, and black people across the world are in persistent poverty.

The value of Marcus Garvey's philosophies and opinions has been chronicled and explained by Jamaican scholars, notably Professor Rupert Lewis. Another Jamaican academic, Professor Robert Hill, has made the invaluable contribution of assembling and editing the collected works of Marcus Garvey.

The big problem we still face is to communicate his treasure trove of wisdom to young people in a format that they find attractive and accessible. This is where the late Dr Donna McFarlane made her significant and enduring contribution.

She envisioned and restored Marcus Garvey's Liberty Hall in Kingston and transformed it into a museum and a centre of learning, of which the national hero himself would have been proud.

Her devoted and visionary work led to the creation of the Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum; Garvey Multimedia Computer Centre; Garvey Research/Reference Library; and Community Outreach programmes that include Adult Computer Literacy class, Garvey After-School Programme, and Summer Art.

The brilliant and patriotic young Jamaican, having completed her bachelor's degree in political science (Queens College, City University of New York and master's degree in development economics at the famous New School for Social Research in New York where she met Robert Gregory) rushed home to Jamaica.

Dr McFarlane worked for the Government of Jamaica and was a consultant to the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other development financing agencies. Later on she completed her master's and PhD in museum studies, the PhD coming from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

She was involved in a range of other activities and national projects, including serving on the National Commission on Reparations chaired by Professor Verene Shepherd of the University of the West Indies.

Sadly, Dr Donna McFarlane, curator of Liberty Hall, died last week after a courageous battle with cancer. Her legacy is the preservation of the legacy of Marcus Garvey. We, on behalf of a grateful nation and Garvey followers all over the world, place on record our gratitude to Dr McFarlane for her invaluable work.

Her untimely passing has robbed us of an able warrior for the preservation of the Garvey legacy that had its origins in the heart and soul of Jamaican culture, and which the world will continue to need for a long time to come.




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