Glover wants Garvey's criminal record expunged

Glover wants Garvey's criminal record expunged

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor -- publications

Saturday, October 10, 2015

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The speed with which American film star Danny Glover answered the question left no doubt about the strong position he holds on the issue.

"Absolutely! That's something I support," he responded when the Jamaica Observer asked him about the effort to have the US Government expunge National Hero Marcus Garvey's criminal record.

In fact, Glover is hoping that US President Barack Obama will "just get it done" within the next 15 months of his tenure in office.

"There's no other choice but for him to do the right thing," said Glover, who was in Jamaica last week as a guest of University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles.

While his mission was to give motivational talks to the university's students and academics, Glover -- a respected humanitarian -- also spoke about the issue of reparatory justice at the request of the National Commission on Reparations.

According to Glover, the charges laid against Garvey represented a deliberate act by the US Government to take down the Pan-Africanist advocate.

In 1922, Garvey and three officials of his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) were charged with mail fraud involving the Black Star Line, the shipping company he launched in 1919 to facilitate trade between Africa and Africans in the Caribbean, America, Canada, and South and Central America.

On June 23, 1923, he was convicted and sentenced to prison for five years, although the trial records show that several improprieties occurred in the prosecution of the case.

Garvey appealed his conviction, arguing that he was a victim of a politically motivated miscarriage of justice. The appeal was denied, and in 1927 he was released from prison and deported to Jamaica.

Last week, as Glover reflected on the matter, he shook his head, saying: "Mail fraud? Mail fraud? You know, if you want to get somebody that's probably the easiest thing to get them on. Mail fraud? Come on. It was a deliberate, calculated act by every single agency of the United States to bring him down."

Glover said that no one, certainly not in America, has built a mass movement like Garvey did and, further, one as effective as the UNIA.

Historians say that by 1920 the UNIA, founded six years before, claimed four million members. The movement transformed Garvey into an inspirational figure for other civil rights advocates, especially in the United States.

Last week, Glover expressed admiration for the way in which Garvey was able to build the movement, and pointed out that recently he had the pleasure of visiting a UNIA building in Costa Rica.

Noting that the UNIA influenced black American leaders like Malcom X, Glover said the impact that Garvey has had, and continues to have, was "interesting".

In April this year when Obama visited Jamaica, the issue of expunging Garvey's criminal record was raised during his talks with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and some of her Cabinet ministers.

A highly placed source said that an aide to Obama told the meeting that the president would "look into" the matter.

The Observer was told that Obama does not have the power, or authority, to expunge criminal records of individuals or even grant clemency for crimes committed under State law.

However, the US Supreme Court handles the expunging of records, based upon applications filed.

Garvey died in London in 1940. In 1964, his remains were exhumed, taken to Jamaica, and reinterred at National Heroes Park in Kingston.

Last week, as a mark of respect, Glover visited Garvey's shrine shortly after his arrival in the island.

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