ST ANN'S BAY, St Ann — Local authorities here are moving to have August 17 — the date on which Marcus Garvey was born in the St Ann capital 125 years ago — named in honour of the country's first National Hero.
The proposal came from the St Ann's Bay Improvement Committee which, in a recent letter to the St Ann's Bay parish council, said a parishwide observation of Garvey's birthdate would be an appropriate way to pay him tribute.
The St Ann Parish Council has agreed, with councillors voting unanimously in favour of a resolution on the subject, put forward by council chairman and Mayor of St Ann's Bay Desmond Gilmore. Gilmore said he would be seeking to get the 12 other parish councils and the two municipal groups to support the recommendation as well.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr was a Jamaican journalist and publisher. As a proponent of Black nationalism and the back-to-Africa movement, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities League. He died in London in 1940 at the age of 52.
Gilmore said Garvey had left a great legacy, that he had had a significant impact on Jamaica and its people, and that recognising him in this way would be a great honour.
He was optimistic that the resolution would get enough support from the other local authorities and that they, too, would plan events in their different locales to commemorate Garvey's birthday.
"Truth be told, we wouldn't mind if the entire world would observe that day as Marcus Garvey Day. I think he is deserving of that, but certainly for the parish because it is his place of birth," Gilmore said.
The request for the declaration, according to president of the St Ann's Bay Improvement Committee, Cynthia Graham, is not intended to result in the day being declared a public holiday. The plan is to have greater focus placed on Garvey's work and teachings.
She said a number of activities to commemorate the National Hero's birthday has already been planned, including the opening of the Garvey Resource Centre at the St Ann's Bay Parish Library and the unveiling of a story board.
Adding his voice to the developments, Garveyite and vice-president of the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party Devon Evans said the suggestion that the day be declared Marcus Garvey Day was timely and welcome.
"It is a more than welcome idea; it has been long overdue," he told the Observer North East.
He stressed, however, that the recognition and its accompanying celebrations should not be limited to St Ann, but should be a national initiative.
He said Garvey's work spans right across the country and while there are some activities outside his birth parish — like in Resource, Manchester, where Garvey lived for a short while — a more national approach is needed.
"For too long there is some amount of unwillingness on the part of successive governments in Jamaica to truly honour Garvey for what he is worth," Evans said. "Everywhere else in the world that you go, people honour Garvey more than how the people in Jamaica honour him," the politician continued.
Added Evans: "I just hope that all the parishes will get involved in this initiative and make the entire island honour Marcus Garvey. The time has come for us to come together and have a national observance."