Where is the grave of Amy Ashwood Garvey?


Where is the grave of Amy Ashwood Garvey?


Thursday, October 29, 2020

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It is written that the grave of Amy Ashwood Garvey is somewhere in Kingston's Calvary Cemetery. It needs to be found so a tombstone can be placed on it. She co-founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1914 with Marcus Mosiah Garvey, whom she married on Christmas Day 1919 in New York. Although historian Tony Martin wrote on page 47 in his 2007 book Amy Ashwood Garvey that Marcus Garvey terminated their marriage three months later, historian Lionel Yard wrote on page 208 in his 1990 book Biography of Amy Ashwood Garvey that a New York judge ruled that Garvey was never officially divorced from Amy Ashwood Garvey.

Martin wrote that Amy Ashwood Garvey was buried in Calvary Cemetery on May 11, 1969 after a funeral service at Holy Cross Church in Half-Way-Tree, attended by Michael Manley. Fifty years later, after I earned my PhD in African American Studies at Temple University, I completed my fifth play based on these two books about Amy Ashwood Garvey. After finishing this play I reached out to Garvey scholar Rupert Lewis and asked of the tombstone of Amy Ashwood Garvey. He replied that Roman Catholic Church Deacon Peter Espeut has been working on identifying the grave of Amy Ashwood Garvey. Rupert Lewis suggested I write an op-ed in support of finding this grave, here we are.

Amy Ashwood Garvey's grave should be identified and marked with a tombstone because of her immense contribution to Jamaican and world humanity.

It was Amy Ashwood Garvey who introduced Amy Jacques to Marcus Garvey. In 1922, Marcus Garvey would later marry Amy Jacques, who would edit and print The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey's relationship with Amy Jacques lasted until his death; however, his relationship with Amy Ashwood Garvey was the foundation. It was Ashwood Garvey's editorship of the Negro World newspaper that led to Earl Little and Louisa Norton meeting in Montreal to eventually conceive Malcolm X.

A reading and a production of my fifth play, The Original Mrs Garvey, reveals the historical significance of Amy Ashwood's unique contributions to the anti-colonial Garvey movement in the Caribbean and in Africa. She lectured across the Caribbean and West Africa, playing an instrumental role in unifying the black and Indian population in Guyana. She played an instrumental role in trying to unify Kwame Nkrumah and his vocal dissident J B Danquah, whom she had met in London. She encouraged Jamaican citizens to gain a radical political education and run for political office — like J A G Smith against former Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante. She also encouraged sex education for the Jamaican masses decades before it would be introduced in Cuban schools after their 1959 revolution. In 1946 she traced her paternal Ashanti heritage to her grandmother's birthplace in then Gold Coast, now Ghana.

Every individual in Jamaica needs to know and study the story of Amy Ashwood Garvey. Books about her need to be reprinted and sold in physical or electronic copies across the nation. Studying her life will lead to a deeper understanding and a personal appreciation for the resilience of African people overcoming chattel slavery, Jim Crow discrimination, and neocolonialism.

I believe that Amy Ashwood Garvey should actually be recognised as a national hero for her contribution to the worldwide anti-colonial movement across the Caribbean and Africa — started by herself and her first husband, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Her writings on women leadership in Africa anticipate the writings of US writers Toni Cade Bambara and Alice Walker, as well as the philanthropy of Oprah Winfrey in South Africa. Her life and her writings need to be taught as part of the Jamaican educational curriculum for generations to learn from and emulate. We can begin by locating her grave and marking it with a tombstone.

Dr Rhone Fraser is a historical dramatist and the author. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or rhone.fraser@gmail.com.

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