Remembering our ancestors
Queen Elizabeth II (Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS)

"No one remember old Marcus Garvey." These words were repeated four times at the beginning of the song Old Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear.

It is a sad indictment on the educational system in the Caribbean that most high school students, if placed on the spot, would reveal the truism at the heart of this song. Young and old alike are devoid of knowledge of our great ancestors upon whose shoulders we today stand.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the international press are engaging in overkill to press home knowledge about the late Queen Elizabeth II. BBC and the international media are currently saturated with historical and human interest stories about the life and times of the late Queen. Caucasians clearly understand the importance of honouring and remembering their heroes. They also make sure that the rest of us know who their heroes are via their mass media monopolies.

It is hard to imagine that after more than half a century of Independence there is still such a paucity of information about the shakers and movers in black history in our primary and secondary schools educational curricula. The curricula at these levels must be singled out because the majority of citizens in the Caribbean will not go on to tertiary level education.

Marcus Garvey

Churches, like our educational institutions, have been somewhat tardy in their supplementary educational role. Caribbean churches are still well subscribed by the adult segment of the society. Regrettably, however, Caribbean churches still say way too little about issues affecting the global black collective. The average black Christian is totally locked into the customs and history of the Jewish ancestors, while being blissfully oblivious to that which pertains to their own race.

The Internet is a double-edged sword in the contemporary educational process. Black history content creators have at their disposal a global platform to help us all remember old Marcus Garvey and the great cloud of black witnesses who have testified on behalf of the suffering sons and daughters of Africa since time immemorial.

The Internet, unfortunately, also exposes the global black collective to charlatans, buffoons, racial hucksters, and plain old con men parading as messiahs and saviours. Many black seekers of racial enlightenment are forced to wade through a morass of drivel parading itself as the pristine wisdom of the ancestors. These polluted streams of misinformation and disinformation only serve to darken counsel with their half-baked truths and wholesale conspiracies.

A just deity, who is everywhere at once, as we have been taught, must be in communication with every ethnic group across the globe. The claim that the creator spoke only to Jews, Caucasians, and Arabs is the height of egotism. Truth claims by practitioners of the Abrahamic faiths are no more worthy of our attention than the truth claims made by the luminaries who arose from the bosom of our African ancestral linage.

Jewish, European, and Arab sages spoke to issues affecting their ethnic communities. The prescriptions they advanced were designed to heal the hurts of their communities. Medical prescriptions are patient-specific. Two patients may manifest the same symptoms but that does not mean that they both can be treated in the same way. One patient may have an allergy to the treatment used successfully on another patient with the same problem.

Africa is blessed with its own prophets, wise men, teachers, visionaries, scientists, and nation-builders. There is nothing wrong with learning from others and incorporating that which works into our own operating paradigm. Everything is wrong, however, with jettisoning that which is uniquely ours and embracing in its totality that which is clearly designed for someone other than us.

Burning Spear was very prophetic in their lyrics: "One day, somehow, you'll remember him." Burning Spear was certain that one day we would remember old Marcus Garvey because Garvey is old yet young. The circle of life has a way of bringing us right back to the point where we started. It is back to Africa time once again and old Marcus Garvey is speaking to us from the grave, reminding us that we can unite Africa and the Caribbean more effectively that he could in the colonial period of our history.

Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or


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