AT age 21 Antwayne Campbell made history by becoming the youngest president of the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party (MGPPP) two weeks ago.
Having grown up in different inner-city communities and experienced unpleasant living conditions, he has heard the cry of the youth and marginalised and hopes to make a difference.
"I chose politics because I noticed the desperate need for change in my country, especially where the youth are concerned. I have experienced the level of disregard and false pretence of caring or creating a better and different society. I chose politics because I have seen the lack of real attention and guidance for the youth in today's society. I chose politics because I hear the cry of the innocent youth in the graveyard, behind bars, and many others that have been missing," Campbell told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
Campbell believes it takes active and meaningful participation for any real transformation to take place.
"I chose politics because I realise that real change doesn't come from expressing your opinions on situations on social media, or picking up a gun and creating more crime and violence, among other [responses]. Instead, I chose politics because it is the only real way we can create real change and give back power to the people so they can see themselves representing their constituency or play an impactful leadership role in their community, instead of waiting for parliamentarians to come around once or twice a year to be their representation," he explained.
Campbell had his fair share of struggles as a youngster, having met his dad at age 13 but losing him to the gun at age 17. His mother experienced great challenges supporting him and his siblings, especially with regards to catering to their daily basic and educational needs.
"I grew up with my mother and four other siblings. My mother decided to become solely dependent on herself for survival; with that came deep poverty. I can remember growing up on Canarvan Street in Rollington Town and living in a one-bedroom board house infested with rats and roaches, with an outside shack we used to call a kitchen. We all ate from the one plate and spoon, and sometimes when there was no food we would drink tea and crackers for dinner — or sometimes nothing," he detailed to the Sunday Observer.
"I can remember Hurricane Ivan when there was absolutely nothing to eat in the house, and my mother had to walk in the storm and beg food from the Golden Age Home just so her kids could eat. Going to school was not something we looked forward to, because while other children went back-to-school shopping we had to wear scandal bags with one or two books in it as book bags, and sometimes slippers as footwear to school," he recalled.
Due to financial instability and intense criminality Campbell and his family changed communities several times throughout his childhood and adolescent years.
"We then move to a place called Dunkirk, where I was introduced to a life of violence and crime. I was told that this was the only way to be relevant and significant to my community — peer pressure. To save us from that, my mother saved up a few cash from her domestic job, moved us to a place called Victoria Avenue in Franklin Town. While living there and attending Pentecostal Tabernacle Church I noticed all the other kids' fathers were present and invested in their children's lives. That's when I realised I was missing a very important person in my life, and that's when I began to ask my mother about my father," he noted.
Despite the few years spent with his father, Campbell "looked to him as my guidance and support through school and life, and over time we developed a bond".
Thanks to this support, as well as Campbell's own grit and ambition, he completed high school with eight Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects, and was subsequently allocated a grant to pursue an associate's degree in business administration.
Since high school Campbell had the zeal to become a transformative leader. He often questioned the segregation that existed within the education system, wondering why some schools were more resourced than others. He told the Sunday Observer that his school resembled too much his home. "You take us from the ghetto and provide us with a school that looks just like home."
He described some schools as the "Garden of Eden" while others looked like "war zones".
Given the disparity, Campbell went to the Ministry of Education (MOE) to highlight the poor conditions that were being faced at his school, such as a lack of electricity in some classrooms and the absence of running water. He appeal to them to improve the situation. However, his plea was later used against him, as he was blocked from becoming the school's head boy because he had gone to the MOE without obtaining consent.
Still eager to be a voice for the students, he then ran for the post of students' council president, and after a heated campaign he won the seat of vice-president. Campbell benefitted from many leadership seminars and workshops and even served as a junior councillor at Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation.
After graduating from high school he was asked to join the past students' association, tasked with removing the garbage heap that was at the entrance of the school gate and creating a beautification project, from which the school still benefits today.
All these combined experiences will now serve the young leader of the 94-year-old party who argued that Jamaica's first national hero, Marcus Garvey, has been reduced to mere quotes, instead of impactful activism. This is something he would like to change.
"…During a Marcus Garvey documentary at The University of the West Indies, Mona, I noticed that people were expressing their frustration with both major political parties [Jamaica Labour Party and People's National Party] and how much they have tried and pushed for the philosophies of Marcus Garvey and other great African leaders to be taught in school, to create a sense of awakening and confidence that will change the mindset of youth in society.
"I was called to share my opinion on the matter and that's when I [asked myself] what were all the Garveyites doing after the death of Marcus Garvey. And instead of complaining, the MGPPP and UNIA [Universal Negro Improvement Association] should be competent and equipped to challenge all elections or represent the people of this country, and look to ourselves to create the change we want to see because there will never be another Marcus Garvey to look to. I want to see, instead of recreating or joining another political group, or dwelling on the good work of Garvey and being upset about how they have limited that great man to just quotes and an image — which I know is a part of their killing Marcus Garvey's vision — [create the change desired]," he noted.
Campbell believes that Garvey's plans and philosophies were not only for Jamaica but also for "every black man and woman across the world", and that they "still remain relevant in today's world".
"As Garvey once said, 'Up, you mighty race! You can accomplish what you will.' "
Campbell dreams of a Jamaica "that is not politically corrupt but instead, transparent and accountable for every action that is taken; an island that is self-sufficient and can provide independently for itself and other countries; a country that is technologically advanced and invests heavily in its workforce, education, agriculture and housing, which will ultimately create an opportunity to compete in the global trade", he noted.
He firmly believes that, "Jamaicans should revisit history and admit their failure to stand up with Marcus Garvey at the time when he was fighting to create a government for the people, and correct their mistakes now." He believes this can be achieved "by uniting themselves, groups, and organisations with their ideas and objectives with the MGPPP to create their own government and constitution that will ultimately benefit the people of Jamaica".