Amidst raging debate over the images of national heroes and late prime ministers on new banknotes set to be released this year as the country marks its 60th anniversary of Independence, one bill has found favour with Rastafarians and Pan-Africanists — the $100 note that will feature the image of Marcus Garvey.
Chakula Reggae band leader Errol “Chakula” McDonald, attorney-at-law Marcus Goffe, and singer Isha Bel all voiced support for the banknote, saying that the island's first national hero deserves the recognition and that the currency will push Jamaicans to research his work, which had international impact.
“They say Marcus was the first national hero. To the work weh Marcus Garvey do, there is nobody weh can compare to him,” McDonald argued in an interview with the Jamaica Observer on Sunday.
“To me, I think it is symbolic that Marcus Garvey should really have his own thing. Marcus Garvey's teachings will lead you back to Haile Selassie's teachings. Selassie's teachings are what the people of Jamaica need right now to put them in the right mindset,” McDonald insisted.
“Marcus Garvey taught us about self-reliance and overcoming our obstacles. We always a depend pon and a beg people. We want loan and everything from foreign when we have everything that we need right here. All we need right now is the will, and that is what Marcus Garvey's teachings would give to the people. He is the one who dem always forget over the years. He deserves to be the only one [on the $100 banknote],” McDonald said.
Last week Tuesday, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, in his budget presentation, announced changes to all banknotes, explaining that the decision was not only to upgrade the security, use of life, and technical needs of the currency, but to also restore the heroes to prominence on the banknotes and promote unity in the country. The new notes will also feature a Jamaica 60th anniversary logo, along with a shift in the security strip from the middle to the right.
A new $2,000 note will feature former prime ministers and political rivals Michael Manley and Edward Seaga. National heroes Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley will be on the new $1,000 bill, while national heroes Nanny of the Maroons and Sam Sharpe will feature on the new $500 note. Former prime ministers Sir Donald Sangster and Hugh Shearer will appear on the upgraded $5,000, while national heroes Paul Bogle and George William Gordon will feature on the upgraded $50 note. Garvey is the only person to be featured on the $100 note.
Born in St Ann's Bay, St Ann, on August 17, 1887, Garvey rose to world prominence as leader of the Pan-Africanist movement, which sought to unify people of African descent across the world.
Historians say that by 1920 the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), founded six years before by Garvey, claimed four million members. The movement transformed him into an inspirational figure for other civil rights advocates, especially in the United States.
Garvey's influence also helped to pave the way for the Rastafarian faith to take shape.
On Sunday, Goffe, himself a Rastafarian, said the decision to place Garvey by himself was a good one.
“I would say that it is giving due prominence to our first national hero for his international significance, not only for Jamaica, but for the whole African Diaspora. One could even say that there is no space for anyone to be there with him. His presence is large enough. The fact that he is there by himself is a fitting standout,” said the attorney.
Bel, who is also a songwriter and UNIA member, told the Observer that the new $100 should motivate people to want to know why Garvey was given prominence while other bills will bear the images of two people.
“Him being on that money by himself is symbolic enough to show young people that they should do some research. He was that advocate for African people to know themselves and find their own place and develop their own industries. He went as far as to create the UNIA. Everybody else copied his work. Look at Singapore, their very system is set up on a lot of Marcus Garvey's teachings,” argued Bel, whose given name Natalie Walsh.
“He created so many platforms for so many people. He made such a big impact in the USA. He started companies when black people weren't considered forerunners to start any business. He did so much across continents. He is the first man to bring the African Diaspora from all different angles together. He is a black African man who pulled himself from being a printer's son and went on to continually cut roads until he reached the US, and that was before anybody else was doing it,” Bel said.
“He lit a spark in black people around the world. Our other leaders followed the British models. Marcus Garvey did not follow anybody. Marcus Garvey should be taught in schools to young people. If we put a lot of Marcus Garvey's philosophies you would find that more creators are coming instead of our country regressing and copying everybody when we used to be pioneers,” she said.
In the meantime, McDonald disagreed with idea of printing a banknote with images of Manley and Seaga beside each other.
“I am not of the view that Seaga and Manley should be on one bill. That is not going to make unity. What is going to make unity is policies that will engage all parties and people of Jamaica. Both of them stood for something completely different. I see what dem trying to do, but I think it is ill-advised,” he said.