Commentary

The legacy of Marcus Garvey

marcus-garveyThis year marks the 100 anniversary of the founding of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) by the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. I believe it is important for all people, especially for 45 million Black Americans, to remember the leadership and legacy of Marcus Garvey.

At this time across America, in the Caribbean, and in Africa, Black people are facing both the prolonged realities of multiple inequalities and new opportunities to strive forward on a global scale. Our long struggle for freedom, justice and equality has had many different twists and turns.

Historically, we have always found ways not to permit the forces of oppression to break our spirit or determination to achieve liberation. During the last century, Black Americans have witnessed and supported the establishment of numerous local, national and international organizations.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909. The National Urban League (NUL) was established a year later. Garvey started the UNIA in 1914 to instill racial pride and economic self-sufficiency for Black people in America and throughout the Pan African world. Garvey supported complete independence of Africa and the unity of African people internationally.

Though he seldom receives credit for it, Marcus Garvey organized the largest mass movement of Black people in the world. One hundred years later, no one else has been able to match that feat. This is the perfect time to remind everyone Marcus Garvey’s accomplishments, primarily because there is a significant opportunity once again for Black people in America, the Caribbean and in Africa to unite around issues concerning economic development and self-sufficiency as a result of Pan African consciousness. The strategic international emergence of the African Union in Africa that recognizes the inclusion of Black American leaders is an important advance.

In addition, Congressman Charles H. Rangel (D-N.Y.) plans to reintroduce a bill to officially restore the good name of Marcus Garvey in the United States. We should support Rangel’s legislative initiative to clear Marcus Garvey of the framed-up charges that led President Calvin Coolidge in 1927 to order Garvey to be deported and permanently banned from the U.S.

In fact all of us should contact members of Congress, especially member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and let them know of our support of the Rangel ill. Beyond that, our young people should be encouraged to study the organizational methods of Garveyism. There are so many young leaders in our communities who could be inspired by tenacious views of Garvey.

I was fortunate recently to spend some time with the son of Marcus Garvey, Dr. Julius Garvey, recently at the 9th annual Caribbean Business Conference in Nassau, Bahamas. The younger Garvey is an accomplished surgeon and leading medical scientist who now resides in New York. We discussed the public and legislative campaign to render justice to the name and legacy of his father. We do not have to repeat the past. But we should certainly learn from our past so that we can change the future to help transform our world into a better place for all.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.

December 3, 2014
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